People often want to know about why I write so many handwritten notes, how it started, why I still do it, and of course, where do I find the time to do it? All those questions have reasons behind them, but first I’ll fill you in on how it all started.
There wasn’t any social media when I was in college. I knew that I wanted to be a coach, but I didn’t have any idea which questions I should be asking or even who I should talk to…so I began to write weekly handwritten notes to every coach who gave me their business card. Looking back at it, it’s funny because I had no idea the difference between a Division 1 coach, an associate head coach, or even a D3 assistant. What I did know is they had their own business card and I was working to someday have my own.
By the time I graduated from college, I was writing around 425 notes to coaches every week – crazy I know, but this is no exaggeration. I would work all day in the gym and office, and then at night I would write around 75 notes to everyone on my list. This would go on until I sent everyone a note that I needed to. As you can imagine, the stamps alone for this were way above my budget, so I was forced to find alternative means to make sure everything went out in the mail. The notes were all written on legal pad I could steal from any coach’s desk or any administrative assistant who I was willing to go pick up their lunch. At this time, my bank account was non-existent and my expenses were increasing with my letter writing habit —- This is when I learned what true bartering was. With the small amount of gear I was given – from working a different camp every week of the summer, the shorts that Coach Orr at Navarro would toss me, or anything Coach Case provided me at Oklahoma City University became a form of currency for me. I would use my southern charm, or at least that’s what I thought it was, to talk one of the administrative assistants into a trade…gear for what I needed in pads, pens, stamps, and envelopes. I developed relationships with every administrative assistant in each office on campus because I knew they were the ones in charge of all the mail in their office for the day. So I would leave 15 letters with the school of music’s secretary, then pop into the business manager’s office and leave 15 with her to send out and continue making my rounds around campus. I spent so much time doing this I almost had it down to a science. I learned all the mail routes of the people that worked in campus mail.
I knew I would quickly deplete my inventory of gear to exchange, so it became a matter of nurturing the relationships and developing a true friendship with the people that were helping me. As my career began to develop more and more, I wanted these people to understand why I was doing this. I explained to them, in the best way I knew how, why I believed sending these notes was so important and why I needed it to be done. Everyday in the basketball office I would check the mail to see who wrote back and who didn’t. The coaches that I constantly hit over a long period of time would hit me back occasionally through the year, and I just kept hitting them every week regardless.
This carried on both at Navarro and OCU, and it became a really big deal with everyone that had helped me. When I would get a letter from a coach, no matter if they were a D1, NAIA, or JUCO I distinctly remember how encouraged I felt. I would picture that coach sitting down to write a letter specifically to me, using a stamp, and sending it out. I can still remember what that felt like – a no name kid from Texas trying to make a dent in the game and getting a letter from a big time college basketball coach.
As I have grown in the business, I still believe in the power of the handwritten note. Communication has changed in our time. We prefer to text than to talk, we prefer to email rather than write, and sometimes we would rather wave than stop and say hello to someone. But think how it makes you feel when someone takes the time to acknowledge you with a note. When the mail is placed in front of you and it isn’t a bill, but your name in someone else’s handwriting. Not a text, not a typed letter, not an email, not a phone call, but a letter. That person stopped everything they were doing, to write you, and you only. It is hard to quantify the value of that in my life, because at the root of it all, I learned the value of relationships. I learned as time elapsed how personal those notes became to me in my life. I write 120 notes a month now, and have been doing it for years. The list has morphed as the years have passed, but there are many who have been on the list from the start. People always ask me, “Buzz, how do you find time for that, why don’t you just email somebody or shoot them a text, what’s the big deal?” But to me, it is a big deal. You make time for what is important in your life, no matter the circumstances. At some point, all those coaches that wrote to me took time out of their day to write back. It’s my way of paying it forward and never forgetting that feeling when the mail came.