Dan Tudor

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Five Confidence Boosters for RecruitersMonday, June 25th, 2007

When you read that title, you might say to yourself, "What does boosting my confidence have to do with getting the edge in recruiting?"

A lot, coach.

Self-confidence is the difference between being good and being great.  Great coaches, and great recruiters, have a self-confidence that’s second to none.  They exude self-confidence when they’re on the phone, and when they’re in front of the same prospect that you’re recruiting. 

And you know what?  The prospect picks-up on that self confidence, too.  Self-confidence is contagious, and the coach that has it usually has a great team of recruits year after year after year.  One coach that I often point to when conducting our SFC On-Campus Workshops for college coaches and athletic departments is Pete Carroll, the energetic football coach at USC.  His energy rubs off on his players, and his prospects that he’s recruiting.

So for a moment, lets put our normal discussion of selling and communication skills aside and focus on your self-confidence.  If you sometimes struggle with living up to competition…if you feel like you’re not measuring up to other coaches on your staff…if you’re feeling depressed about the direction your college coaching career is headed, then this is for you.

Here are five great ways to boost your recruiting confidence.  These aren’t "tricks", they are time-tested strategies for improving your psychological outlook and improve your own mental self-image in the dog-eat-dog profession that you’ve chosen for yourself!  Here we go…

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Your probably tend to evaluate yourself in relation to other coaches.  Those in your athletic department, and those that you compete against. The problem is, you don’t really know what’s going on with another person. You can’t know why they do what they do or what motivates their behavior. In fact, someone who looks "confident" may just be another shy person covering up his own insecurities and doubts. 

Believe me, I get the chance to talk and work with a lot of coaches that fit into this category.  That’s one of the reasons I wrote "Selling for Coaches"…to help coaches get the skills they need to become better recruiters and feel more confident in their recruiting abilities.

Instead of focusing on other coaches, shift your attention back to yourself. The only reasonable comparison to make is between your past and your present performances. Bring your attention to your goals and to the actions you need to take to achieve them.

2. Set Self-Confidence Goals.
Choose one area of your self-confidence that needs work, and break it down into small, manageable, measurable steps or actions.

Let’s say your goal is to get over your shyness when it comes to picking up the phone and developing relationships with new prospects. The actions you could take might be something like: Devote one scheduled hour to do nothing but make new contacts… Call three high school coaches daily for tips on prospects and to build your recruiting network … Read one book a month on overcoming shyness until you’ve done it.

Write them down and post them on the bathroom mirror or next to your computer. Review them every morning. With persistence … a little here, a little there … you’ll be overcoming whatever your weakness is with ease.

3. Take time to prepare.
Don’t waste time trying to talk yourself into "feeling" confident. Instead, focus on preparation. The better you know your stuff, the more confident you will feel. The tools are out there for you, coach.  Take this summer to improve your recruiting skills for the upcoming season.

4. Visualize another reality.
Before a stressful event (game situation, recruiting, new job interview), take a few minutes to create a positive mental picture for yourself. Instead of imagining yourself being singled out and interrogated by a crazy parent, imagine yourself among a circle of friends who are all there to work together towards the athlete’s best interest. Instead of picturing the in-home recruiting visit as an intimidating mob scene with nervous parents and an athlete that barely says anything, think of it as a series of one-on-one conversations with individuals who look to you as a valued expert on college recruiting.  Picture yourself as their "guide" through this process.  Creating a positive mental reality will help calm you and sharpen your focus on the task ahead:  The successful recruitment of your prospect.

5. Think small.
You can’t expect to suddenly transform yourself into a recruiting superstar. But you can do little things that will gradually get you to your goal. For example, when talking on the phone, smile. The person on the other end will respond to the positive energy in your voice. And get in the habit of systematically stretching yourself and expanding your comfort zone, a bit further each time. For example, when you meet prospects, parents or even fellow coaches for the first time, greet them with a firm handshake, smile, and look directly into their eyes for a moment longer than may be comfortable for you.  You’ll make a positive impression with them, and show your self-confidence in the process.

Not all five of these techniques might be best for you personally, but I’m sure at least one or two are.  Try them.  Even if you think you have all the self-confidence you need, it never hurts to reinforce those positive thoughts with a few more.

 

Why Athletes Want to Commit EarlyMonday, June 25th, 2007

There has been a quiet shift in the recruiting landscape over the past two years. 

Have you noticed it?

For decades, and certainly up until just a few years ago, athletes and coaches played by a cordial set of rules.  Those rules had coaches present their best pitch to their prospects, the prospects would weigh the best options, and announce their decisions at the end of the recruiting cycle. 

Then the shift happened.  Coaches from all sports, at all levels, kept trying to beat the other guy by a step.  And then another step.  And another, and another.  Before long, the shift had happened.  Athletes were committing at the start of their senior year.  And then it moved to giving their verbal commitments the summer before their senior year.  Now, its not uncommon for a prospect to give their verbal commitment to a coach in their junior year…or even earlier.  One D1 program is raising eyebrows by making a verbal offer to a 14-year old basketball prospect!

Forget the ethical debate of "how young is too young" to start recruiting for college sports.  Instead, focus on the underlying reality that I think every coach should embrace: Today’s prospects are looking to commit early.

There are a few reasons for this shift in thinking when it comes to a prospect committing:

  • Recruiting is stressful for athletes.  Because of that, they are looking for stress-relief in the form of ending the recruiting process early.
  • Prospects want security.  They know recruiting is competitive, and they are starting to put a priority on enjoying their senior year of high school knowing that their college future is secure.
  • Colleges are putting pressure on athletes.  Earlier application deadlines, stiff competition for admissions, and pressure from college coaches to give their commitment early to secure their spot on the roster.

With that in mind, is it any wonder that your prospects are looking – and maybe even expecting – the opportunity to commit early to a program?  I’m not just talking about big time college football or basketball, either.  Early commitments can happen in any sport at any level – from D1 tennis to D3 softball.

Yet, many coaches aren’t taking advantage of this new way of thinking on the part of their prospects.  Most coaches that I work with as SFC Premium Members are still a little hesitant to start talking to their prospects about verbally committing to their program early, especially if they aren’t a football recruiter.  They feel the need to wait, go through the motions of sending out piles of mail and arranging a campus visit, on and on and on.  Meanwhile, your prospect is anxiously waiting for the chance to call someplace – maybe your place – home.

Here are a few things you need to realize if you’re thinking about approaching athletes for an early commitment:

  • Realize that there’s nothing to lose.  If you approach your prospect about giving an early commitment to you and your program, and they say "not yet, coach", what have you lost?  Nothing.  You can still recruit them, and they can still commit to your program in the future.
  • Realize that there might be a lot to gain.  What if they say "you bet!"  You’ve gained a verbal commitment from a prospect, and in most cases you’ve blocked out your opponents from getting a crack at your prized prospect.
  • Realize that you’ll show your prospect just how important they are.  If you ask for an early commitment from your prospect, and your competition doesn’t, who is your prospect going to view as the program that’s more serious about them as an athlete?  You.  That’s not a bad message to send, is it coach?
  • Realize that sometimes its what they expect.  An offer to commit early is quickly becoming an expectation in the mind of your prospect.  It’s quickly becoming the norm, and an expectation.  It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about D1 football, D2 volleyball, D3 tennis, or NAIA wrestling. 

Do early verbal commitments "guarantee" that your prospect will follow through with becoming a part of your program each and every time?  Of course not.  Nothing in life (and college recruiting) is guaranteed.  But when you get your prospect to give their word, most aren’t going to break that promise.

In return, your prospect is going to get the secure, stress-free senior year that they’re coming to expect.

Its easy to see why early commitments are becoming popular among prospects and the college coaches who are recruiting them.

 

The Ripple Effects of Treating Your Prospect PoorlyMonday, June 18th, 2007

This is a true story.  It just happened.

Maybe your program is the subject of this story.  Let’s hope not.

I happened to have a conversation at an airport with a parent.  I was coming back home after conducting a few SFC On-Campus Seminars, and struck up a conversation with a dad who was traveling back home with his son after attending a football camp at a highly respected D1 school.

Dad wasn’t happy.  They had traveled 1500 miles to the camp at the invitation of an assistant coach who was recruiting him.  When the athlete got to the school, he felt "unwanted".  The assistant coach, who was chummy with the athlete during a brief visit to the athlete’s school in May, hardly said a word.  The head coach never said hello or introduced himself.  No tour of the school.  Nothing "special" that would set that school apart from the other ten D1 schools that seem to be seriously recruiting the athlete. 

Now, it’s one thing to change your mind about an athlete you’re recruiting and cool-off your pursuit of him or her.  But unbeknownst to the coaching staff at the school, their poor treatment of the athlete and his father resulted in this:

  • The dad and athlete talked about the experience in a negative way with two other recruits and their dads who were in for camp.  They had similar experiences, and all agreed it effected the way they looked at the program.
  • The athlete has crossed the team of his list of colleges he was considering.
  • The dad, who has a blog, is talking about the trip and the program in a less than favorable way.  That means other recruits and their parents might read it.
  • The athlete has already told another incoming junior at his school, who was getting the same look from this same D1 football program, that they were "jerks" and that he "should forget about going there."

My point in relating this story to you today?  No matter what your sport, its "camp time" at many colleges around the country.  And even if you’re not hosting a camp, you’re probably bringing prospects on campus.  Here are a few things you need to be doing with each and every athlete you come in contact with:

  • Thank them for coming, and tell them you’re glad they’re here.  If the well known head coach at this D1 football program would have taken the 4.5 seconds to do that with the athlete I talked about above, they’d still be on his list.  Instead, the prospect felt ignored.  And that was all it took to give him a reason to cross that school off his list.
  • Recognize out of area athletes. They’ve traveled far and made an effort to come to your camp.  They deserve to get a special "thank you" from your staff.
  • Be honest with your prospect.  If they’ve dropped off your radar, let them know.  Be honest and up-front with them.  In talking with this dad and his son, they would have had no problem with hearing that news.  What they did have a problem with was feeling like they were unwanted after being invited to the camp personally by the coach.  Be honest with them, coach.  They can take it, and you’ll maintain your respect with the prospect.
  • Wake up!  It’s not 1970!  In the "good old days" a coach had all the control, and what happened at a camp or campus visit stayed quiet.  Today, it’s a different world.  Recruiting media and websites keep track of every up and down of campus visits and prospect leanings.  You’re under a microscope, coach.  Doesn’t matter if you’re a high profile D1 or a small D3.  Athletes (and especially savvy parents) talk.  And with the advent of blogs and the Internet, your private recruiting blunders become public conversation.

Take a good hard look at how you treat your recruits on campus.  ALL of them.  Each one needs to be viewed as a mouthpiece for your program.  Expect them to take their experience at your school back to their town, where they’ll talk about you (positively or negatively) with their teammates and coaches.  

Not making your prospect’s parents feel special?  You’d better.  We give you several good strategies in our recruiting guide, "Selling for Coaches".  Teenagers might shy away from being too critical publicly of a particular program, but parents usually aren’t.  Likewise, if they were treated well, both will go back home and talk about their positive experience.

As the title of this article says, it’s a "ripple effect".  Is that a good or bad thing for you and your program? 

Selling Your Program to the ParentsTuesday, June 12th, 2007

Are you running into parents who are putting up concerns and questions as you’re recruiting their son or daughter?  Are you having trouble overcoming their objections?  No wonder!  The decision on where their son or daughter goes to college is one of the most important decisions that they will make.  Not surprisingly, the athlete’s parents are going to play a big role in helping them make this once-in-a-lifetime choice.

In our recruiting guide for college recruiters, "Selling for Coaches", author and recruiting coach Dan Tudor talks about how to win over parents by answering their concerns and eliminating their objections.  Here’s an excerpt from the Chapter 7 of the book, entitled "Meet the Parents":

First, you need to be actively listening for objections when you have conversations with your prospect and their parents.  And keep in mind that listening for these objections includes things they say verbally, as well as things they might infer or hint at.  Obviously, the later is the harder thing to pick out.  You have to “read between the lines” and bring up potential objections (and be the one to answer them) if you think they might exist. 

The last thing you want to do is to have your prospect – and his or her parents – be stuck on an objection they can’t – or don’t want to – verbalize to you, and let that be the thing that kills his or her chances of playing for your program.  Listen for, and anticipate, objections that a prospect may have as you are recruiting them.  This is especially true for parents of your prospect, who will have a great influence over their son or daughter’s decision.

Answer the parent’s objections and concerns with the same attention to detail, and using the same techniques we’ve talked about so far in the book, to win over their confidence and establish yourself as the best choice for their son or daughter.  Recruiting the parents is as important as recruiting your prospect.  Make sure you pay attention to their questions and objections.

I recently completed a tour of college campuses around the country, giving expanded training to college athletic departments and their coaching staff.  If there was one common "Aha!" moment coaches experienced during the workshops, it was when we talked about the importance of recruiting the parents of the athlete you’re interested in with as much focus and passion as you recruit the athlete with.  Coaches get too focused on just the athlete most of the time, forgetting that the parents have a significant role in helping the athlete make their final decision.

As we start the summer, make it a point to create a plan to recruit the parents of your prospect as much as possible.  If you need help putting together a plan to do that, and your a Premium Member, call or email to schedule a one-on-one consultation so that we can help you put together a great plan for selling the parent on your program.

To order the college recruiting guide, "Selling for Coaches", click here!

Six Ways to Make Time for RecruitingMonday, June 4th, 2007

I’m starting a stretch of hosting SFC On-Campus Workshops at several schools around the country.  Without exception, one of the biggest hurdles that coaches seem to be facing as I prepare to work with them is finding enough time to do everything they need to do when it comes to recruiting.

"I’m up against it for time, Dan", said one assistant coach I met with during a break in the workshop.  "I’m here until 9 o’clock most weekday evenings, and I still can’t seem to get everything done!"  His comments seemed to be shared by his fellow coaches, both at his school and other schools that I just finished visiting.

A couple of weeks ago, after finishing the first day of a workshop, I used an empty athletic department office to check my e-mail and return a few phone calls.  What I observed over the next hour or so was amazing.

Two coaches spent about twenty minutes talking about their upcoming vacations in a little lounge area.  I overheard another coach on the phone talking to an old friend she used to coach with.  Later on that afternoon, after I had met with their athletic director for an early dinner, I noticed three coaches casually talking in an office.

Now I know that there are lots of necessary conversations that take place in a normal work day.  But I also know – from my own experience as a workplace time-waster - that a lot of valuable time gets eaten away by trivial, unimportant interruptions and distractions.  So it stands to reason that if you are able to do away with a few bad habits, you’d probably be able to have more time to get the important job of recruiting done (with time to spare!).

Here are six ways you can make more time for recruiting, without adding more hours to your already hectic workday:

  1. Make a list the night before.  Start your recruiting day the night before by making a list of the top five or ten things you plan to accomplish in your recruiting duties for the upcoming day.  Writing down the things you know you need to do will let you sleep more soundly, and give you a clear direction the next morning when your day starts.  Try it.  I think this is one of the simple foundations for being much more productive during your day.
  2. Do as much of your recruiting tasks first thing in the morning.  Whether its e-mails to send, letters to write, or making arrangements for an upcoming prospect campus visit, get it done right when you walk into the office.  Plenty of fires flare-up as the day progresses, and it seems like the first thing to get shoved aside is recruiting.  Get your recruiting tasks done first thing in the morning, working from the list you made the night before.
  3. Manage your e-mail.  Check it first thing in the morning, once in the afternoon, and then again at the end of the day.  Leaving your e-mail open and on your computer screen throughout the day is one of the biggest time wasters known to coaches.  You think you’re being productive snapping quick replies back to your senders, but in reality you are distracting yourself from a multitude of other important recruiting tasks (and other coaching responsibilities) that are much more important.  Another recommendation I can make is to use a recruiting management tool like the excellent one Front Rush offers college coaches.  I use Front Rush, and know first-hand how much it can do for a coach who is strapped for time and looking for better ways to organize their recruiting.
  4. Make recruiting "measureable".  Set small daily goals for yourself when it comes to recruiting, and then check to see if you met those goals.  Maybe you set the goal of calling at least one new high school coach to expand your network of eyes and ears out looking for talent for your program.  Or, maybe its to hand write five prospects by the end of the day.  Whatever it is, set your goals and then post them in front of you so that you make sure you accomplish them.  Measure your success in recruiting effectiveness in the same way you would analyze your team’s statistics as a way of measuring their performance.
  5. Schedule the rest of your day in 15-minute intervals.  The only way to use the time you’re saving from the first four steps is to stick to a schedule the rest of the day.  Measure out your day in blocks of time, and schedule yourself for whatever it is you need to do down to the quarter hour.  Almost NO coaches do this on a regular basis when I first meet them, but those that do learn these methods are much more happy and a lot more productive when it comes to their jobs as college coaches. 
  6. Establish it as a top priority.  One big reason you don’t seem to have enough time for recruiting is that you still haven’t embraced it as one of the most important parts of your career as a college coach.  In fact, when you’re not in-season, I think I could argue that it is THE most important part of your coaching career.  Most coaches haven’t established recruiting, and all the little details that are a part of it, as a top priority in their day.  They let interruptions, distractions, unimportant conversations and unwanted visitors eat up their time.  Don’t let that happen to you.  These bad habits have killed lots of up-and-coming business careers, and they can kill your promising coaching career as well.

Easy to do?  Surprisingly, no.  Most coaches will look at the list and kind of roll their eyes because its all just common sense, much of which they’ve heard before.  And yet, those same coaches will let their valuable work day slip away because they haven’t made it a priority to keep focused on what it is that they need to do to be successful recruiters.

Are you struggling to find time to get your recruiting done in a more efficient manner?  Does the thought of not stressing-out to sign more quality recruits sound appealing?  Want more time away from the coaching office to spend with your spouse and kids?  It’s all there waiting for you, coach.  But first, you need to get serious about using the time you already have to do your recruiting.

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