Dan Tudor

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Can Coaches Be Nice AND Firm?Monday, October 29th, 2007

Ever catch a glimpse of Tony Dungy sitting on the sidelines during a football game?

Dungy, of course, is the coach of last year’s Super Bowl champs, the Indianapolis Colts. It crossed my mind that rarely does a coach in professional sports have the majority of fans rooting more for him than for his team, but there’s no question that this has been the case with Dungy for many years.

You don’t have to meet Dungy personally to know that he’s a genuinely nice guy. Your television screen doesn’t lie. Dungy is soft-spoken, respectful, and gracious in both victory and defeat. He sums up his nice-guy philosophy simply by saying, "If you’re prepared, you don’t have to yell and scream."

Now, compare Dungy to the legendary Leo Durocher. Durocher was the in-your-face baseball manager of the New York Giants when Bobby Thomson hit his "shot-heard-round-the-world" pennant-winning homerun against the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1951. He was one of the most quotable characters in baseball history, and will always be remembered as the person who said "Nice guys finish last."

Durocher’s quote has become part of the American lexicon because many people believe it to be true. But is it? Is Tony Dungy an anomaly? Are nice guys destined to fare poorly in life? Does it take a boorish personality to succeed?

There’s no question that some of the most successful people in our culture have been bombastic, egotistical, cold-hearted, and/or just plain nasty. Coaches are perhaps the most notorious examples in this respect – Bobby Knight, Woody Hayes, and Bill Parcells are just a few of the names that come to mind.

In business, Donald Trump is the poster boy for nastiness. And in the media world, broadcasters such as Katie Couric and Dan Rather have never seemed to be able to hide their snarls, even while on camera.

Now, here’s the good news: Being mean-spirited is not a mandatory component of success. We know this to be true, because plenty of nice guys (and ladies) have succeeded on a big scale.

I won’t deny that many obnoxious people become successful. But don’t be misled into believing that their turn-off personalities are responsible for their success. In truth, success is separate and apart from one’s disposition.

What determines your degree of success as a college coach is how well you execute the basics – like being prepared… your willingness to stick your neck out and take bold action… paying attention to detail… and finding opportunities in perceived problems.

The primary reason for embracing positive personality traits such as calmness, graciousness, humility, and kindness is to enjoy the mental rewards of such intangibles as peace of mind, self-esteem, and self-respect. If you’re going to succeed, why not feel good about yourself in the process? And, as a bonus, you might just experience less stress and live a longer and healthier life.

We should always keep in mind that we tend to attract people who are most like us. And surrounding yourself with a cadre of Tony Dungys makes life a whole lot more enjoyable than having to deal with a bunch of Leo Durochers day in and day out. So, the reality is that attracting decent people into your life begins with you.

One last point: Being nice does not mean that you have to let people take advantage of you in college coaching. On the contrary, the ideal is a combination of niceness and firmness. I bring this up because I believe that many people think they have to be pushovers in their business and personal lives in order to be liked.

Nothing could be further from the truth. People will like you if you’re thoughtful and polite, which is a good thing for both you and them. But, at the same time, they will also respect you if you are firm when it comes to doing what is in your best interests and sticking with your decisions.

In other words, being a good person and being tough are not mutually exclusive objectives. It’s just as easy to say no in a calm way, with a smile on your face, as it is to say it with a scowl. And why not make life easy?

Robert Ringer contributed to this article.  Do you need help in planning your coaching career?  Selling for Coaches works with coaches to help develop their career plans, interview techniques, resumes and more.  For more information, e-mail Chad Cameron, SFC’s Client Services Manager, at chad@sellingforcoaches.com or call us at 661.746.4554.

6 Things That Can Make or Break Home VisitsMonday, October 29th, 2007

It’s that time of year in college athletics.  That’s right…it’s "home visit season".

Sure, it’s a lot like hunting.  You’ve got your ammo, you’ve scouted out the best hunting ground, and now your sights are set on your prospect. 

But there’s a big hurdle remaining.  The home visit.  The trip, the parents, the questions…you know the drill, right?

There’s a section in our special recruiting guide, "Selling for Coaches", that focuses on connecting with prospects and parents during a home visit.  But you might be a coach who wants a little bit more right now.  Maybe you’re about to make a crucial home visit with your prospect, and need it to go well.

Today, since there are coaches just like you all over the country that are in the middle of criss-crossing the country visiting the homes of prospects they’ve been recruiting, I wanted to share some of the things that I discussed with coaches this past year, both on the phone and in person during our On-Campus Workshops.  If you’re wanting to refine your approach to personal visits, think about using these tips as a way to boost your performance in front of your top prospects.

Focus on relaxing before your meeting.  Sounds so simple, yet most coaches don’t take a few minutes to do it.  In the same way that your athletes might spend an hour before their athletic contest listening to music to pump them up, visualizing them making a big play, or just being quiet so that they can get ready to compete to the best of their abilities, you need to get in the zone when it comes to getting ready to recruit.  But instead of getting pumped up, you need to calm down: Listen to your favorite music on your way to the appointment.  Think positive thoughts.  Visualize a great evening of talking.  The ultimate goal is to go in relaxed, in high spirits, and with an attitude of a winner that shines through to your prospect.  Great sales professionals in the business world do this before any important sales call.  You should also!

Believe your program is the best.  Along with relaxing before you go into an important meeting with a prospect, you need to develop a mindset that your program, your staff and your college is the best.  Period.  You’ve got to believe it, and believe it whole-heartedly.  If you don’t, it will show.  Your passion for what you’re selling to your prospect will be weak, and that will rub off on your prospect.  Coaches who are passionate sell more effectively, and are able to get their prospects excited about their vision for their program better than a coach who is just going through the motions.  Do you believe – really believe – that what you’re offering is the best in the world?  If the answer is no, you need to get yourself to that point.  Fast.

Come in to your meeting with ideas.  At least two.  What I mean here is that you need to be the one to lay out ideas that can help the athlete (or even his or her parents) reach their goals.  Tell them that you’ve been thinking about them, and you’ve come up with a few ideas as to how to best take advantage of what your program or college offers as it specifically relates to that individual athlete.  What are those ideas?  I can’t answer that for you.  Just focus on things that get your prospect from where they are now to where you know they want to be athletically or academically.

Ask one amazing question at the start of your meeting.  Make it a killer question.  One that stops everyone in their tracks and will get them to think.  Make it a question you know your competition isn’t asking them.  Be original.  When I was talking with a basketball coach at one of our On-Campus Workshops recently, we stumbled upon a great question that she could ask.  It took a few minutes to come up with it, but once we did we both knew it was "the one".  Now, she can ask that same question for years to come.  Anytime you can come up with a question that stops your prospect in his or her tracks and gets them to think, you’ve got their attention.  And, you’ve got their respect.

Don’t "need" the prospect.  Don’t go in with the attitude that this athlete is a make-or-break signing.  Truthfully, there’s no such thing.  Don’t try too hard.  Don’t pressure too much.  Don’t beg, plead or press too much.  That kind of thing shows through, and its not good.  You’ll be telegraphing that desperation in your face, and it won’t play well with your prospect.  Note the difference between "desperation" and "enthusiasm".  You can let your prospect know that you are excited about having them there, and let them know how you envision them making a big impact in your program.  But don’t let that cross over to "needing" the prospect.  Once you do, you lose the power that you hold and now the athlete controls you.

Don’t be afraid to ask for their commitment.  That’s why you’re there, right?  You won’t turn them off my asking them to give you a verbal commitment.  In fact, many athletes are waiting for that question.  But too many coaches leave a meeting by telling their prospect that they hope they hear back from them, or hope that their at the top of their list, blah blah blah.  Don’t be a wimp.  ASK FOR THEIR COMMITMENT.  If they’re not ready, they’ll tell you.  If they are ready, you just got the win.  And all it took was asking the question that’s on everyone’s mind.

How Did One Championship Coach Finally Find His Inspiration?Monday, October 22nd, 2007

If you’ve been a part of one or our On-Campus Workshops, you know that I use examples from the life and coaching philosophy of USC Trojans’ football coach Pete Carroll.  He’s a winner, and its always interesting to examine how they got to where they are now.

For Pete Carroll, you can trace it all back to a song.  No joke.

You see, Coach Carroll wasn’t always what people would define as a "successful coach".  He struggled like almost every other coach has struggled, and wasn’t even the first choice for the USC Trojans’ job. 

So how did he turn around his coaching and professional life?  He remembered a Bruce Springsteen song.  Writer Jerry Crowe from the Los Angeles Times picks up the story from there:

A pivotal scene in "The Pete Carroll Story," should such a cinematic endeavor ever come to light, would involve a coming-of-age moment in which the protagonist experiences an epiphany and realizes that to succeed on his own terms he must listen to his heart. He must make his own way in the world.

The soundtrack would swell with the sound of Bruce Springsteen’s inspirational "Growin’ Up," a sort-of nonconformists’ call to action from the iconic rocker’s 1973 debut, "Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J."

I strolled all alone through a fallout zone

and came out with my soul untouched

I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd

but when they said "Sit down," I stood up

Hollywood hokum?  Not at all, Carroll insists.

USC’s 56-year-old football coach says that such a moment really did occur, he was profoundly moved and that the Springsteen anthem figured prominently.

"It was a very personal thing," he says. "It was very cool."

"For some strange reason," Carroll says, recalling his training-camp revelation the following summer, "I woke up in the middle of the night, got out of bed and had to listen to that song. And I had never singled out that song before. I don’t even remember hearing it before, but I woke up and thought, ‘I’ve got to put this on.’ And I was listening to the words — it’s the strangest thing, because I don’t know why I was doing this — and in the words of that song, he tells the story, like the title says, of growing up. And it was really meaningful to me at that time because I was aware of the situation that I was in at New England (as the struggling coach of the Patriots) and that because of what happened at the end of the second year that I was in deep trouble.

"That was kind of the moment I stepped to a different kind of a mentality about the opportunity of being there. It was like a growing-up type of moment."

He says he listened to the song about 10 times that night.

He memorized the lyrics.

"The words just seemed to be tailored right to something that I needed to hear at that time," he says. "It was about lifting up above and growing up above all of the concern and the malaise of a challenging situation. . . .

"I was stronger because of it. It was an acknowledgment that it was time to transition and elevate, so that’s what happened. That’s what I did."

"In the song he says, ‘They all told me to sit down and I stood up,’ " Carroll says, singing the words. "That’s the key point of it. It’s about doing what you think is best for you even if it goes against the grain. That moment is still meaningful to me, that thought of not allowing people on the outside to control your world."

Pete CarrollThe coach, whose team is 6-1 after Saturday’s 38-0 victory at Notre Dame, still listens to "Growin’ Up" for inspiration and has learned to play it on the piano.

Though the song’s message is still relevant to him, Carroll says, it’s not as vital to his psyche as it was in 1999, when his career was at a crossroads.

"I was still growing right then," the coach says, "and I really felt like I was on my own in a lot of what I was undergoing at the time and I was going to have to really be a stud to make it through and stay strong. I had to get right and get ready, and that’s what the song said to me.

"Everything about it was saying, ‘You just do what you have to do.’ It was about standing up to the scrutiny and saying to yourself, ‘It’s OK, you can do it.’ It was uplifting and made me feel strong, for whatever silly reason."

That’s what inspired Pete Carroll to change.  My question for you, Coach, is the same: What inspires you?  Have you had that defining "I’m going to do this!" moment yet?

You might not be the kind of coach you’re dreaming of becoming until you reach that point.  Look for an opportunity to find that inspiration, and then act on it in a way that changes the course of your coaching career…and, maybe, your life. 

5 Recruiting Mistakes I Saw Last WeekMonday, October 22nd, 2007

Last week was "the week from hell".  Not a bad week, just incredibly busy. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like to be busy.  But this was insane…

Lots of phone calls with coaches.  Two On-Campus Workshops that were booked for later in November.  A trip to a college for some follow-up training.  And, exactly 417 e-mails in my Inbox (475 if you count the offers for discount Viagra, million-dollar lottery notifications from Nigeria, and other assorted junk e-mail). 

In talking with a LOT of coaches in the past seven days, I kept track of some of the problems they were sending me to get my help with, and some problems that I uncovered on my own.

Without embarassing the individuals that are the source for these five recruiting mistakes, I wanted to share them with you.  Hopefully, you can learn from them and correct some of these before they negatively effect your recruiting:

  1. No follow-up with web recruiting form inquiries.  It was a D2 soccer coach in the Midwest, and he casually mentioned that he had no problems getting interested recruits.  It was just tough to get to all of them.  "How many recruits do you have right now?" I asked during our conference call.  "About 350," he said, adding that most of them were new and originated from kids filling out the form on his college’s website (we had put together a three-part e-mail campaign for him about three months ago which worked a little too well).  Suprisingly, he had only followed-up with about 10 of them!  The lesson:  Web inquiries are the freshest, "hottest" recruiting leads you could ask for, short of someone calling you personally and asking about available scholarships.  If they take the time to fill out the form, they are serious about hearing from your school.  They need to hear back from you right away…within 48 hours, especially if it looks like they would be a serious candidate for a spot on your roster.  
  2. Using mail instead of the telephone to reply.  Same coach, same scenario.  Once we established that he had more than enough interest to result in signing the six players he was looking to sign for 2008, he said that he would send them a follow-up letter in a week or two.  NOOOOO!!!!  Wrong answer, Coach.  You need to sort the group into classes of prospects (great, good, mediocre…or, A, B, C)  Then, without delay, you need to pick up the phone and call your best group.  You have hot interest from your prospect.  Don’t reply back with a formal, boring, takes-too-long-to-get-there letter (which may not even get opened!).  The lesson:  Phone calls are the best option.  If you can’t initiate the call, then send a short e-mail with your number listed and tell them that you are waiting for them to call you.  The point is, get talking live as soon as you can!  Mail is good for some things.  Replying immediately to an interested prospect isn’t one of them.
  3. The parents got ignored.  This was a D1 softball coach in the Southeastern U.S.  She has an up and coming program, but had almost an adversarial relationship with the parents of the prospects she was talking to.  Why?  "It’s the parents that make the whole recruiting process harder than it should be, Dan," she said during our phone conversation.  "That may be," I replied.  "But you’ve read our survey of high school prospects, Coach.  You know how important parents are in the final decision an athlete makes, right?"  She agreed…reluctantly.  The lesson:  When parents get ignored during the recruiting process, you’re making it twice as hard to get that prospect to sign with your program.  Not impossible, just much harder.  Not only do you need to be nice to parents, I maintain that parents need to be recruited separately from their son or daughter.  Why coaches ignore parents during recruiting, for the most part, I’ll never know. 
  4. The small school’s inferiority complex.  A D3 in Florida has a horrible case of telling themselves "we-can’t-get-good-prospects-here-because-we’re-Division-III".  Maybe you’re at a small school and you can relate.  Can I tell you something?  Let me be loud and clear:  SMALL SCHOOLS CAN RECRUIT HIGH CALIBER D1 TALENT.  I’ve seen it happen.  It’s happening as you’re reading this, Coach.  The key to doing it is two-fold:  First, understand how athletes make their decisions and what motivates them.  Lots of high caliber prospects would love to go to a smaller school.  Secondly, make the decision to actively recruit them.  State your case creatively and confidently.  The lesson:  Lots of athletes will take a look at what you have to offer.  Not all top-flight prospects want the pressures of a D1 athletic experience.  Be the coach that is ready to give them an alternative choice.  
  5. Phone calls that don’t have a purpose.  I had the chance to sit in on a conference call with a recruit that a women’s basketball coach made last week.  She didn’t understand why her calls didn’t result in more commitments, but I understood about two minutes into her call.  They went nowhere fast.  There was no "meat" to the conversation…no good questions, nothing that applied to the athlete personally, and lots of instances where the coach said, "So what do you want to talk about?"  It was uncomfortable from start to finish!  The lesson:  You need to have a game plan for your recruiting phone calls.  We talk about that in our book, "Selling for Coaches", and the primary points we make are vital to successful phone calls: Have a plan, make it personal to the recruit, ask really good questions, and set-up the next phone call.  Create a plan of attack for each recruit.  

Yes, it was an interesting week to say the least.  The important thing to note here is that all of these coaches – and all of the coaches that I work with one-on-one around the country that I didn’t use as examples - are really open to instruction.  They want to get better at recruiting, and want to understand how to do it more effectively.  It’s great to coach them and help them with their recruiting.

Are there some common mistakes that you know you’re making?  Are there one or two areas in your approach that need some tweaking and adjusting?  E-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.  Tell me about them, and let me see what we can do to fix the mistakes that might be hurting you in your recruiting efforts. 

Should You Share Your Bad News?Monday, October 15th, 2007

Gary, a coach who is a SFC Premium Member, had e-mailed me a copy of a letter he was thinking of sending out to his list of prospects. 

But this wasn’t an ordinary recruiting letter.  You see, Gary hadn’t stayed in contact with many of his recruits because of some turmoil within his program: One coach was on a leave of absense, and Gary was stepping in to oversee her program.  Meanwhile, he was starting his practices and spending a lot of time with his new freshmen recruits.  Things were chaotic.  And he wanted to share that with his prospects in his latest recruiting letter.

Bad idea, in my opinion.

"Why?" he asked.  Afterall, isn’t it a good thing to be transparent and open with your recruits you’re trying to build a relationship with? 

The answer is two-fold.  When it comes to positives about your program and how it relates specifically to your recruit, our recruiting guides definitely recommend that coaches open-up and share details about themselves and their program, whether those details be about positive or negative events.  However, you have to first have a foundational relationship built with your prospect before you’re able to share that kind of inside "family" information with them.

Here’s why you want to be careful about when, why and what you share with your prospects when it comes to stuff that might be considered less than positive:

  • It might give them a reason not to choose you.  Here’s what I mean: Sometimes parents and athletes who are being recruited by multiple programs are looking for reasons not to choose a program.  Think of it as choosing their college by process of elimination.  Be careful not to share information that would give a prospect a reason to walk away.
  • It may be too soon.  There’s info that you’d feel comfortable talking about with your spouse that you wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about with a new coach down the hall.  It doesn’t mean that the new coach isn’t a great person.  Its simply a matter of not talking about something private inside your immediate family that might be viewed negatively by someone who doesn’t really know you.  In time, perhaps they will be ready to be on "the inside".  But not just yet.
  • It might give them the wrong impression.  You think you’re being open and transparent, which we talk about in our two recruiting guides as a positive for recruiters.  However, you have to be careful…by sharing certain news, are you leaving yourself open to misinterpretation by your prospect?  For instance, you share that the new weightroom you’ve been promising recruits isn’t going to be built for another two years.  However, its going to be twice as big as originally planned!  Good news, right?  Maybe not.  Maybe your prospect is stuck with the idea that the new weightroom isn’t being built in time for them when they come on campus…maybe they wonder whether it will be built at all…will it ever get built?  Remember, they might be getting a different message than the one you’re sending.
  • It can bring the conversation to a screeching stop.  Your prospect may not be able to get past the turmoil you’ve shared with them.  You may find yourself continuing to come back to answering the same questions over and over.  What was a nice, flowing conversation before has turned into a 40-foot high hurdle that you can’t overcome.

Am I saying that you should never share intimate details about your program?  No.  What I am saying is that its extremely important to use discretion when you’re thinking about sharing something that involves inside information that might be perceived as negative by your recruit, especially towards the beginning of a recruiting relationship.

If you have questions about this topic, or would like Selling for Coaches to work with you, your coaching staff, or your athletic department, please e-mail me personally at dan@sellingforcoaches.com so that we can talk about the hurdles you are facing in your quest to bring in the best recruits possible.

Is Negative Recruiting Getting Easier?Monday, October 15th, 2007

"Negative recruiting" is nothing new, but now it’s more efficient and effective thanks to technology, especially e-mail.  In a recent interview with GoVolXtra.com, a recruiting website that follows the Tennessee Volunteers, assistant football coach Trooper Taylor, says the explosion of new technology is making it easier to make messages (both positive and negative) stick.

"People believe what they read," Taylor said in the article. "It doesn’t matter who puts it in the air. They’re not limited to the region they’re in. They can get information."

"Some refer to it as negative recruiting. Bottom line is you don’t finish second in recruiting. It’s so competitive; coaches are doing what they have to win."

That competition for top recruits is driving me many college coaches towards technology that can give their e-mail messages maximum impact with the prospects they are trying to reach.  And, with prospects they are trying to steal away from the competition.

"At the end of the day a coach is selling their ‘product’or program," says Brad Downs, Director of Client Relations for recruiting technology leader Front Rush, a company that produces a popular recruiting management system for college coaches.

"Being able to send mass branded emails to a large amount of prospects helps get their ‘brand’ out to more recruits in less time. It give visual evidence of how well the program is doing or has done in the past, and gives a recruit a place where he can access other sites about the program and school. Essentially, it helps each coaches ‘product’ stick out in a recruits mind."

In addition to the impact more visual, interactive e-mails that college coaches are creating with a tool like the one Front Rush provides, its also streamlining the way they are sent.  What used to take hours for college coaches to complete now takes less time, with greater results.

"Sending emails through Front Rush is very easy whether it be 1 recruit or 10,000 recruits", says Sean Devlin, Director of Product Development for Front Rush. "If a coach wants to send an email to their entire recruit list, Front Rush will automatically merge information personal to each recruit and then send out each email individually. Therefore every recruit will receive their own email (no bcc’s) with their own name in the header."

And, adds Devlin, the e-mails that get sent will look more like a graphic-rich website than a regular plain-text e-mail. 

"Having images and action shots in a branded email increases the impact of the message and the response by the recruit. These images make the email more visually appealing so recruits are more attracted to it. They also formalize the email because of their professional appeal so recruits are more likely to consider the text within it as more credible."

The bottom line for coaches?  Recruiters who aren’t using technology for more effective prospecting and communication are losing out to their competition in the battle for positive (or negative) messages that they want recruits to hear, and remember.

How to Get Your Prospect to “Stay the Course”Monday, October 8th, 2007

There’s a great deal of psychology that sales professionals use daily in their interactions with their prospects and clients.  As a college sports recruiter, you can (and should) use the same kind of techniques to solidify your relationship with your athletic prospects.

One such technique is what I call the "stay the course" technique.  Here’s a sampling of how it works, using an actual study that was conducted to back up my lesson to you today.

When most people (your prospects included, coach) decide on a course of action, they have a very strong desire to stay with that course.   Frequently, this desire is so powerful that they will refuse to alter their chosen path … even when there is overwhelming evidence that it is unwise.

There are several reasons for this. For one thing, there’s the simple power of ego. Nobody likes to feel like they made a bad decision.  Perhaps more important is that nobody likes a "flip-flopper."  A fairly recent example from the world of politics would be the Bush campaign taking advantage of this concept by portraying John Kerry as a man who "flip-flopped" on his position and, therefore, couldn’t be trusted. In many polls, voters cited that as a reason they voted against Kerry.

Once a person chooses a certain position, his desire to be consistent will compel him to behave as promised.

An interesting study illustrated this universal human tendency. A "beachgoer" (an accomplice to the study) would stroll onto the sand and choose a spot near a target subject. The "beachgoer" would then spend about five minutes spreading out his blanket and setting up with suntan lotion and a small portable radio.   Just another person enjoying a day at the beach. He would then stand up and walk away, without saying anything to the target.

Shortly after the "beachgoer" left, a second accomplice would approach the unguarded blanket and make a move to steal the radio. Only five percent of the time would the target make any effort to confront the "thief" or do anything to try and prevent what appeared to be a crime.

Now … here’s the interesting part of the study: With a second group of targets, instead of simply walking away from his blanket, the "beachgoer" asked them to keep an eye on his things. And the results were drastically different. Ninety-five percent of the time, these targets aggressively attempted to prevent the "thief" from stealing the "beachgoer’s" radio.

What made the difference?

Like the first group, this second group of targets didn’t know the "beachgoer." The only communication they had with him was that single verbal exchange when he asked them to watch his things.

But because these subjects had agreed to do something, they aggressively stayed the course … despite the fact that it was not in their best interests.   In fact, it put them in the potentially dangerous position of confronting a brazen thief in order to protect the low-value property of a stranger they’d only spoken with for one moment.

Understanding this tendency of people to follow a consistent course of action can help you persuade them to act in a way you want them to act – whether you want to get your boss to assign you to a particular project or get your child to do better in school.  Or, get your recruit to commit to your program. 

If you’ve read our fascinating report, "Inside the Mind of Your College Prospect", you know that your college prospects say that its how they feel that makes them most likely to commit to a program or a coach.  How they feel about the coach, how they feel about the players on the team, and how they feel about the thought of playing for you as a coach.  If you’ve read the report, you also see how this concept of "commitment" comes into play with our findings and recommendations that we’ve made to you based on our study’s findings. 

There are three steps to making this technique work, Coach:

1. Make a statement of fact that the person will agree with. ("Playing for us here at our college greatly improves your odds of being able to start as a freshman.")

2. Link a conclusion to this statement of fact. ("In order to make sure that happens, we need to make sure you’re one of our early admission students so that we can stop recruiting other athletes that play your position.")

3. Obtain a commitment from your prospect based on that conclusion. ("So, Greg, can we depend on you to get your application in early and start planning your college career here at our university right away?")

It’s easy, it works, and it begins to get your prospect thinking about a permanent athlete-coach relationship with you and your program. 


Monday, October 8th, 2007

Technology Helping to Level the Recruiting Playing FieldMonday, October 8th, 2007

Looking at the college football landscape, its obvious that something’s up.

Appalachian State stuns Michigan.  This past weekend, 40-point undergo beats 2nd ranked USC.  Add to that the list of college basketball upsets on the men’s and women’s side witnessed during the past few months, and you can tell that the playing fields (and courts) have been getting more and more level.

The big question is, "Why"?  What is causing this rash of parity to hit the NCAA at all levels and in all sports?

Many point to technology as the reason many programs are now able to compete with their once formidable rivals in the recruiting arena.  Technology, it is argued, is helping to level the playing field when it comes to attracting great recruits to schools that don’t have the history or tradition as some of the traditional powerhouse schools.

The Sporting News points out this fact in their most recent issue:

"With only 85 scholarships available per team, the best teams can’t stockpile talent the way they could in good old days of Bear Bryant’s Alabama dynasty and the Ten Year War between Bo Schembechler’s Michigan Wolverines and Woody Hayes’ Ohio State Buckeyes.

Increased television coverage, streaming internet video, and satellite coverage helps recruiting, too. On Saturday, North Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette could be watched with a satellite dish. There were probably more cameraman and announcers than fans in the stadium but, nonetheless, the Mean Green and Ragin’ Cajuns could be seen from coast to coast by future major college football players."

The other key component to this leveling of the playing field is the computer and Internet Front Rush sports recruiting softwaretechnology that is available to almost every coach at every level in every sport.  Recruiting technology leader Front Rush is an example of innovative software designed specifically for a coach’s college recruiting needs while being inexpensive and easy to learn and use. 

"Tools like our web-based recruiting management software really helps college coaches do their job of getting a prospect interested in their program so much more efficiently and easily," says Leidy Smith, President of Front Rush.  "And because our pricing makes sense for basically any program’s budget, we’re seeing clients who are from smaller programs being able to compete at the same level technologically as some of the big powerhouse programs."  Because of that, adds Leidy, their recruiting tool is helping college coaches at all levels with their recruiting and contact management.

What does this all mean as we look into the future of where recruiting technology is going in college sports? 

"I think you’ll see college coaches continue to be creative in how they use the newest technology that grabs a kid’s attention," says Dan Tudor, author of two best selling books on recruiting for college coaches.  "The NCAA recently banned text messaging, but coaches will find the next hot technology trend to use in their recruitment of great prospects.  Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace, within a year or two you’ll see a whole new set of recruiting tools hitting the desks of savvy college coaches."

When it does, look for increased parity – and more "upsets" – in the future throughout college athletics.

“Badmouthing” Worse Than Ever in College RecruitingMonday, October 1st, 2007


When John Foley was being recruited out of St. Rita in 1985, he said badmouthing was the least of the evils that dozens of colleges employed to influence his decision.

Foley, USA Today’s defensive player of the year, was offered $25,000 in cash, a new house for his parents, a job for his father, a car for his girlfriend and full scholarships for his friends. One school even tried to influence his father by taking advantage of his alcoholism.

”They talked more about giving me things than talking about their schools,” Foley recalled. ”Then when they realized I was leaning to Notre Dame, they said Notre Dame was great, but there was no way I could get through there academically. No one gave me a chance.”

Later, after an injury ended his football career, he helped to recruit other athletes for Notre Dame.

”I challenged the badmouthing,” he said. ”I’d call kids and explain that they could make it academically, just as I did, if they applied themselves and took their schoolwork seriously.”

The NCAA investigated Foley’s recruiting, including allegations that some schools offered money, houses and jobs, and two major programs were penalized severely.

”The NCAA said I wouldn’t get to college if I didn’t cooperate with their investigation,” Foley said.

But the NCAA never has penalized anyone for badmouthing.

In college football, badmouthing is as much a part of the recruiting process as campus visits and highlight films. Everybody does it — at least to some extent.

Not surprisingly, it isn’t a popular subject among coaches. In fact, one Big Ten head coach declined to comment for this story.

What is badmouthing? According to the dictionary, it means ”to criticize severely and persistently; to criticize or disparage, spitefully or unfairly.”

But college coaches, recruiting analysts and high school recruits offer other definitions.

”Anything is OK unless it gets real personal,” said Dave Roberts, who coached at six colleges in 35 years. ”We were 0-11 one year. What can you say? I’d go into a home and ask, ‘Who’s beating us up?’ If someone is bashing us, it must mean they don’t have enough good things to say about their school.”

Pat Fitzgerald experienced badmouthing as a recruit coming out of Sandburg High School, and he has to deal with it as the head coach at Northwestern. It is common for rival schools to question a recruit’s ability to make the grade at Northwestern academically.

”It happened to me as a player,” Fitzgerald said. ”One school told me that I didn’t fit into Northwestern academically, that I wouldn’t make it because I was a good student but not Northwestern’s type. ‘Look at your transcript,’ he told me. I scratched that school from my list.

”Today I tell kids, ‘Do you want to play for someone who thinks you’re not good enough to do something?’ That’s what I thought when that coach said I wasn’t good enough academically to go to Northwestern. At first, I thought, ‘Maybe he’s right.’ But my parents said I wasn’t going to that school. Why? Because you won’t play for someone who doesn’t believe you are good enough, they said. I’m glad I had so much support from my parents.”

Fitzgerald doesn’t think that badmouthing is as prevalent as others suggest, that most coaches focus on their schools and don’t talk about other programs, that their sales pitch is subtle but not malicious.

”I think coaches use sales techniques rather than badmouthing,” he said.

Bob Chmiel, who coached for 28 years with stops at Northern Illinois, Northwestern, Michigan and Notre Dame, insists there was more honor in the coaching fraternity in the 1970s and 1980s, even into the 1990s. But he said it has changed considerably in the last decade — for the worse.

”We never used to call a kid who was committed to another school if it was definite,” Chmiel said. ”Now there are major programs that have reputations for recruiting kids who have committed to other schools. In the past, a kid’s decision was honored. We moved on to another guy.

”Not today. Now kids are getting pounded by other schools even though they are committed. There is more pressure on college coaches, more money at stake. College coaches need to start exhibiting the fraternalism of the past. Some of the best recruiters of the past wouldn’t badmouth another school in any way.”

Chmiel praised two of his old bosses. Michigan’s Bo Schembechler once told him: ”If you have to badmouth another school, you don’t know enough about Michigan.” And Chmiel said he never, ever heard a word from Notre Dame’s Lou Holtz that bordered on negativism while he was recruiting a youngster.

Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who has observed the recruiting process for nearly 30 years, said a lot of prospects are influenced by badmouthing ”because they don’t know what is going on. Some coaches are very good at it. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t done it.”

”They make very subtle comments, very few blatant remarks. It is a backhanded compliment, something negative about another school, maybe a rumor or just innuendo.

”Early on, it is an effective practice. Later, kids become smart and realize what is going on. A smart coach will warn a kid what a school might say about them so a kid is aware of what is going on when it happens.”

For example, a school is loaded with offensive linemen. Another coach might tell a recruit: ”’Oh, they did a great job, but they have stockpiled offensive linemen in the last few years.’ It sounds like a compliment, but it’s a backhanded shot,” Lemming said.

Vinny Cerrato, who was Holtz’s chief recruiter at Notre Dame for nine years, Chmiel and Roberts claim the trick is to try to ”dispel the myths,” to turn negatives in your favor by anticipating what other recruiters are saying about your program.

”Badmouthing was huge when I was at Notre Dame,” said Cerrato, now the personnel director of the Washington Redskins. ”They would say the school has no social life, that you won’t be comfortable unless you are Catholic, Holtz won’t be there much longer, it was too cold for kids from the South, the campus was too small, there weren’t enough minorities, academics are too tough, too many players at your position. They’d rip on Notre Dame the whole time.

”But I didn’t care about other schools. I felt we were the top dog. We didn’t have to rip everybody else. When I knew who was doing the badmouthing, I would prep kids on what they would say when they came in for a visit. If all they are going to do is rip Notre Dame, what does that say about their school?

”I used to go in and sell what we had to offer … academics, job after graduation, graduation rate, chance to play big-time football on a national stage. I sold our opportunities. I didn’t care about other schools.”

Roberts said he long ago learned a lesson about the recruiting process that every coach should heed.

”I was at Vanderbilt, and we were recruiting Chicago,” he said. ”Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you say. We recruited four kids for 18 months, and Notre Dame came in during the last week and signed all four. Sometimes you do everything you can and then move on. Winning takes care of everything.”