Dan Tudor

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Recruiting Service Setting a New Standard in Helping College CoachesMonday, March 31st, 2008

For years, recruiting services have enjoyed a love-hate relationship with college coaches.

On the one hand, coaches love good information on good prospects that they didn’t know about before.  But one of the big complaints over the years has been all of the information that came to coaches that didn’t match their specific needs.  Kids that were too far away, or too slow, or too short, or didn’t score enough on the SAT.

But now, twenty years after the advent of recruiting services became part of the college recruiting landscape, one Chicago-based recruiting service seems to have figured out how to serve college coaches through technology and expert assistance.

Chris Krause, NCSA"We’re really trying to take serving college coaches to the next level," says Chris Krause, Founder and President of the National Collegiate Scouting Association (NCSA).  "We have a full-time team of former college athletes and coaches who really understand what recruiters go through in trying to find good prospects for their programs.  We think we’re giving college coaches some tremendous tools to use when they recruit."

Krause’s organization employees nearly 70 people, most of whom are former college athletes.  That gives them a unique perspective into the process, and an understanding of what level student-athletes should be aiming for when it comes to college programs.

"We are really careful to match high school prospects with a NCSA Recruiting Coach that is an expert in their sport and has played in college," says Krause.  "We’re also unique in that each athlete that wants us to assist them has to submit a verified transcript.  That way, when a college coach is interested in one of our pre-qualified prospects, they have everything they need to know to begin the recruiting process."

Three unique features of NCSA have college coaches singing their praises:

  • They have a process called "Recruit Match", which allows coaches to set filters for what kinds of prospects they will be sent.  Once they have an athlete’s information in hand, they can view streaming video, get a copy of the athlete’s transcript, and view up-to-date statistical information.  All of this information comes to coaches using the criteria that they have set in the NCSA system, eliminating unwanted prospects flooding their Inbox.
  • NCSA’s "Virtual Tryout" feature allows coaches to view extended streaming video highlights of prospects immediately.  Not having to wait for a prospect to send DVD’s of their highlights, or viewing highlights before they contact an athlete, is something that sets this service apart from the others.Lisa Meyers, NCSA
  • College coaches don’t have to limit their contact with this organization to just online communication.  "We want coaches to call and tell us what they need," says Lisa Meyers, a former Yale Ice Hockey athlete who now runs NCSA’s recruiting coach department.  "We want to take the time to get to know what they want, and how we can funnel the right prospects to them for their consideration."

One end result of NCSA’s attention to detail is this amazing statistic: Only 3% of NCSA athletes that are placed at a college end up transferring or dropping-out, compared with the national average of more than 60% of college students who do so.

Want to give NCSA your own unique RecruitMatch settings and get access to their database of pre-qualified prospects?  Click here or call them at 1-888-333-6846. 

If you are searching for a great start to your 2008-2009 recruiting year, NCSA has a special link (click here) to have you submit your requests so that they can conduct a customized search for a recruit that fits your criteria.

April Fools Day RecruitingMonday, March 31st, 2008

April Fools Day only falls on a Tuesday once every several years, so I need to take advantage of the spirit April Fools Dayof the occasion when I can.

Today is that day.

Want to be foolish in your recruiting?  Settle in for a quick rundown on this April Fools Day and get my best tips for recruiting like a fool today – as well as the other 364 days in your recruiting year:

  1. Just copy the old letters sitting in your filing cabinets.  Some may call them worn-out and ineffective.  I call them “timeless yet misunderstood classics”.  Go ahead and send them out again, Coach.  It’s easier than creating all that time consuming new stuff that speaks to this generation of recruits, right?
  2. Leave social media to other coaches.  Keeping up with the latest and greatest communication tools takes time to learn.  And if there’s one thing most coaches don’t have, it’s extra time.  And if you do happen to get interested in using it, don’t read our latest research on how your recruits want you to use it to talk to them.
  3. Keep your recruiting questionnaire long, whether it’s on paper or online.  Some prospect wants to play for you?  Make him or her earn it.  Let’s see if they have what it takes to gut it out and fill out that questionnaire of yours, Coach.  Let’s separate the stars from the wannabees.  If they can’t find an extra 30 minutes in their day to fill out a form longer than most you will find at your local motor vehicle office, do you really want to coach them in college?  Of course not.
  4. Call week after week whether you have something new to say or not.  Today’s teen loves talking to adults on the phone.  You’ve probably noticed that with most of your phone calls to them, right?  It’s impossible to get them to shut up…they just talk, talk, talk.  So it’s important to call even if you ask the same questions week after week…I recommend topics like “so, how’s it going?” or “what’s the latest with your boyfriend?” or “How’s your team doing?”  Kids count on repetition.  The important thing is to call…don’t worry so much about what you talk about.
  5. Have your Seniors host your prospects when they visit campus.  Sure, Freshman are closer to your prospect’s age and would relate better to them.  But do you really want to baby your recruit and make things more comfortable for them?  Of course not.  Pair them up with an experienced Senior athlete on your team.  See if they can keep up when your Senior team captain takes your visiting prospect over to that frat party during their visit.  That’ll leave an impression. And the fact that they’ll be long gone when your prospect arrives on campus for their Freshman year? Teenagers love that., really.
  6. Towards the end of the recruiting process, cut off all contact with your prospect.  You know why, right Coach?  That’s right…you want to “give them their space” so they can “make the best decision for them” and not be “pressured”.  And that’s the right call: They love it when you don’t contact them.  And, they like the challenge of figuring out what you’re thinking while they choose between you and the other thirteen colleges that have contacted them.  It’s a rite of passage for today’s teenage student-athlete.
  7. DO NOT Ask for the Sale.  Give them their space.  Keep them guessing.  Make them call you.  I mean, afterall, you’re the one who’s offering them the chance to play college sports and maybe even pay for their education.  Like I just mentioned, you don’t want to “pressure” them, right?  And what would you do if you couldn’t lie awake in bed at night wondering when your prospects will call or e-mail you?  At least will mistake you for a “pushy salesman”.  Besides, if you asked them to commit to your program, they might get the idea that you want them to play for you (and nothing’s worse than a cocky teenager that thinks you can’t live without them).

Before we wrap-up, just a few more warnings in celebration of April Fools Day today:

Don’t bring us to campus to lead your staff in one of our workshops for coaches, or become a client so that we can work with you and your staff one-on-one and help you develop more strategic recruiting messages.  And whatever you do, do not attend this Summer’s annual National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.  All that extra training and information might cause you to recruit more effectively, which will lead to more wins, which would cut-in to your off-season vacation time.

Happy April Fools Day, Coach.  We’ll do this again in 2025 when April 1st falls on a Tuesday again.

The question is, will you still be making some of these foolish recruiting mistakes? 

Is Your Competition Using This Training and Recruiting Tool?Monday, March 24th, 2008

Dartfish sampleThe same technology used by Olympic trainers, Major League Baseball, the NFL and other professional athletes is now being used by a surprising number of college coaches.

And they’re not just using it to make their athletes better in competition.  Coaches are using it to recruit athletes to their campus, as well.

The technology is a software called Dartfish, and it’s moving into the mainstream of college sports.

"Dartfish is really beginning to make an impact in the college sports world," says Victor Bergonzoli, CEO of Dartfish North America.  "For coaches, it provides their athletes with some amazing training feedback and it also gives them a real advantage in how they can recruit athletes to their program."

How?

  • Dartfish gives coaches and trainers a view of athlete motion and mechanics that colleges would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.  Emmy Award winning StroMotion technolgy, Dartfish logoalong with their Simulcam feature, allows coaches to give athletes immediate visual feedback to their technique and performance.
  • When it comes to recruiting, it shows the prospect of a college coach who is a Dartfish user how their program uses the latest technology to help their athletes be the best they can be at the collegiate level.  College coaches, who first used Dartfish to give their athletes an edge on the field of competition, are now finding it to be a unique recruiting tool that gets a recruit’s attention.

Schools like Portland University, Stanford, Louisville, Michigan, Texas and dozens of others have started using Dartfish to get a performance – and recruiting – edge.

Will the trend continue?  Bergonzoli thinks so.

"Coaches are finding out how simple and effective this tool is.  As word gets out, and coaches find out about how affordable it is to start using, I think you will see it become a normal part of the college training and recruiting landscape."

Interested in seeing if Dartfish is right for your program?  Click here to get more information, and a free demo live in your office.  It’s really interesting, and we think you’ll see why college coaches get so excited about what it can do for their program.

5 Ways to Create Your Unique StoryMonday, March 24th, 2008

Whenever I go to lead one of our On-Campus Workshops for a college coach or athletic director, a big part of my job is helping them to develop their "story".

I think stories are vital to the recruiting process.  Now when I say "story", I’m not talking about something that has been made-up.  I’m not talking about telling lies. 

I’m talking about giving your recruit something to reach out and touch and feel when it comes to what your program is all about.  What is your "story" that you want them to buy into?  Have you sat back and considered what kind of picture you are painting for your prospect in their head through your recruiting materials, phone calls and even personal visits?

If you have never thought about "your story" before, and need help in creating it so that you can beDan Tudor a more effective recruiter here, I want to pass along five questions that you can ask yourself – and your fellow coaches – to see what you can find that is unique about your program and how to present it as a story that your recruit won’t want to say no to:

  1. What are your prospects demanding?  Here’s a hint: It’s not always about the money, so don’t make that the focus.  If you’ve read our survey of some of 2008′s most recruited athletes, and how they tell us they will make their final college decision, it usually revolves around personal relationships with your team and you as a coach.  They demand attention, and they demand benefits that revolve around them.  What can you do to "meet their demand"?
  2. What do your prospects need?  Money?  Sometimes.  A degree?  Yes.  A chance to succeed?  All the time.  Ask yourself what your prospects need, and you will go a long way towards reaching them with a message – a story – that they will identify with.  Remember: "Needs" are different than "demands".  Their needs revolve around the realities that they are facing, and are necessary for them to overcome those hurdles.  Figure out a way to meet their needs (that’s what they care about, anyway…their needs, not yours).
  3. What are they willing to pay for?  This is actually a fairly in-depth question, Coach.  What is it that they view as being a "premium" feature of your school that if they had to pay for it, they would gladly do so.  For example, if you are at a school that doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, the premium might be a great education…or the brand new dorms…or the chance to compete in the best athletic conference in the country.  All of those things are tangible "premium" items that your prospects may be willing to pay for if they had to.  Understanding what the most valuable parts of your offering are in the eyes of your prospects is a big key in developing a great recruiting story.
  4. What athletic niches are underserved by other colleges?  Today, I’m working at a university that is developing a specialized niche in their track and field and cross country programs.  I give them credit for looking at what their school wants to do regarding enrollment, identifying its most likely student-athletes, and building a story around the focus that they have.  Taking a look at what kind of "specialty" niche you can put together for your prospects, whether it be a unique training approach, training trips to exotic locations…whatever!  Find an area that your competitors aren’t focusing on and build out a unique brand for your prospect.
  5. What special credentials to you bring to your athlete?  Have you won Coach of the Year honors within your conference or even nationally?  Do you specialize in a certain type of training that you could talk about?  Have you worked with athletes that eventually went on to a pro career?  All of those highlights, and others if they exist, should be highlighted in your story that you develop.

Just asking those five probing questions about you and your program can help you develop the beginnings to a great recruiting strategy…a strategy that will give your prospect the story they can get behind, believe in, and respond to.

By the way, I’d really like you to become a SFC Premium Member.  This week, I’ll be sending Members another four questions that will help you build your program’s story.  If you aren’t a Member, sign-up for the month-to-month subscription that you can try.  We think you’ll like the added training you get.

How to Find Out Who is REALLY Making the Final DecisionMonday, March 17th, 2008

Let’s jump straight to the point, Coach:

When you hear mom and dad say something like, "Oh, our son/our daugther is going to make the decision on his own/her own.  It’s their decision.  We’ll support it no matter what he/she decides."

Sound familiar?

Here’s the truth, Coach: Most of the time, mom and dad (and even your prospect’s coach) isn’t just Parents of athletesstanding by silently, waiting on the sidelines as the student-athlete they’ve catered to and coddled makes the decision of their life.  Trust me, they are right in the middle of the decision-making process.

Our study on how your prospects make their final college decision resulted in several interesting findings, among them this fact: In more than 9 out of 10 instances, your prospect’s parents are listed as a very important or important outside factor in the final decision your prospect makes. 

And close behind is another group, their high school and club coaches: 8 out of 10 of your prospects said that they were also very important or important outside factor in their prospect’s decision.

My point?  When parents and coaches say that they are staying out of the decision making process, they are probably not being truthful.  Even if they are doing their best to stay out of the process, the athlete is going to look to them for advice and direction.  In the end, when it’s cruch time, count on them asking, "Mom, dad, coach…what do you think?"

It’s CRUCIAL that you understand who is in on the decision making process, Coach.  Here are some quick tips for finding out who is really in on making the final decision:

  • Start with the coach.  Since he or she is the hardest to get a hold of and develop a relationship with, start with the coach.  Your goal should be two-fold: First, to get their opinion on the athlete you are recruiting and make them feel like their opinion and assessment matters as you recruit their athlete.  Second, to build a relationship with them.  You know you need to do a better job of networking with coaches who could be feeding you news and information on future prospects, And, you want them to recommend you if your prospect goes to them and asks, "What do you think, Coach?"
  • Understand the parents from top to bottom.  If you aren’t recruiting the parents, like we teach you in our "Building a Winning Recruiting Message" workshops, you’re missing out on a big part of the decision making process.  Here’s what you need to ask them:
    • "What do you see as your main concerns when it comes to watching your son/daughter pick a school?"
    • "What do you want to see happen as you go through the recruiting process with your son/daughter?"
    • "What’s your family’s timeline for making a final decision?"
  • Get inside the head of your prospect.  You need to try to understand how they are going to make their decision, and who is going to help them do so.  Getting their view on who they will rely upon for help in making their decision.  Are they close with their parents?  Do they want to stay close to home, or move far away?  Don’t skip past their motives and feelings when it comes to their parents, and how they will look to them (or if they will look to them) for advice and direction.
  • Ask the big question.  "Who are you going to rely upon most to help you make this decision?"  Simple, but powerful.  It gets straight to the point, and gets you the information you need.  Once you find out who is going to be an outside factor in their decision, you can act accordingly.

You have to understand how each of your prospects is going to use their parents and their coach to help them make the decision.  Most coaches rush past this type of understanding, and go right to the selling. 

Don’t be that coach.  Be the one that slows down at the start, takes time to get to understand your prospect’s parents and coaches, and formulates a strategy for getting them in your corner as you recruit their student-athlete.

Because here’s the situation that most recruiting situation comes down to: Your athlete sitting at a dining room table with his or her parents, and maybe their coach, and asking them "Where do you think I should go?" 

What the parents and coaches answer back to that question is up to you, Coach.

How to Look Like a Million Bucks on a Small BudgetMonday, March 10th, 2008

by Rodger Motiska, "Winning Recruits" 

 

Wake Forest basketball had a problem when it came to recruiting visits. 

The Men’s and Women’s teams play their games off campus at the Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum in downtown Winston-Salem (several miles from campus), which didn’t allow them showcase their teams’ storied past and celebrated athletes to visiting recruits.   And as the smallest school in the ACC, they don’t have the resources their financially endowed competitors do.

To address the problem, Athletic Director Ron Wellman and his coaches working with Winning Recruits took a novel approach: Use the basketball practice facilities at the Miller Center to make a memorable impression on recruits during their on-campus visits.  The real breakthrough came from creating maximum impact while keeping spending on the project to a minimum.

The consultants at Winning Recruits used a four-point strategy to elevate Wake Forest’s recruiting message through award-winning sports architecture design:

1. Create WOW! factor with large-scale graphics.     Wake Forest

• In the four corners of the practice gym, Winning Recruits’ staff worked with the school’s athletic department created 28 foot tall graphics of famous men’s and women’s alumni of the school.
• A graphic of basketball texture covers the entire wall of the entrance to the player’s locker rooms, and a 7 foot tall dimensional Wake Forest logo guards the entrance.

2. Use color to create drama.

• Instead of the typical bright primary colors, the design experts at Winning Recruits used the team’s rich gold and black color in a bold way.  The large graphics in the corners of the practice gym are on black background that dominates the four corners and a brilliant metallic gold band encircles the room, creating a visually dramatic statement. 

3. Decide what’s important to communicate and make it interesting to your recruits, fans and alumni.

Wake Forest basketball• The Demon Deacon’s basketball teams have a history of success in the highly competitive ACC conference, in the NCAA tournaments and in the NBA.  Legendary basketball stars are featured in photographs combined with stunning graphics on gold textured banners hung from the ceiling rafters.

• Highlights of both team’s achievements are spelled out with vinyl graphics on a gold metallic laminate band encircling the gym.

 

4. Keep it simple, impactful and memorable.

• Winning Recruits used materials that combined looks and utility at a reasonable cost.  Large scale graphics are printed on vinyl and applied to a low cost plastic board for the large-scale graphics.  The gold band was a laminate with a metallic finish applied to MDF (an wood board use in cabinet making.)  Winning Recruits worked with Wake Forest to stay within budget through using less expensive materials where it made sense, while still delivering one of the best practice atmospheres in the competitive ACC.

• The graphics aren’t overly complex, but they are impactful.  And best of all, they make a lasting impression on anyone who walks in the facility.

It’s an impression that sells the program through visual architecture, and supports the look and feel Wake Forest wants every recruit to understand when they visit the school.

Winning Recruits offers a complete design audit for college coaches and athletic directors who want to set their offices and facilities apart from the competition.  If you are interested in having them tell you more about how they can work with your school, call Tim Gilland at 704.376.8499 x203 or e-mail him at tim@winningrecruits.com.

Why They Don’t Return Your QuestionnairesMonday, March 10th, 2008

It’s a common complaint I hear from college coaches when I visit their campus as a part of one of our On-Campus Workshops.

"My prospects just don’t return very many of my questionnaires."

A problem, of course, because you rely on that information to find out about your prospect – athletic stats, academic accomplishments, and much, much more.  Without that information, it’s tough to recruit your prospects.

I’ve seen a lot of questionnaires as I’ve traveled to different campuses, and I’ve identified some common problems that I think every coach should be aware of when it comes to your questionnaires:

  • They are way too long.
  • They look like every other questionnaire that they get.
  • There is no apparant reward for your prospect.
  • They are way, way too long.

"Too long" means that they don’t want to complete it for you.  It’s too intimidating.  And, if your questionnaire looks just like every other coach’s questionnaire, its not likely that they are going to be motivated to fill it out and rush it back to you. 

And, when I explain that there is "no reward" for your recruit, I mean that there is no immediate pay-off that they see.  For them, it’s just another fifteen minutes of wasted time in their mind.

So here’s what I suggest.  Most of you won’t follow through on these suggestions, more than likely, so those of you that do will see you set yourself apart quickly, easily and inexpensively.  And, you’ll get your newly revised questionnaires back in record numbers:

  • Keep the questionnaire length to one half of a page, or less.  The shorter the better.
  • Focus on getting key contact information: Their contact information, their parent’s contact information (especially their work e-mails!), and the best time to get a hold of them.
  • Ask three or four fun questions on the questionnaire.  And that’s it.  Make them complete-the-sentence questions, such as "The NBA player I will remind you most of on the court is…" or, "I don’t like teammates who…"  Your goal here is to get them to open up.  Have some fun.  And, most importantly, give you their contact information.
  • Once they return it to you, now you can call them and "interview" them.  Ask them the questions on your old, outdated questionnaire.  You’ll get all of the same information you would have received normally from your prospect.  Plus, you’ll have something to talk about on the phone, which is something else I also hear about a lot when I get the chance to find out what coaches struggle with when it comes to recruiting.

It’s an insanely simple fix to a real problem.  Shorter forms, the ability to have a quick reply, and a new, creative look that will set you apart from your competition who just read this but won’t follow through and make the changes to their form.

When you look at what’s not going right with your recruiting materials, I often find that small, simple fixes are usually the best solutions to the problem.  Look at your questionnaires that you send to prospects, and then look at your return rates: Is it where you would like it to be?  If the answer is "no", then make the simple change I just recommended.

By the way, if you’re a SFC Premium Member, I’m going to give you another two aspects of this strategy that will allow you to be even more effective when it comes to getting information back from prospects.  Stay tuned Wednesday and Thursday for the information.

The Right Questions to AskMonday, March 3rd, 2008

It’s the core of every good recruiting effort…the single thing that can determine whether you get the prospect, or lose them to a competitor.

Questions.

Especially asking the right ones, the right way, at the right time

When you get right down to it, questions drive successful recruiting efforts.  Everything else – all those exciting brochures (not), all those tantilizing one page letters (???) - don’t measure up to really effective questions.  Like the ones we talk about in our two recruiting guides for college coaches.

To make sure this ends up as a successful year of recruiting for you and your program, I wanted to give you a few of the right kinds of questions you should be asking your prospects right away.  See if you can incorporate these into your recruiting conversations as you head into recruiting’s stretch run:

1. The Who Question

Never, ever assume that the prospect you are speaking with is the real decision-maker.

It sounds strange, but it is true: Your prospect may be only one of a number of individuals who will figure into his or her final decision. Parents, coaches and others may have real influence over your prospect.  Are you coming to our special recruiting workshops in Los Angeles or San Francisco?  If you are, you’ll find out how parents and coaches effect all of these decisions.  (There’s still time to register…you should come!) 

Know all the players in the game so you can prepare strategies and tactics to deal with them and how they may individually effect your prospect’s decision. Your challenge is to find out if there are other participants in the decision without putting your recruit on the spot. If you’re too blunt, the prospect might mislead you. Here is a simple question that you can’t live without. Use it every time:

"Amanda, apart from yourself, who is involved in your decision?"

Here’s a variation: "Kevin, when a player like you has to make a big decision like this, there are usually several people involved. Apart from yourself, who else will help you make your decision?"

2. The When Question

I am amazed at how many coaches and recruiters ignore this powerful and insightful question:

"Kathy, when do you see the final decision being made?" Or, "Chad, if our offer was a go in your mind, when do you see it happening?"

The "when" question helps you to assess your prospect’s urgency. A decision that will be made within a week has more urgency than a decision that will be made in three months. Knowing when the recruiting might conclude helps you set priorities, determines the time and effort you devote and dictates your follow up strategy with the prospect you’re recruiting.

3. The Scenario Question

Discovering a prospect’s needs can be challenging in the early stages of recruiting. When prospects don’t know you, they tend to be much more reserved in the information they share. Many are not comfortable telling you about their "warts and blemishes" (i.e., their needs, challenges, weaknesses and concerns) until you’ve established some rapport. You’ve probably noticed that by now, right coach? 

To get around this hesitancy, coaches should use a scenario question. As the name implies, the scenario question paints a scenario that addresses a problem or concern without putting the prospect on the spot. Here are a couple of examples:

"Eric, a lot of the prospects we’re recruiting this year have said they’re interested in committing as early as possible. Let me ask you, is that something you’re thinking about also?"

"Jennifer, we are getting more and more feedback from our prospects that are part of our upcoming recruiting class about who they’ll rely on to help them make their final decision.  Let me ask you, how would you answer that question?"

The scenario question is based on the premise that "misery loves company". You want the prospect to think, "Gee, if others are experiencing the same thing then it’s okay for me to open up." Master the scenario question and you’ll get to their needs and inner motivations more quickly, reduce your recruiting cycle and get more recruits committed in less time.

4. The Net Impact Question

Even if you use a scenario question and the recruit opens up to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the their need for what you’re offering at your college is strong enough for him to take positive action. One of the best questions you can ask to determine the depth and breadth of a need your athletic prospect has is the "net impact" question. Here are two versions:

"So what’s the net impact of our offer to cover half of your total tuition costs?" Or, "What’s the possible net impact of waiting until late March to give us your final decision?"

The net impact forces your prospect to think about the rippling effect of a problem. It gets your prospect to do some analysis. In effect, you want him to say, "Gee, I never thought of it like that." Suddenly, seemingly minor problems become more significant. Or, you learn the net impact is minor in the mind of your teenage prospect. If so, avoid wasting your time. Move on. Because the question is opened-end it gets your client to expand and elaborate. You get information and information is power.

Those four questions alone should generate a lot of insights into the mind of your prospect.

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