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What’s Your “Vinny”, Coach?Monday, December 23rd, 2013

by Charlie Adams, Author and Speaker

When I deliver motivational seminars, I often talk about separating yourself as a college coach. When it comes to recruiting, Notre Dame assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Vinny Cerrato clearly separated himself. Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said that Cerrato was the most influential recruiter in college football in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Are you as innovative as Vinny when it comes to your recruiting?

As director of Notre Dame football recruiting Cerrato was incredibly innovative in bringing top recruits to Notre Dame during the glory era of 1988-1993.

Between 1987 and 1990 Notre Dame brought in four consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes, a feat not equaled before or since. Lemming has said no college team over the previous 20 years had accumulated as much talent as Notre Dame did during the years of ’87 through ’93.

Remember back around 1990 when cell phones were first coming out and you would carry them in a box?  When the Irish were playing in a Bowl game on national television, Cerrato would stand behind Lou Holtz with a cell phone. He had the phone numbers of recruits. Cerrato would call up an elite recruit (who was home watching the game) and tell the recruit he was standing behind Holtz. Cerrato would then listen to Holtz call a play and then tell the 17 or 18 year old high school prospect what play was about to happen, before the rest of the millions watching on T.V. saw it happen.

One time Cerrato had an elite recruit on the line during a bowl game and Notre Dame star Rocket Ismail learned about it on the sideline. Rocket told Cerrato to tell the kid on the phone that if he gave give the thumbs-up sign when he was in his stance, that means he was going deep. That recruit and others were like, “When can I sign with ND?!”

This was so effective in helping Notre Dame land star recruits, that the NCAA later banned the practice with a special “Vinny Cerrato rule”.

With Cerrato’s recruits leading the way (1988-1993), Notre Dame was 64-9-1 record including a 5-1 record in bowl games, as well as winning the school’s last national championship in 1988.

It wasn’t just the cell phone creativity. Cerrato was excellent at evaluating talent and worked exceptionally hard as a coach. He later left to go to the NFL to work in the front office with the Redskins and 49ers.

My question to you is simple:  What will be your ‘Vinny?’

What is something innovative in recruiting that you can come up with that will separate yourself from the other recruiters who have just as much coaching experience, work at similar schools, and are just as determined as you are to get your prospect?

Something to think about, Coach.

Charlie Adams is a popular motivational speaker for college coaches and teams who focuses on developing a positive attitude as a key to being successful.  His techniques have helped coaching staffs and their teams around the country, and can create a customized campus session based on your individual needs.  Email Charlie Adams at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com directly to inquire about bringing him to your campus to work with your team!

Anticipation (and How to Use It In Recruiting)Monday, December 23rd, 2013

The night of Christmas Eve, lots of little kids are full of anticipation.

The thought of toys under the tree, some extra sugar in their bellies, and just the overall fun and excitement of what the holidays brings is almost too much for them to handle.  If you doubt me, I’ll let you talk to the 7-year old boy in our house who has spent the last week trying (and failing) to guess what’s under the wrapping paper in those boxes under the tree with his name on them.

What many coaches miss in that scene being repeated in homes around the country is the incredible power of that anticipation, and how it changes the emotions, thinking and general outlook kids who can’t wait for Christmas morning.  More specifically, many coaches miss the lesson that they can take away and apply to their recruiting efforts.

The reason we talk about the importance of creating a “feeling” in the story that you tell your recruits is because they rely on those powerful emotions to make their final decision much of the time.  You and I can agree that this isn’t always the smartest way to choose a college or program, but there’s little doubt that it occurs on a regular basis in the recruiting process – at least according to our research.

So as a serious recruiter looking to connect with a prospect you really want,  shouldn’t you want to create the same energy and excitement around your contact with a recruit, as well as how they view your program emotionally while making their final decision?  If so, building anticipation – and understanding the components of why it’s such a powerful force – should be something that you aim to do in your recruiting message.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Your prospect will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with the previous message.  One of the key principles we put to work in creating effective recruiting campaigns for our clients is the idea that messaging should be ongoing, and sequential.  In other words, one message should set up the next message…and so on, and so on, and so on.  Too many messages we see from coaches are all encompassing, one-size-fits-all behemoths that tend to overwhelm and bore their teenage recipient.  Coaches need to start focusing on breaking up their longer messages into shorter, easier to digest stories that build into the next message rather than answer every single question right away.  That’s one of the big keys to anticipation in recruiting.
  • Your prospect will anticipate talking to you if you exceed their expectations.  Too often, a coach will jeopardize an interaction with a recruit by falling-back on the same tired, boring, run-of-the-mill conversation points that recruited athletes tell us they dread: “What movies are you watching”, “What did you download on iTunes this week”, “did anything great happen at school this week”…you get the picture, Coach.  When you earn the privilege of having a one-on-one talk with your recruit, you’d better try to figure out a way to amaze them if you want to keep positive anticipation on your side with them.  Are you asking questions no one else is?  Are you going to reveal an important “next step” you want them to take in the process?  Will you go over their strengths and weaknesses from the last time you watched them play?  Can you update them on any part of the process on your campus regarding their application?  ALL of that builds importance and value in their conversation with you…this time and the next time.  (By the way, you’ll know you have let negative anticipation seep into the relationship when your calls go to voicemail, or they aren’t returning your emails as much as they used to).
  • Your prospect will anticipate coming to campus if they have been given exciting peeks at what awaits them  when they get there.  Have you teased your recruit and given them glimpses of what your team is like, what campus is like, why he or she would want to see the dorms, and what the area is like around your college?  Those are some of the key elements our research has uncovered as to what triggers that “anticipation” in the minds of your recruits when it comes to the risky, scary idea of committing to a campus visit.  Recruits will rarely visit a campus without a good reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own, or a picture that you have painted for them over a period of time.

One more thing:

Since we’re building-out these concepts using the excitement of presents under the tree during Christmas and the holidays, think about what happens after they open the presents.  There’s an almost immediate “crash”.  The anticipation and excitement is gone, and all that’s left is a pile of toys, the hand-knit underwear their Aunt Edna sent them, and wrapping paper strewn all over the place.  The energy is gone – as is that valuable anticipation.

If you’re a parent, watch what happens Christmas morning after the presents are all opened.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.

The point I’m making is that you need to anticipate that, Coach.  That means after they visit campus, for example, you need to anticipate that they will need a clear picture of what the next step in your process is in order to maintain their focus and excitement about the idea of competing for you. My personal observation is that coaches tend to take an optimistic view of their recruit, picturing that with each step they take in the recruiting process he or she becomes more and more excited, and naturally wants to talk more about competing for you.  In the majority of cases, I find that the opposite is true: The anticipated is now the familiar, and they’ll search out a new source of anticipation and excitement in the form of another program (remember that recruit who got spotted late by a competitor and rushed through the process to commit with them?…That’s a prime example of a kid continuing to look for anticipation and excitement in the form of another program).

Your job, Coach, is to put a focus on managing the experience and continuing to build that anticipation in your recruits’ mind.  In trying to show them why you are the smart choice, it is also your job to get them to “stop believing in Santa”, to a large extent.  If you can master that art, you’ll solve a key riddle when it comes to how to ride that wave of anticipation in the recruiting process.

After the holidays comes New Years, and with New Years comes resolutions!  If you are focused on developing a more research-based, strategic approach to the recruiting process, talk to Dan Tudor and his team.  To get an overview of how the process works, and what they do when they work with a coaching staff as clients, click here.  Or, contact Dan directly at dan@dantudor.com

The 5 Things Your Prospect is Asking Santa For This YearMonday, December 16th, 2013

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