I think it was back in about 2000 that I read an article in Inc. magazine about a company that sent out its sales information to potential clients via FedEx or Priority Mail. The owner asked the question, "Have you ever received a FedEx or Priority Mail envelope and not opened it?" I think the answer for most people is "No, I haven't," but I think most of us have received a normal envelope and tossed it aside for a few days.
After reading this article, I took this philosophy and transferred it to the way I send out my resume and cover letter. Depending on what the posting requirements are for the job I will still follow their directions and post on their website or send via email. But, I also always find out who the hiring manager is and/or head of the department and send my resume and cover letter to that person(s) via FedEx, specifically addressed to him/her. In my cover letter I note that I have also posted the resume on their website (or whatever their directions are) so they don't think I'm skirting the company's directions. When I've followed up the week after sending my information (see previous posting on follow-up), I've gotten responses from those follow-ups that let me know they saw my resume. Often they've been interviews. On a couple of occasions they weren't, but I got direct responses from the person to whom I sent my resume letting me know that he/she had reviewed my resume but that they were going to be interviewing other candidates.
I realize that this can get expensive, especially in this economy. There are a couple of things to note here: 1) This goes back to a statement in an early posting, one that some chicken-assed anonymous commenter didn't understand, and it is that I don't "carpet bomb" my resume to organizations. I specifically target jobs I want to pursue. The cost isn't enormous. 2) If you're just starting out, and because of this economy, I realize that entry level sports professionals may have to apply for quite a few jobs. This is an investment in your future. Are you willing to sacrifice a few beers or movies to try to land your dream job? The $20 spent on sending a FedEx can be steep. I'm not oblivious to that. There are a couple of other options to consider. FedEx offers two day delivery for a little less money that is still in the FedEx envelope. I'm not 100% sure about this, but US Postal Service Priority Mail may be cheaper. That's another option. (I'm not a fan of UPS at all after being screwed by them so many times on shipments. I have no idea what their rates are, but if you're comfortable using them, check out their rates.) More likely for young students, you can determine your budget for how many you can send and then send only your top choices your information via FedEx.
Will this always work? I can't guarantee anything, but I believe it's more likely that the person you want to see your resume will see it. That combined with your follow-up phone call may just get you an interview, which is all you want from sending in your resume. They're not going to look at your resume and immediately say "Let's hire this person without an interview." All you're looking for from this is the opportunity to get on the phone or in front of that person for an interview. Once that happens then you get the opportunity to sell yourself, which is a whole other process.