Dan Tudor

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Making Your Recruiting Questionnaire Match Your Prospect NeedsSunday, April 26th, 2009

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush   Front Rush questionnaire

What does your recruit questionnaire say about how you recruit?  We spend so much time tailoring our recruiting software to fit our needs that we often overlook the fact that the first interaction we have as college coaches with recruits is our questionnaire.  No matter what recruiting contact management software you use, we recommend you look at what your questionnaire looks like to see if it’s matching your recruiting goals. 

More Recruits, More Recruits, More Recruits!
Some coaches base their recruiting on the pure number of recruits they get…it is a total numbers game.  The more recruits in the system, the more potential athletes.

Recruit Questionnaire:  In this scenario, you should set up your form to request as little information as possible.  We want this to be simple, easy, and usable.  The less information that a recruit has to fill out the more likely he/she will complete the form.  Just stick with requiring as few fields as possible and only ask the main stuff (First Name, Last Name, Contact Info, Position, High School, etc.).  You can always call or email the recruit later to get the other information you need.

Recruits Need to "Earn" a Spot in My Database
Some coaches want their questionnaire out there for only the recruits who are dedicated to complete—not those who are just filling out this form along with hundreds of others.

Recruit Questionnaire:   In this scenario, you should add additional fields for recruits to fill out.  We want everything from Contact Info to Favorite Cereal.  Require them to fill out a bunch of fields and not just skip through the questionnaire.  By the time they are done, it will be like an early morning practice…they may even break a sweat.  However, you know that you have a prospect who is really, really interested in your program.

Admissions is the Driver Behind My Recruits
Some coaches are mandated by admissions to obtain specific information about recruits…it may be demographic information or it may be academic information.

Recruit Questionnaire:  In this scenario, we should take a good look at what admissions is asking for in their form(s).  Let’s copy the fields verbatim…if they ask for SAT II, we should also ask for SAT II.  This way–if admissions needs a report on the recruits in your system or if they send you recruits from their software, it will easily translate.

Academics is Everything
Some coaches select first by a recruit’s academic skill set and then by athletics.

Recruit Questionnaire:  In this scenario, you should set up your recruiting form to highlight the academic fields.  Let’s move the academic section towards the top of the questionnaire.  We can put SAT, ACT, SAT II, GPA, etc., at the beginning and maybe go as far as requiring their completion.  In addition, we can make them numeric fields so that you can search by your top performers later.  You could even make a field an equation in the Front Rush system and require it so that recruits can only submit the form when the question is answered (if you use another company to handle your recruiting database management needs, contact them and see if they can do this for your system that you’re using.  It is very helpful for you if academics are your top recruiting criteria).

Blue Chip Athletes Only
Some coaches are bombarded with requests and can only accept top athletic performers.  These coaches have databases that are athletically very selective.

Recruit Questionnaire:   In this scenario, you should not put the questionnaire on the web.  Instead, let’s just put a generic form (if any at all) that the recruit has to print out and mail in.   For the recruits that we are truly interested in, you can email them the link to the questionnaire.  In this way, you can filter your targeted prime recruits.

Recruiting questionnaires are the lifeblood of most college programs.  We recommend that you carefully review what your questionnaire is asking your recruit to do, and make sure that it matches the type of responses – from the right type of prospects – that you are desiring.

Sean Devlin leads the software development team at Front Rush, the nation’s leading web-based contact management system for college coaches.  Have questions about how to maximize your recruiting tracking, or just how to improve it?  Even if you aren’t a current Front Rush client, you can get advice on how to manage your current database more effectively.  Email Sean with questions about your recruiting database and branded communications at sdevlin@frontrush.com, or visit them at www.FrontRush.com today.

Three Simple Ways This Coach Made Her Recruiting Letters More PowerfulSunday, April 26th, 2009

When we teach coaches to adjust their recruiting strategies, some of the advice we give goes against what they’ve been doing for years and years. 

It’s not natural…it doesn’t feel "right"…it’s opposite what they’ve been doing for years and years.  Even though their current recruiting methods lack the results they know they should be getting.

There’s a great example of what I’m talking about, and it comes from a coach who we had the chance to work with recently at one of our special Selling for Coaches recruiting conferences.  Wendy, a college volleyball coach, was looking for a new way to communicate with her prospects.  When we taught her a new way to write shorter, more effective letters, she was (as many coaches are) somewhat skeptical.  Could shorter letters with specific language that elicits better responses result in measureable improvements in the responses she would get from recruits?

One week later, Wendy emailed us with the results of her new, re-written recruiting letters that she had started sending recruits:

I sent our brand new recruiting letter to a new 2010 recruit. She received it yesterday and responded by email immediately!!!!!!

I was hesitant about the letter because I was so used to my highly informative letter! With the response I received from the three sentence letter, I’m confident none of my recruits will ever receive the old letter again!!!!!

This was the recruits response:

Dear Coach,
 
I received your letter in today’s mail.  Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me.  I am overjoyed to hear the news.  I am definately interested in becoming a part of your team!  I have inquired about the volleyball program through your website,  and pleased and impressed with what the program has to offer.  I look forward to hearing from you in the near future.  Thank you once again for your interest. 
 
Sincerely, 
 
Samantha

This coach followed three very simple principles that we recommend.  We teach it in our recruiting workbooks for college coaches, and we teach it at our recruiting conferences like the one Wendy attended.  Briefly, here are the principles we recommend coaches follow:

  1. Keep it short.  Especially the initial letters that they receive.  Shorter is better.
  2. Leave questions unanswered.  Don’t try to answer everything in one letter.  Leave some details and answers out, so that they have a reason to listen to you the next time.
  3. Give them a call to action.  With this generation, you need to tell them specifically what they need to do next for you.

Simple changes can yield big results.  Just ask Wendy!

Learn more proven recruiting strategies at our Recruiting Kick-Off Conference coming up in August 2009.  It’s our biggest conference of the year, and one of the most valuable two day recruiting conferences we offer.  Click here for details, and for information on how to save $50 when you register.

The Psychological Art of “Elevation” and RecruitingMonday, April 20th, 2009

Susan BoyleHave you heard of Susan Boyle?

If not, that’s a surprise.  Everyone is talking about her.  She’s the unmarried, unemployed 47-year old English woman who lives with her cat in a village in England.  Recently, she kept a promise to her dying mother and tried to become a star on England’s version of "American Idol" called "Britain’s Got Talent".

Mission accomplished.  Her surprising and amazing performance has captured the hearts of the world (her song on YouTube has surpassed the number of viewers that watched this year’s Super Bowl…take a few minutes and watch it if you haven’t seen it yet).

O.K., did you watch it?  Did it make you feel good?  If so, you just experienced the psychological experience that is called "elevation". 

"There’s an emotional state called elevation, characterized by a warm, glowing feeling, that we get when someone transcends our expectations," says Lynn Johnson, a psychologist in Salt Lake City, in a recent USA Today article. Boyle is "an elevator — we want to believe in something higher, that there’s meaning in life and that the ugly duckling can become the beautiful swan."

I emphasized "transcends our expectations" because that’s where Susan Boyle, psychology, and the way you recruit all intersect.  Surprising your recruit and exceeding their expectations is a sure-fire way to cement yourself at the top of their list.  I’ve seen it happen on campus after campus, and we’ve had the chance to help formulate those strategies for programs that bring us to their campus.

What should you do if you want to practice the art of "elevation" in your recruiting, and why does it work so well?  Glad you asked:

It’s the vindication. We like it when prospects are told one thing about a school, and it turns out to be wrong.  Prospects like it when they uncover their own "truth" about a program (hopefully, your program).

It’s the surprise. Your prospects go into every new recruiting relationship with a pre-set list of expectations.  You, as the recruiter, want to find ways to surprise them with new things they didn’t know about you and your program.  Things that will replace their assumptions with exciting and unexpected new truths.  Hint: If you want help achieving "surprise" while you’re recruiting your prospects, consider using our Total Recruiting Solution program.

It’s the guilt. They might even feel a little guilty about assuming some things about your program and college, and then discovering the truth about you.  They’ll feel a little guilty, which can cause a powerful alternative reaction which is a real, passionate curiosity to find out more about you and what you can offer them.

It’s the hope. You have to remember that your prospects are nervous, doubtful and unsure about what their future holds.  If you can provide hope, and demonstrate why they should trust you and your program for their academic and athletic future, that will go a long way towards cementing you at the top of their list.

It’s the distraction. You absolutely MUST do something different than other schools when you host a recruit on your campus.  You absolutely MUST sound different in the language you use in your recruiting letters and emails.  "Distracting" your prospect from the normal, bland recruiting language that most of your competition is still using gets their attention and helps you and your program break through the clutter of the recruiting process.

It’s the authenticity. Unlike most of the contestants on American Idol, Boyle clearly has not been groomed to be a pop star, so she is perceived as the real deal, says Ken Tucker, editor at large of Entertainment Weekly. "People want their idols to be authentic."  Likewise, prospects want their coaches to be authentic.  For those of you that have read our recruiting study, "Inside the Mind of Your College Prospect", you already know that the coaches that are genuine will usually win the most recruits.  Authoring your own blog and using Twitter, for example, show recruits the real you…not the pre-produced you in the media guide and brochures that are being read by your recruits less and less.   

Those six examples can be powerful psychological tools that you can use to your advantage to win recruits.  Psychology plays a major role in the process that your prospects use to make their final decision, especially when it’s "irrational" – something not based on fact, but on the feeling they get about you and your program while they are being recruited.

Susan Boyle managed to put almost ALL of those things into play in her meteoric rise to international fame.  Something tells me that if she can do it, you can too when it comes to signing better recruits using these simple psychological tools.

College Coaches and the NCAA Trying to Adapt to Recruits and TechnologyMonday, April 20th, 2009

A few months ago, I wrote what I thought was a rather innocent article on how Twitter – kind of a mix between a blog and text messaging -  would be one of the next big developments in college recruiting.Pete Carroll, Twitter user

What resulted was an avalanche of opinions back to me from college coaches and athletic directors, ranging from “we use it, and we love it” to “it’s illegal, and I’m calling the NCAA on you!”

Since then, “Twittering” among coaches has skyrocketed: Hundreds of college coaches have started using the service to keep their fans, alumni, and their recruits updated on what’s going on with them and their program.  A couple of weekends ago, I got updates from USC’s Pete Carroll as he watched an Angels-Red Sox game, heard results from the University of Utah’s track and field team, and much, much more.

Twitter, along with Facebook and individual blogs that coaches are writing, is the new frontier in college recruiting.  It’s growing in popularity because of the connectivity it gives coaches with those that want to follow them, but sometimes dives into the gray areas that are yet to be defined by the NCAA.

Suffice it to say that as college recruiters travel along the information superhighway, there are sure to be some bumps in the road. 

One case illustrates what a challenge emerging technology is for the NCAA, their coaches and the recruits that are sometimes caught in the middle.

The controversy that has people talking is the case of North Carolina State freshman student Taylor Mosely, who started a Facebook group with a title that implores a high value basketball recruit to sign with his school.

He was recently served with a cease and desist letter from the school’s NCAA compliance director, saying that his actions – and his Facebook website – might help persuade this blue chip recruit to come to play for the Wolfpack.

I’ll leave the issue of right and wrong to others to determine (of course, you can post your comments on the subject below), but this type of story serves as a platform to talk about some observations about technology and recruiting in today’s world of college sports.

Technology isn’t going away, so coaches better keep up with it.  That sounds like an obvious enough statement, although it might surprise you to see – as I do in my work with college athletic departments – that many of today’s coaches shy away from embracing technology.  Some are downright proud of their technology abstinence, such as Florida’s football coach Urban Meyer.  While Coach Meyer and a select group might be able to get away with that approach, the other 99.8% of college coaches reading this need to commit to stay updated with the latest technology, and use it on a regular basis so long as it’s allowed by NCAA guidelines.

It’s the preferred method of communication by your prospects.  If you can find a way to use technology to communicate and tell your story to recruits that is permissible under NCAA guidelines, do it.  Letters and emails have a valuable place in the recruiting process, but they are only part of the puzzle.  To rely on only those two methods to present an initial view of your program to a prospect is short-sighted, and possibly even foolish.  Incorporate technology into your presentation to recruits.  They’re waiting for it.

FacebookKnow where you’re not welcome.  You can go too far in embracing technology, and I’m not just talking about breaking NCAA rules.  I’m talking about breaking the unspoken rules of your prospects’ world, primarily where you are welcome and where you aren’t.  You should absolutely author a blog, post updates on Twitter, and use video and pictures to tell your story online.  You absolutely SHOULD NOT be interacting with recruits on MySpace, using Facebook to try and sway recruits to your school (not allowed by the NCAA) or use other teen-oriented social networking websites to try and show them that you are a “cool” coach that knows how to use technology; they will most likely view you as the “creepy” coach that knows how to use technology, and will form a negative opinion of you right from the start.

So, what’s the basic rule in using technology to showcase your program to recruits? 

Simple: Communicate out to them openly and honestly, letting them see the good and the rough edges of you and your program.  And, don’t ask for anything in return using the technology.  Your blog and a website like Twitter should be used as a living, breathing, evolving online brochure that your prospects can come and read at their leisure. 

When used properly, this emerging new technology can make recruiting easier, more efficient and more conducive to how today’s teens want to learn about your program.

There are two other essential technology tools that leading college coaches and recruiters use.  For communicating with prospects, you can’t do much better than Front Rush, the leading web-based contact manager and branded email product. 

And, Dartfish is a great resource for training your athletes to perform better by coaching them through video.  We recommend them both as easy-to-use, affordable tools that can make a big difference in your career as a college coach.

 

Why Showing Your Cracks Improve Your RecruitingMonday, April 13th, 2009

A few years ago, my wife and I excitedly watched the cement being poured for the foundation of ourCollege recruiting expert new home.  You don’t really realize just how much cement it takes to pour a foundation, not to mention a patio and a driveway.

After that task was completed, we came back a little later after the cement had hardened to check on the finished work. 

And that’s when we saw something unexpected…

The same men that had been carefully pouring and smoothing the cement for our new home were now etching deep lines at various points in the foundation, and even cracking it in certain places!

"What are they doing!?!?" I thought to myself.  I wanted our foundation to be perfect.  I was looking for smooth and beautiful, not cracked and etched.  The control freak in me couldn’t resist pointing out this apparant problem to one of the men overseeing the operation.  The answer he gave me was enlightening.

"We do that because we want to be the ones to determine where the cracks are in the foundation", he explained.  "It’s going to crack over time anyway.  But if we establish the main crack lines now, and etching those deep lines in the driveway as we’re laying the concrete, we can make sure that no cracks show up later in places we don’t want them."

All of a sudden, the cracks weren’t a bad thing.  I understood their purpose, and the benefit to the overall structure.

And that’s where the lesson for college coaches and recruiters comes in…

You need to show the cracks in your program early on for your prospects.

To achieve that, you have to understand what many coaches want to do first.  I have found, as we go to campuses to work personally with coaches and athletic departments, that many recruiters want to paint to "smooth" of a picture to their prospects.

"If you come to my program, we’re going to build everything around you.  You’re going to be the star for the next four years."

"Here at our school, they you’ll get all the extra academic help that you need.  We make sure that you won’t struggle with academics at all."

"The weather here is amazing all year long.  Yes, it gets a little cold during the winter, but our kids love it."

You get the point, right?  Do some of these sound familiar, Coach?  If you worry too much about presenting the "perfect" college situation for your prospect in everything you show them and tell them, you probably run the risk of making the prospect question whether they are getting the real story from you.  Kids today are smart, and they know that nothing is perfect at any college they visit.

So, its best to show them your cracks before they show up in unexpected places, at unexpected times.

As we outline in great detail in our two recruiting workbooks for college coaches, most prospects are actively searching for the seedy underbelly of your college and program: They’re looking for what’s wrong with your program, why they wouldn’t like the other players, and other reasons to cross you off the list.  Choosing a college program is a process of elimination for most prospects.  The point I’m trying to make?  They’re looking for your cracks.

Here are two big benefits to doing it, and one idea on how to do it:

  •  Benefit #1: You become believable.  Presenting a picture of perfection to your recruit runs the risk of leaving them wondering what they’re missing.  Whether large or small, there are always problems or imperfections at a college or in a coach’s program.  By taking the initiative and exposing your own faults, you becoming more trustworthy: After all, if you’re open and honest in what’s wrong with your program or college, why shouldn’t the prospect assume that you’re telling the truth with regards to what you’re presenting as the selling points of your program?  Of course.  And that’s why its smart to reveal your own cracks before your competitors do it for you.
  • Benefit #2:  You can turn your negatives into positives.  Presented correctly, your negatives can actually become selling points for you.  For example, you could present a negative about your campus’ remote location by saying, "We’re glad we aren’t located in the middle of a big city because it really helps build a community feeling on campus, and our players develop some great long term friendships because of it."  When you define that negative yourself, you can build in the corresponding benefits of it as well (something your competition probably won’t do!)
  • How to do it:  What we do when we sit down with a new Total Recruiting Solution college client is the same thing you should do, which is make a list of the objections that you will most likely hear from one of your prospects.  Then, list the biggest ways the disadvantages of that objection would help highlight the benefits of the objection…or, the "upside" of the negative.  Using the example of the college with the remote, rural location, there are definite benefits to being an isolated campus.  Are there negatives?  Sure, potentially…especially if you have a prospect who loves city life and a more metropolitan setting.  However, they could probably be persuaded to see the upside to a more close-knit, isolated college community if that "crack" was presented in a positive way.

Coaches who highlight and reveal their negatives don’t risk losing the interest of a prospect.  On the contrary, those that do it creatively and sincerely will stand-out among those colleges that are recruiting them.

So get busy this week, coach, and start figuring out where you can start "cracking"!

Need help figuring out how to get started?  Think about attending one of our special recruiting conferences, or look into our Total Recruiting Solution plan for your program.  It’s affordable, and very effective…it’s like having a team of recruiting experts in your office ready to create messages and strategies that get you noticed and get better recruits on campus.

Contact Dan Tudor with questions by email at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.  

A Smarter, Easier Way to Fix Your Player’s ShotSaturday, April 11th, 2009

"Shooting is the most important offensive fundamental skill in basketball.  A team that shoots well will always be in ball games."  – Jerry Tarkanian, former UNLV head coach

Most coaches recognize it as the most important aspect of playing great basketball: Correct shooting mechanics.

Even at the college level, incredible amounts of time and energy are spent on trying to uncover mechanical defects in a player’s shooting technique, followed by more time trying to explain the needed corrections to the athlete.

"The most frustrating part of what I used to do was getting my players to visually understand what they needed to do to correct their shot," said one assistant college coach.  "Man, the software has really changed the way we do things."

"The software" he is referring to is Dartfish, the revolutionary software tool for college coaches thatDartfish coaches allows an athlete to visually identify small differences in their mechanics more quickly, allowing their coaches to work with them to correct errors in those mechanics.  The results?  Fixing problems more quickly.

"We use to spend several days trying to identify and correct little mistakes and bad habits our players would fall into," said the assistant coach.  "Now it might take an hour or so."

Some of the things that college basketball coaches say that they’ve been able to more easily correct include changing shot velocities, incorrect angles of release and the trajectory of a ball once it leaves the fingertips.

"We designed the way the software works with coaches in mind," says Victor Bergonzoli, CEO of Dartfish USA.  "We’ve had great feedback from the college coaches that use it.  Over and over again, they say its given them a real advantage over their competition that still isn’t familiar with what it does."

Originally used by the U.S. Olympic team, Dartfish is becoming a mainstay in gyms across the nation’s college campuses.

To get your look at the how this new technology can work for your program, click here.

Practice Players vs. Gamers: How Can You Tell Who You Are Coaching?Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Basketball practiceEvery coach seems to have players that they can label.

You might look at a kid and say to yourself, "He’s a great practice player, but he folds in the game."  Or, you might be a coach who has an athlete who is a horrible practice player but when it’s game time, look out…he raises his game to a whole new level.

For a college coach, understanding what drives an athlete – what motivates them, what drags them down, what keeps their focus – is one of the differences between coaches who build great programs, and those that struggle to keep their jobs.

How are college coaches starting to get a read on what type of mental make-up their players have?  They are turning to an advanced sports psychology test, the Troutwine Athletic Profile (TAP) report.

Pro sports has relied on Troutwine for years, and how they are available for college coaches to use.  Want to see what the reports do, what kind of information they give a coach, and more?  Click here.

Can Car Trouble Teach You Recruiting Lessons?Wednesday, April 1st, 2009

Overheating carThere I was on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck, and thinking about recruiting.

My wife’s car, which had been showing signs of needing some minor tune-ups for several weeks, had suddenly overheated.  I heard a hissing sound under the hood as I stopped.  Ruling out the possibility that a family of snakes had taken up residence next to the washer fluid thingy, I deducted that whatever was once minor was now major.

And I was stuck.  Plans for the day ruined, all because I didn’t take an ounce of prevention when it came to some simple auto repairs.

With nothing to do but sit in my overheated hissing car, my thoughts turned to recruiting.  "There are lessons for coaches here," I thought to myself.

The parallels are real.  How?  Try these on for size:

  • Many coaches ignore the warning signs.  That little hissing under the hood of your recruiting plan?  It’s going to turn into a big problem if you don’t get it fixed.
  • It’s going to cost you more later.  Not fixing your recruiting message by tuning it up now is going to come back to bite you later.
  • When it crashes, its going to cause a mini-disaster.  For me, it was a few hours of my day.  For you, it might be that position player that would be the difference between a mediocre season and a conference championship.  You might not lose your job over that kind of a season, but it’s going to put pressure on you.  All because you didn’t pay attention to the little signs months before.
  • Things grind to a stop.  Bad recruiting plans mean very few prospects, very few phone calls, and very few "next level" athletes at the end of the process when you’re really looking for a good recruiting class.  It’s hard to make that happen when your recruiting plan is stopped on the side of the road waiting for help.
  • You lose control over your coaching life.  This is the end result of all the consequences I just listed, and it’s the one that we deal with most during our On-Campus Workshops.  Coaches who ignore the recruiting part of their job (or at least don’t approach it as seriously as they do the coaching part of their job) end up relying on chance and luck to sign a lot of their recruits.  They choose, in many ways, to let fate and their prospects run the process rather than controlling it themselves.  The result?  Very little control over your coaching life, because successful coaching starts with successful recruiting.

So what’s the recommended tune-up for a sputtering recruiting plan?  Of course, I’ll recommend what we do for coaches, but in the event you want to handle it yourself here are the first three things I’d recommend you check under your recruiting engine:

  1. Do you have a plan?  I mean a really detailed, week-by-week plan that serves as a guide for you and your staff.  Something that lets you measure success (or failure) in terms of your goals for a particular recruiting class.  Don’t have one?  Sit down with your staff and develop one.
  2. Are your letters and email messages speaking your recruit’s language?  They need to be shorter, and it needs to be all about them.  And most of all, they need to be consistent…don’t let weeks go by in between contacts. 
  3. Are you focused on getting them on campus?  Most coaches would answer "yes" to that Campus tourquestion.  But that means developing a message that hits on all cylinders and doesn’t try to sell a recruit with a letter or email; that "sale" happens when they get to campus.  Make sure your campaign has a singular focus of getting athletes on campus where you can interact with them in person, one on one.

Take my word for it, Coach.  Doing the simple work now will prevent a lot of headaches down the road. 

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