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Why Your Prospect Needs a Deadline, and How to Give ItMonday, October 29th, 2012

Many college coaches don’t understand how it could happen.

They’re recruiting a prospect, being a consummate professional in how they treat the athlete.  They answer questions quickly, call on a regular basis to chat, and don’t put any “pressure” on their young recruit when it comes to making a final decision.

“Take your time”, you say, “look at all your options, and let me know if you have any questions.”  How could a prospect resist such low-pressure, friendly professionalism, right?

And then it happens:

They visit another college campus, and the opposing coach gives them a deadline.  They call you and say, “Sorry, Coach, but I had to make a decision within 24 hours or they were going to pull my offer and give it to someone else.  So, I committed to them.”

“But I wanted to let you know that you were my favorite.  I liked talking to you a lot.”

What the????

Welcome to the wonderful world of deadlines.  Increasingly, with this generation of student-athlete recruits, setting the right kind of deadline can determine whether or not you get the prospect you really want.  And, like the scenario we painted at the start of the article, any kind of deadline – even bad deadlines that are unfair for the prospect – sometimes are needed to move a recruit towards making a final decision.

The problem is, of course, that deadlines are an inexact science: What works with one prospect in one situation may not work with your next prospect and their unique situation.  So, with that in mind, the advice that we are going to give you needs to be customized to each recruit’s individual situation and personality.

There are a few key general rules that we can suggest as guiding principles for college coaches to follow as they formulate an answer to the increasingly tricky question of why and how to give a prospect a deadline for making a recruiting decision:

Why give them a deadline?  It prompts action. We pay our taxes by April 15th because of a deadline.  People line-up at 3am on Black Friday to grab huge discounts for the first three hours of the after Thanksgiving sale.  Every week, our staff has to put our newsletter out in time for delivery early Tuesday morning to 49,000 subscribers.  Deadlines prompt action.

Your prospect needs the same kind of prompt, much of the time.  They need a “because” (if you really want to understand the psychology behind this important point, click here for an in-depth article on the topic).  Your deadline can act as that important motivator to take action.

The athletes that need a deadline tend to fit into, but is certainly not limited to, one of three common scenarios:

  1. Your recruit is at the end of their visit schedule and is considering a number of schools, and can’t seem to make a decision (“I just need some more time to think about it, Coach”)
  2. Your recruit is waiting for their “dream school” to make an offer, and is delaying making a decision to compete for you until they are sure that other offer isn’t going to appear.
  3. Your recruit is leaning towards your program, and seems to be a great fit, but is fearful of making their final decision and officially ending the process (if you have been a part of one of our On-Campus Workshops with your athletic department, think back to the “fear” psychology that we find guiding this generation of recruits…what are you doing to calm those irrational fears, Coach?)

For these types of prospects, setting a fair deadline (more on what exactly constitutes “fair” in a minute), and giving them logical reasons as to why they should heed your deadline, is essential from time to time to earn action from your recruit.

How should you issue a deadline?  Be fair, but firm. We’ve helped our clients create deadlines for just about every situation one could imagine, and in nearly every instance what has benefited a coach is setting a deadline with a long horizon deadline.  In other words, the longer you can give a recruit, the better.  And, make that deadline fair (plenty of time to decide), but firm (on “x” date, we’ll need to have another recruit who is next on our list take your place).

Understand that when I say a “long horizon deadline” or “plenty of time to decide”, I mean that you need to start talking about a general timeline for making a final decision as early as possible in the recruiting process.  For example, if you are recruiting Juniors as you read this article, you should be getting them used to the idea of making their decision by a certain general time of the year – by early next Fall, the end of January, before August 20th.  Something that gives them a firm date long in advance of making a decision.  When you commit to doing that, you will find that your prospects will view it as “fair” and “low pressure” because you’ve given them months, in some cases, to know the date.  Contrast that with a coach who suddenly sets a deadline of a week, 48 hours, or some other shorter timeframe.  That’s when the feeling of “pressure” occurs, and you want to avoid that whenever possible.

Oh, but what about that scenario I painted for you at the beginning of the article?  If recruits don’t want pressure, and generally will say they don’t want to be faced with a deadline that is sooner rather than later, why do coaches who issue such deadlines often see prospects who respond to those deadlines in a positive way?  Great question.  Here’s the answer, and it’s crucial to understand and remember: Because in the absence of other deadline options, such as your reasonable “long horizon” deadline we just discussed, they will often respond to the coach who gives them any kind of plan for how to make this once-in-a-lifetime, difficult decision.  So, if you choose to be the coach that offers a fair, long horizon deadline, the other coach’s pressure tactics will be more often viewed as extreme and unfair by your recruit.  You come out looking like a caring professional, they come across as being unreasonable and high-pressure.

One last note on this item: When you set a deadline, keep it.  Once you break a deadline and give your prospect more time or promises of a better offer to help persuade them to choose you, a coach risks ALL credibility – not only with that recruit, but with any other recruit or coach that has contact with that athlete.  Coaches who don’t have a deep enough recruiting pool that they are contacting find it harder to set firm deadlines, so make sure you are contacting a lot of qualified recruits and developing relationships with them (easier, in our opinion, if you use this resource that lots of college coaches utilize to develop deeper recruiting pools).  If you need to stop recruiting an athlete after a deadline passes, it’s a lot easier to stay strong if you have nine other recruits at their position that you’ve developed relationships with; conversely, if they are your one and only hope at that position, and hearing a “no” would devastate your recruiting class, you will be more apt to wait, fudge on your deadline, and otherwise give that recruit complete control over the recruiting process.

Next week, in part two of this series on setting effective deadlines, I’ll explain when you should set a deadline.  Timing is everything, and deadlines don’t work in every situation, so make sure to read about this crucial next step in the process.

Deadlines, crafted effectively, can be the one little difference maker for a coach who is struggling with getting commitments from their top recruits.  If you’re a coach who doesn’t set deadlines, but sees the value in doing it, we’ve given you a solid set of guiding principles.

If you’re a coach who wants one-on-one help in creating an effective recruiting strategy – whether that involves setting deadlines or getting recruits to return your phone call – become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.  We work with programs all over the country, and would love to discuss the option with you, too.  Put the power of research and expert communication to work for you now!  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com to set up a time to talk.

The Lean Startup: A Good Manual for Testing Your Recruiting StrategiesSunday, October 28th, 2012

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

So one thing that we know is that there is a strong correlation between recruiting and sales. But we also know that there is a high correlation between sales and entrepreneurship. Savvy coaches will find recruiting advantages whether it’s through techniques, technology or a variety of processes. This is why I want to discuss a book that I recently read entitled The Lean Startup.

The book outlines its fundamentals within the context of entrepreneurship. But, we love many of the principles for technology and certainly see their application in recruiting. To demonstrate this point the author defines a startup as “an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” Sound familiar? Not that far off from your athletic office…

There are many approaches in this book, but one that we really love is the idea of ‘validated learning’. Validated learning is testing small things to see if they work and then constantly iterating and improving. The idea is to improve incrementally instead of changing the game plan altogether. Here is an example:

Let’s say that you want to implement text messaging into your recruiting process (assuming this is legal for you). One model would be to just start sending out text-messages to all of your recruits, one after another…gun slinging. But this could be flawed. It’s making the fundamental assumption that all recruits want your text messages and are more responsive to them. If you’re just sending out text messages and eliminating email, what holes have you created that didn’t exist before in order to follow an unproven strategy.

Instead, the validated learning approach would argue that you should try sending a few text messages and test the results. Ask the same type of questions that you did in 8th grade biology class and test your hypothesis accordingly. Will more recruits respond to my text messages? Will recruits interaction improve via this medium? Are recruits going to reply quicker? Am I going to annoy them if I text too much? How was the response of text messages compare to that of email?

Once these questions are answered, then adjust your approach and try sending more or less messages. Try sending more frequently or less frequently. Change the content of the message. Try sending to more recruits, then try sending to less. Try different hours of the day. Then look at the results and test again. Keep repeating.

The above is just an example, but the book argues that validated learning could be applied many other places. We use it in software development when adding new features, or new buttons or changing locations of certain elements. You can use it in your recruiting, play design, roster management and many other places during your day to day recruiting efforts.

The book is entitled “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries. It can be found at Amazon.com (see link below) and many other retailers.



Star Athlete Leads His Team by NOT ScoringSunday, October 28th, 2012

By Ellen Sawin, NCSA College Relations

In a Friday Night football game under the lights in Clairsville, Ohio, high school star running back Michael Ferns broke away from the defense and ran freely for a touchdown. However, just one yard shy of the end zone, Ferns pulled up and walked out of bounds. As two referees signaled a touchdown one of Fern’s teammates rushed up and argued that he had not scored. As the stadium looked on in confusion, his teammates and coaches knew exactly what was going on.

Before the game, the coach of St. Clairsville High, Brett McLean, had given some of his top players, including Ferns, some rare coaching advice. He asked them to stop just short of the end zone if the right opportunity arose. Ferns saw the chance and did exactly as his coach instructed. With the perfect scoring opportunity now set up, McLean put freshman varsity player, Logan Thompson in.

Why did the coach and players set this up? Just 2 days before the game, Thompson’s Dad passed away from a sudden stroke. But even with his life flipped upside down, Thompson suited up with the rest of the team for that Friday night game against their rival school. With Ferns now at fullback, Thompson was able to find a gap in the defense and a spot in the end zone.

Thompson’s touchdown was more than just points on the scoreboard. For him it meant more than his team could imagine, and for the team and coaches it was a gesture of support, a way to help a grieving teammate honor his dad. In an interview with USA Today, Coach McLean said, “Last Friday was something that touched the whole team. Logan was going through so much and for a few minutes we helped him get his mind off of things. It honored his dad. It was just an awesome moment.”

The press always covers teams’ statistical leaders and coaches with impressive records, but it’s moments like this that give leadership in sports another meaning. That Friday night the St. Clairsville High football coaches and stars put their own stats aside to help a teammate. This game was about more than just football, it was about supporting a teammate and impacting a life.


4 Winning Voicemail Strategies for College RecruitersMonday, October 22nd, 2012

There’s an epidemic happening around the country this time of year, and we’re hearing about it on a daily basis from college coaches who are concerned that they’re losing a crucial battle in the war for their top recruits: Voicemails.

They are a way of life for college coaches trying to compete for the attention of distracted, overly-contacted prospects who (as most of you know by now) don’t like talking on the phone in the first place.  And, because of this, most coaches are stepping up to the plate with two strikes against them.

So, with that in mind, how are you going to succeed with those odds stacked against you?  Most importantly, how are you and your program going to set your message apart from all of the other messages your prospects are receiving from your competitors?  What are you really saying when you leave a prospect a voicemail?  Anything worthwhile?  Informative?  Interesting?  Or, is it the same old, “hey, sorry I missed you, give me a call…”

And what about when they call you? What are they hearing in your message?  Anything worthwhile?  Informative?  Interesting?  Or is the same old, “This is Coach So-and-so, and you’ve reached my voicemail…”  Original and memorable?  Not by today’s teen standards, I’m afraid.

It’s time to take a new approach with your voicemail messages, and make them an effective part of your recruiting strategy.  Here are four ideas on exactly how it can happen the next time you find yourself leaving a voicemail for a recruit:

  1. Ask a question, promise the answer later. Make it a question that would mean something to your recruit.  Make it compelling, and make it interesting.  There are lots of interesting facts and things that would probably be of interest to a recruit.  The key here is to ask a question that they aren’t hearing from every other coach talking to them, and then promise the answer when you get the chance to talk later.  You want to leave them thinking about the answer to the question you just posed, giving them another thing to talk to you about.  Keeping you on their mind after they hang up the phone is the goal here, and the great thing about this strategy is that it works when you’re leaving a message OR when people listen to your voicemail message when they call you (if you are TCS Client, and need help developing a specific question for a specific recruit, contact us).
  2. Make your message short and sweet. Long, drawn-out voicemail messages cause the listener’s mind to wander.  You should keep your incoming and outgoing voicemail messages short – 35 words or less, if possible.  To make sure you stay within that guideline, its not a bad idea to write-out your message the same way you would write out notes for a speech.  When you do that, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how interesting and creative your voicemail messages can become.  Plus, keeping your message short and sweet will ensure that your message is received loud and clear by your prospect and their family (and everyone else that listens to it).
  3. Create curiosity. This is going to be one of the natural byproducts of shortening your voicemail messages, because you won’t overload your prospect with so much information that they lose track of what they’re supposed to do in replying to you.  By “creating curiosity”, I’m recommending that you hold back on telling them everything in your voicemail message.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the less you tell them about why you’re calling them, the more likely it will be that they will call you to ask you for more information.  We’ve recommended that strategy for years, and it works:  Don’t leave all of the information on your voicemail message.
  4. Never leave a message on a Monday or a Friday. Messages left on a Friday afternoon are the least likely to be returned.  Monday’s are most people’s busiest day – for both your prospects and their parents – so only high priority calls are going to get returned (maybe you’re high priority, maybe you’re not).  The ideal times to call your prospects are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Weekends are fine if you’re established in your relationship with your prospect.  Just remember that when you call your prospect will determine how likely it is you will get your prospect live on the phone, as well as the liklihood that you’ll get a returned call in the event you end up leaving that creative voicemail we just described.

Is there more to master when it comes to the art of leaving great voicemail messages?  Of course…being able to communicate effectively is as much art as it is science.  These strategies are a good start, but there’s more – much more – that you can do to become better when it comes to leaving great voicemail messages.

If you’ve hosted one of our On-Campus Workshops on your campus anytime in the last few years, remember the way we described this generation of recruits as “fearful” when approaching the recruiting process.  Look back at the notes from the workshop, as well as your athlete focus group survey, for additional information you can use to develop your overall communication strategy – including effective voicemails.


What Presidential Debates Can Teach You About Effective RecruitingMonday, October 15th, 2012

Political junkies and undecided voters aren’t the only ones who should be watching political debates.

College coaches can learn valuable lessons from what they see during campaign season, especially when we’re talking about what to do (and not do) while you are campaigning for your recruit’s vote.  How?  The language and detail that candidates from both parties use to sway voters is the same language and detail that serious college recruiters that should be aware of as they formulate their recruiting messages.  It was true since Kennedy and Nixon first debated on national television, and it holds true today.

And don’t worry: There are plenty of examples, both good and bad, from individuals on both sides of the political fence to learn from.  Here’s a short list of the lessons I think would be important to remember as you go into the heated part of the recruiting season:


If you’re a new or unproven coach or program, you have a higher bar to clear. In other words, you’re going to walk into the conversation with a recruit in a weaker position than some of your more successful or proven competitors.  Such was the case back in 1988, when Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen unleashed one of the most memorable debate moments in television history against his competitor, a young Senator named Dan Quayle.  Quayle looked inexperienced, sounded somewhat inexperienced, and generally seemed out-manned by the more authoritative, older, and seemingly wiser Bentsen.  If you’re a college coach who identifies more with Quayle than Bentsen, you’re going to have to assume that the parents and athletes you are recruiting are going to have serious questions as to why their son or daughter should be placed in your hands.  So ask yourself, “How are we communicating trust and authority to our prospects in the things that we email or talk about with them?”  If you can’t answer that question, stop what you’re doing and take a harder look at your communication, both verbal and non-verbal.  And, take heart: Quayle went on to serve as Vice President to George H.W. Bush as they won the 1988 Presidential election (just don’t ask him to spell potato).

Be funny, and define your perceived weaknesses. Four years earlier, President Reagan was running for re-election against the Democrat challenger, Walter Mondale.  Heading into their second debate, Mondale was gaining momentum and was effectively raising questions about the age and abilities of the sitting President.  Reagin, hailed by historians as “the great communicator”, delivered another memorable debate moment which was funny, and helped define his continuing capabilities as the nation’s leader.  Don’t discount humor in your recruiting approach!  If you can make your prospect laugh, especially if it’s something that is a touchy subject or uncomfortable for you and your program to talk about, you’re going to win over a lot of recruits.  And it’s important to remember that weaknesses, crisis, and tough times can also be effective and compelling recruiting stories that your prospect will rally around if presented correctly (see more on that topic here).

Be funny, yes.  Perceived as “odd”?  No. An example from this recent series of 2012 debates highlights the line that gets crossed when you move from funny to possibly odd.  The recent Vice Presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and the Republican Paul Ryan drew headlines because of some of the facial expressions made by Biden during the split-screen television coverage of the debate.  Many analysts said that if someone was listening to the debate on the radio, Biden edged out Ryan as the winner.  To those watching television, polling seemed to indicate that Ryan won.  The point here is that while your information matters, how you present it matters just as much, if not more.  Additionally, how you react to comments from your prospects about the other schools that they are considering is being watched by your recruit and their family: React inappropriately, and it very well could be come back to haunt you.  Based on all of our research, it’s one way many coaches lose prospects to competing programs.

Approach each conversation with passion and engagement. Over on the Presidential side of the debates, Mitt Romney has been criticized for appearing aloof and disconnected from the average voter, hurting his campaign for much of the primary and general election periods.  President Obama was panned in the first 2012 Presidential debate for looking down at his podium and stumbling through some of his answers.  Think you can walk through each recruiting conversation and hope your prospect just appreciates the fact that you emailed them?  Think again.  Show passion every chance you get…your audience is watching.

Presidential campaigns, and the debates that happen during those campaigns, have a lot in common with coaches who are recruiting their prospects.  You need to approach your recruiting strategy in a smart, marketing-oriented fashion if you want to connect sooner and more effectively with the recruits that really matter.

(By the way, I’m Dan Tudor, and I approve this message)

Helping Students Play and Coaches Recruit for SuccessSunday, October 14th, 2012

Success means something different to every individual. Success can come from learning how to tie a shoe, winning a game, finding a job, retiring, etc. Every person is successful in their own way. High school athletes are most successful when they commit to playing at the next level. College coaches succeed when their program succeeds, so signing the best recruits is the foundation of their success.  At NCSA Athletic Recruiting, we work for athletes and college coaches. We are here to help athletes find the right place to play and to help coaches find the athletes their program needs.

In 2012, our network created  10,896 success stories: 10,896 coaches found athletes their team needed and 10,896 athletes are living their dream of playing in college. We helped to make this possible, that’s our success story. Every day in the office we are lucky enough to be a part of each one.

Hearing about an athlete that received 11 D-1 Football offers or an athlete who committed to the school that was “his dream since he was a freshman,” is a rewarding experience. It’s an honor when a dad says, “without NCSA’s assistance, contact information and expertise, [his son] would never have been able to do what he did in such a brief period of time. Thank you so much NCSA for your help!”

After working with coaches to help them find athletes that fit their program needs, we often get to hear about how great an athlete is performing or how appreciative they are of the services we provide. Just this week we heard about a Big Ten, NCSA volleyball recruit who is performing extremely well on the court.

Every day at NCSA we celebrate the success of our athletes. See the result of an athlete’s success here.

As a part of the athletic recruiting network, our success doesn’t come in a dollar amount, it comes in changing lives. We succeed when we help recruits and coaches succeed. If you want help or want to help an athlete experience this success shoot me an email and we’ll help you get started.


iPhone Update Sends Text to Unanswered CallersMonday, October 1st, 2012


by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

With the latest release of the iPhone 5 and the update to the iPhone OS, we wanted to send out a friendly recommendation to help you use the technology without committing a recruiting violation. This really cool new idea is the Reject a Call with a Text Message feature.

This feature allows you to not only ignore the call, but you can send a text message back to the caller. If someone calls you and you are in a meeting, you can send a message back that says, “Hey, I am in a meeting, I’ll call you later”. This is fine if you know who is calling you. But, you need to be careful not to send the same message every time. This could be an easy mistake as the function can be done with a single click of a button. You need to be sure that you are not accidentally texting back a recruit illegally. Granted, the NCAA rules have changed dramatically about sending texts to recruits. But, these rules are not valid for all sports. So first and foremost, use this feature cautiously.

Similarly, use this feature to your advantage. You can customize the text message that goes back so make sure you write a message that shows your personality and shows your interest in the caller. Instead of using a generic response like “I’ll call you back”, put some effort and more importantly, heart into it. “So sorry I can’t answer right now. I’m in a meeting but will call you as soon as I get out”. Something that shows you actually care and are not just auto-responding.

To get this new function and many more on your existing iPhone, you can plug it into your computer and choose the “update” feature. It takes a bit of time to do the update but it’s well worth it.


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