It’s not unusual for a teacher, professor, instructor, and coach to be listed as a reference on applications or a job, scholastic documents, and for a host of other reasons. In fact, this is a basic … “what do other people think of you”.

Just a word of advice along those lines. It’s a good idea - even a standard courtesy to ask permission prior to listing anyone as a reference.

Now invariably, you’re going to get a decent reference. However, if a request for a reference catches the responder by surprise the initial first impression by the person asking can be somewhat less than desirable.

For example, let’s say that I was your coach three years ago. From that point forward, I’ve had a lot of players come and go … not only in the program that your were in, but in other programs as well. And like most coaches, I do keep notes on players … but not all. These notes are great archive for other coaches and scouts as the need arises and for other situations.

Now out of the blue came a phone call that says you’ve listed me as a reference. Not only will this catch me off guard, but it also puts me on the spot in many ways. Here are just a few:
• My first response will be that of surprise – a vocal tone that won’t go unnoticed.
• My first instinct will be to ask this person to call back. This gives me some time
to do a little research of whom it is this person is asking about. This too does not go
unnoticed by the caller.
• Unless this player was some kind of all star, my recollection and notes will be
general at best, a generic whitewash of sort…” he was a good kid, good hustle,
good control…etc…” But notice the lack of specifics. A seasoned coach will pick
up on this ASAP and knows I’m being gracious about the player, and thus – will not
pursue the matter further.
• If it’s a letter that requests a reference, the same will hold true. Only more often than
not a quick reply will not be forthcoming due to the unexpected arrival of the
reference request to begin with.
• I mentioned that surprise references puts me on the spot in many ways… and they end up giving the impression that I’m not in touch with my fellow coaches, nor do I have an organization plan for progressive player recognition and a host of other things. This reaction can be cultivated by administrative personnel who are simply following up a paper trail and other fact-finding routines.

So, if your going to give a coach as a reference, let him/her have the courtesy of at least being asked. Also, and just as important, make sure the reference is directed to a person that can be somewhat instep with the topical nature of the reference.

Coach B.

Well said, Coach Baker!