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Why Being Different Works With Your RecruitsMonday, December 29th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Over the holiday break I ran into a former neighbor of mine that I hadn’t seen in almost a year. While catching up I found myself trying to figure out what was different about him.

People are programmed to notice what’s different.

We consistently stress to our clients the importance of taking a creative approach and standing out when it comes to recruiting. For some of you that may be a scary proposition. Sure, it’s far easier to use the same tried and true approach. Don’t be surprised though when it produces mixed results. More than ever, this generation of students wants and needs to see, hear and feel something different if you’re going to separate your school from the competition and successfully enroll them.

Once you’ve accepted the fact that it’s okay to be different, I encourage you to also keep in mind that not every prospective student is one in the same. That means a great recruiting idea that generates results with one student might not be effective for another. Your admissions team must always remember who a prospect is and why a particular message is important to them.

There are many instances when differentiating yourself or your school can be beneficial. Here are four aspects of the recruiting process where we’ve seen schools take a different approach and subsequently make a considerable impact with their prospects.

  1. Your letters, particularly the early ones. Too often counselors start by sending lengthy form letters that talk about the school’s name and reputation, while also listing a plethora of facts, figures and rankings. If you’re trying to create a reaction from the recruit, which you absolutely should be, this isn’t the way to do it. Want to be different? As you start to tell stories you need to find ways to connect with your prospect. Incorporating personal details about him or her, as well as their likes into your story-telling is an effective way to start creating those all important “feelings.”
  1. Your campus visits. We covered this topic in detail in a previous post, but let me give you a couple of new ideas. If possible with your high-level recruits, create the opportunity to spend 5 minutes visiting with your school’s President. That kind of personal attention is hard to match.  Or, how about providing solid information regarding recent graduate incomes from the specific major your recruit is considering. Many students struggle to understand the value of a particular degree, so here’s a chance for you to provide valuable information and stand out.
  1. Your phone conversations. At the end of every phone call with a prospective student you should be asking yourself a question – “Are they looking forward to the next time I call?” If you have any doubts, start by reading this. Now, let’s expand a little on how you can make your phone calls even more memorable. If you’re expecting a list of cool and exceptional ideas that have worked for our clients with this one, sorry but that’s not the goal. Rather, the key point I want you to take away is to be original. Once you have gathered personal details about your recruit, at the appropriate time during your conversation, try throwing out something unexpected. If you have a hard time coming up with something, think about some non-traditional ideas that will separate your conversation from the other counselor phone calls the recruit is receiving. Being innovative will take some extra time, but it will produce results.
  1. How you recruit others around the prospect. Have you ever stopped and asked yourself who’s recruiting your prospects for you when you’re not? It’s an important question. Our research shows that parents are the most important outside influence your recruit will utilize when it comes to making their decision. But you already know that. So, let me start by reminding you to cultivate your relationship with mom and dad, and don’t forget that separate messaging to them is a must. Now let’s discuss everybody else that matters in your recruit’s life. These may include their siblings, best friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, high school counselor and possibly another mentor at school or in the community. If you want to be different, it’s time you started connecting on various levels with each of these influencers, so they too understand why your school is the best option. It may not make sense, but the research shows that prospects will often go against their own gut and side with some of these highly influential outside decision makers.

When recruits believe that their college choices all offer the same thing, they naturally must see the people selling them as different to make a choice. How different are you? It’s crucial to come up with ways throughout the recruitment cycle to differentiate both your institution and yourself, without becoming too weird of course. When you’re consistently different and take an alternative approach, it will get noticed, and you will generate positive outcomes.

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 Jeremy Tiers and the Tudor Collegiate Strategies team. To get an overview of how the process works, and what they do when they work with an admissions staff as clients, click here.  Or, contact Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Recruiting Lessons From the Sticky Note on the Hotel BedMonday, December 29th, 2014

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Featured Series: The Miracle Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, December 29th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

A lot of things impact recruiting, including work/life balance and interests away from the sport. As a parent of two children who went through the recruiting process, I always felt more comfortable with the college coach who was not all consumed by their sport.

Coach Herb Brooks of the Miracle on Ice team was extremely focused on his sport during his days as the University of Minnesota coach and then the Olympics and his various coaching stops. His release was his love of shrubs and trees and landscaping. He knew the Latin terms for every tree and shrub he planted. He would get out there and plant and sometimes pull everything up and design it in a different way. His daughter Kelly would often be out there.

My mother was a professor at Duke and head of their Reading Dept. She had a lot of stress, but was like Herb in that she would go into her garden and get lost for hours there.

One thing that really helped Herb’s marriage to Patti was that she didn’t know a hockey puck from a grapefruit, so when he came home he left hockey at the office. They could needle each other with the best of them. She would kid him that he loved hockey more than her. He would come back with “Yeah, that may be true, but I love you more than golf and hunting!”

Patti ‘got’ that Herb was destined for something legendary like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. She joked that if she could be married to Herb Brooks, she could do anything. One time he bolted up in the middle of the night and said, “Honey, happy anniversary!” She rolled over and mumbled,
“Herb, it is my birthday!”

They would be married until death did they part, when he was killed in the car accident in 2003. Herb’s final couple of years in his mid 60’s were focused on his grandkids. If he had regrets it was that he was not there for his two children more when they were growing up. Dan and Kelly would look out the window towards the neighborhood road when they were little saying “The next car will be Daddy’s!” Most times, it was not.

Herb was a great Dad, though. His son and daughter have turned out to be remarkable people and his daughter Kelly told author Ross Bernstein that she made great grades and never drank or any of that stuff growing up because she wanted to make her Dad proud.

Herb put a lot into recruiting when he was at Minnesota. He would drive for hours in their terrible winter storms to see kids. That takes a lot of time. One of the things he did do right after winning the 1980 gold medal was take a job coaching a Swiss semi pro team for a year so that he could get closer with his family after so much was spent building that Miracle on Ice team. In Switzerland kids would go home for lunch so Herb would leave the office and be there for them.

Herb was like so many of you. He cared deeply about his program at Minnesota and taking it to new heights. He knew recruiting was the life blood and put a lot into it. He also had his gardening to help him with balance, and he was always talking to his players about the importance of knowing history. Goalie Jim Craig would sit up by him on the team bus during the 7 month journey to Lake Placid. Herb gave him the book The Greatest Salesman in the World, and Craig practically memorized it.

Recruits in Minnesota knew that playing for Herb Brooks would be hard, but they also knew he was a master at pulling greatness out of people, and that while a complex and complicated man, his depth and variety of interests made him intriguing to them and their parents.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Coaching In 2015, Love, And Two VoicesMonday, December 29th, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

I’ve been coaching amateur athletes for a living for the past 34 years — mostly collegiate, but also pee wee and even international competitors.

During that time, I’ve worked with some really tough athletes.

And I’ve learned a very important thing from those tough athletes:

If you want to be tough you need to fall in love

The two voices

There is a loud and powerful voice that screams in most coach’s heads, and it sounds like this:

  • If I fail, I will lose _________.
  • If I do that, I’ll look dumb.
  • I could never do that, I’m not smart enough.

I call that the FEAR VOICE.

This Fear Voice sucks. It does NOT instill toughness, but instead panic. It distracts. It paralyses. It causes stupid stuff to happen.

For instance, as I walked into the 1996 Olympic Stadium with the US team for the Opening Ceremonies the Fear Voice was totally in control. “Oh, my God, don’t trip. If I trip everyone in the World will see what a klutz I am.”

And, of course … I tripped.

Going down the ramp … in full glory … I’m sure it’s on tape somewhere.

That is what the stupid Fear Voice does to people.

The good voice

Ah … but there is another voice — the Love Voice. This voice says, “I love competing, and the results are meant to be.” In my case, my Love Voice would have said, “I love the chance to show off in front of people. Walking into this stadium will be great.”

The LOVE voice is positive. It is warm. It is happy. And it is tough (as hell).

All you need is love

In my book, love is infinitely tougher than fear. And it is a secret ingredient of being tough.

It may sound silly, until you see that it in action:

  • What helps an athlete win a World Championships just days after his father passed away? Love.
  • What helps a mother do, and do, and do, for her family? Love.
  • What helps a Coach work crazy hours, take risks, while improving her World? Love.

Here’s an example … we have a two-time all-American on our team. She arrived there because she loves to test herself. Our conversations are all about her training and competing against herself and her LOVING that part of the journey. Her inner voice is NOT “beat others so I can be the best.” Instead, her mantra is “I’m loving this opportunity to find out who I am!

Coaching with love

How can you put this Love Voice to use for you? Try these steps:

1) Determine what you need to do that requires toughnessI need to recruit 5 student-athletes this year.

2) What is the part of that you FearAsking people to make a commitment to your school/team.

3) What is the part of this you Love, and give it a voiceI love recruiting because it helps athletes find a great place for them to further their education!

4) When the Fear Voice appears drown it out with the Love Voice“I love helping student-athletes find their inner strengths, and asking them to commit to my school/team is good for them and their future.

You will find power through that love. Athletes do all the time. Love is what makes tough people tough.

And you in 2015

Is there a place for such talk as “love in coaching” in 2015? Not just a place, a big need. Athletes need, today more than ever, to have positive vibes sent their way. Not because they are spoiled, or lazy, or don’t care. Instead, because the expectations on them are enormous, the support dwindling, their goals lofty.

Will love help you get where you want to go? To convince athletes, supporters, parents to do what needs to be done? Well … what catches more flies, honey or vinegar?

PS: Coaching can be pretty lonely. Do you have a plan to stay connected with your social support group in 2015?

Fast Food Menu Mayhem and Your Recruiting MessageMonday, December 22nd, 2014

It hurts your eyes, doesn’t it?

It’s a visual overload.  This fast food restaurant near my home town doesn’t know when to say when, when it comes to their menu.

They’ve used every available square inch of their available frontage to show nearly everything on their menu.  From Philly Cheesesteak, to the Shrimp Basket Dinner, to Drinks with Crushed Ice, to Cones, to Burgers…it’s an avalanche of fried food mayhem.

Unfortunately, it resembles the approach that many college coaches take with their messages out to recruits, especially the messages at the start of the recruiting process.  I’ve reviewed letters that cover everything from the number of majors their school offers, to the acreage of the campus, to the conference they play in (and that’s just in the first two paragraphs).  I’ve reviewed emails from coaches that bounce from subject to subject without any kind of connection.  I’ve listened in on phone calls that cover every topic under the sun on the first conversation.

In short, it looks quite a bit like this fast food message: A frantic, unfocused plea to like something about what’s being offered, even though it’s difficult to understand exactly what the specialty of that particular restaurant might be (other than frying stuff).

We’ve covered this topic before, of course.  But let me give you some added ideas on what your prospects want from your initial messages – and how to make sure it comes across both loudly, and clearly:

  • If possible, tell them where you saw them or how you found out about them.  This seemingly obvious idea is mostly ignored by college coaches when they first reach out to a recruit.  And yet, recruits tell us it’s one of the easiest ways for them to determine that you are serious about them initially.  It gives them context for why you are reaching out to them, and – most importantly – why they should take the time to reply back to you.
  • If possible, tell them what you like about them.  I say “if possible” for these top two recommendations because I realize that sometimes you are recruiting from a list, or from a reputable recruiting database, and may not have detailed scouting notes in front of you when you reach out to your new prospect.  However, if you do, use those notes.  Be specific about two or three positives that you saw from their performance and from their information.  It’s another important way to tell them that they are uniquely qualified, in your eyes, to be considered for your program.  When coaches are able to include these first two points in their initial messages, it increases replies by almost a 3-to-1 margin versus a more generic, non-specific message.
  • Less is more.  In your initial message, the worst thing you can do is explain everything about your college, your program, and your team.  If you want a response from your prospect, that is.  That’s because our research clearly shows that recruits are most apt to respond out of curiosity instead of information.  Be short, to the point, and leave room for their curiosity to take over.
  • Be clear about what you want them to do next.  And, narrow it down to just one thing.  Make it simple (“reply back to my email before Friday”) versus complicated and time-intensive (“fill out our online questionnaire”).  At the beginning of your communication with a prospect, your goal is a conversation, not a conversion.  Aim to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.
  • Pick one main theme, and build your reputation around it.  Do you ever notice that the great restaurants in your area usually focus on one thing that is done very, very well?  The great Italian restaurant…the amazing seafood restaurant…there is always a single focus to their greatness.  There’s a simplicity to it all.  That is what more college coaches need to do: Pick one big idea that can gain the initial interest from a recruit, and build around it as the relationship grows.  It could be your area, your academic prowess, the three straight conference championships that your team has won.  Whatever it is, pick one thing and start there with your story.  As time the conversation grows with your recruit, you’ll have time to get into the rest of what’s great about your college.  But be patient, and don’t overload them with information right at the start.

You’ll notice in the picture of the restaurant above that some people are still going in to eat, despite the signage outside.  It’s on a busy corner, so it’s almost impossible not to get people coming in to eat just by virtue of where it’s located.  And, those people wandering in will probably leave feeling full. (Maybe even a little bloated).

But does the business stand out?  Does the menu get talked about?  Does the restaurant become a destination?  Not likely.

You’re probably always going to be able to fill-out a roster and field a team.  But without a clear message to your recruits, it’s going to be nearly impossible to bring in the difference makers that most college coaches crave.

Looking for help with developing a clearer, more focused messages to your recruits? Dan Tudor and the staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies works with college coaches and their programs around the country on a personalized basis.  To discuss your situation and how the program would work with you, email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com. 

Solutions for the Admissions Office Holiday Wish ListMonday, December 22nd, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa la la la la, la la la la. Happy Holidays to each of you and your families.

My five year-old daughter Olivia has been counting down the days until Santa arrives. Not down the chimney though, because as she points out we have a gas fireplace. Instead, St. Nick will leave the presents on our front porch, so she says.

This is the first Christmas that Olivia wrote out a wish list and mailed it to the North Pole. After writing and re-writing her list, she settled on three big things. Here’s a hint – they’re all related to a recent Disney movie.

This year the competition among colleges and universities to attract those “best fit” students is at an all time high. That being said, in my conversations with admissions professionals across the country, there are a number of common issues for which your offices continue to seek answers.

Without further adieu, here are five of the most popular problems along with my recommendations for creating a winning solution to each:

  1. Figuring out the best recruiting practices. When I conduct one of our On-Campus Workshops this topic almost always enters the discussion. Phone calls, email, text, social messaging or direct mail. Which is the most effective method of communication with your prospective students? Our research shows that each form of communication has its place in the recruiting process. What you need to do is create a good mix and have a regular flow. This generation of prospects will react to a good combination of all these facets of recruiting. If you choose to utilize only one or two of these methods you’re leaving the door open for a competing school, that will employ all of their communication resources.
  1. The perception of your school at the beginning of the process. It’s a proven fact that today’s prospect doesn’t start the college search process without biases against most schools. If you refuse to accept that notion you’ll be fighting a major uphill battle. Ask yourself, “What biases do we typically hear against our institution?” Then be prepared to answer them. Your prospects mind is like a whiteboard. Whatever goes up there first is what they usually believe. In most cases it doesn’t matter if it’s fact or fiction. You need to tell your recruits early in the process why they’d be crazy not to consider your school. As you begin to tell your story remember that it must be compelling, because your goal is to create that “feeling,” the one that all recruits use to make their decision.
  1. Turning admits into deposits. When we talk to prospects about their final decision there’s usually a common thread. The institution they chose was able to connect all the dots throughout the recruitment process not only for the prospect, but also their parents. Listing all the great things about your school is only beneficial if you explain how those things will impact the recruit. Your messaging needs to be specific, and it needs to be tied together with facts. Taking this one step further, your prospect always needs to know what’s next, especially after they’ve been admitted. Trust me when I tell you they want to know, and they expect you to deliver that information. Be transparent. Don’t ever assume your prospect knows what to do next. Lastly let me challenge you to evaluate the content of your school’s acceptance packet. What separates yours from the five to ten others that the recruit will receive?
  1. Creating amazing campus visits every time. It bears repeating that our ongoing focus group research on campuses around the country rates the face-to-face communication you have with a prospect as a “very important” and “important” factor in determining which school they attend. Despite everything schools know about how critical the campus visit is to successful recruiting, some colleges still don’t take it seriously enough. In most cases schools need to shorten the length of the campus tour, and focus more on highlighting why certain things around campus are important to that specific recruit. More personalization and less same old, same old. That also means do not fill their day jam packed with meetings. Make sure your office leaves some time for self-exploration.
  1. Understanding the changing landscape of social media and how to use it. Social media has changed the recruiting landscape forever. Gone are the days when a college could survive online with just a Facebook page. When mom, dad, grandma and grandpa joined the website, your prospects carved out new online territory over at Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat and Flickr. That’s just the beginning. LinkedIn’s “University Finder” has quickly become a tool that students are using to gather information on colleges. Google Hangouts are also gaining popularity in admissions offices as a way to connect with out-of-state and international students. Start by creating a strategy. Figure out what your office wants to accomplish from social media and choose your networks wisely. Your content needs to be original and it needs to be updated on a regular basis. Our research shows that prospects really like pictures and videos. Make sure your counselors are spreading the word about your offices’ pages and profiles to recruits during school visits and college fairs. Regardless of which method of social media you use, remember that prospects want a personal, behind-the-scenes glimpse of your school and all it has to offer.

Questions about any of this?  Email Jeremy at jeremy@dantudor.com and get a personal reply.  Our team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies is here to help!

How To Increase The Value Of Your Coaching, And Why You Better Do It NowMonday, December 22nd, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Coaches are a dime a dozen.

I know, that stings like getting snapped with a rolled-up, locker-room towel, yet there is truth to it.

The truth lies in the fact there are many, many coaches in the world, at least 5 million in the US alone. As one athletic director told me, “There’s more coaches out there then I can shake a stick at.” (I’m not quite sure why he felt the need to shake a stick, but that’s what he said.)

Yet here’s the thing … of all those coaches, the ones that MATTER, the coaches who make a DIFFERENCE, the coaches who make the MONEY, who get the JOB, who the athletes, fans, and admins LOVE … are the ones who have VALUE. Who have true Coaching-Value.

A funky little thing called value

Right down the road from where I lived was a small food store. It was run down, the owner was a grump, the perishables usually rotten. I always looked over my shoulder in that store.

Yet, yet, yet … when I ran out of cat liter, which I’d do at least twice a month, that store always had it.

You see, the place had value for me because I didn’t have to drive 15 extra miles to hit the city-store. Thirty-seconds away was a store that had what I needed — solved my problem.

A simple little equation …

I get it, a term like value can cause eyes to glaze over, but a little simple math can help:

coaching-value = solution + cost + quality

So, specific to coaching-value. If where you coach, you can:

  • solve a problem,
  • for a reasonable price,
  • in a quality manner

… then you have coaching-value. And,

  • the harder the problem is,
  • the better your price is,
  • the higher your quality is,

… the GREATER your coaching-value.

Look at it this way …

Their problem is in green, your solution in red, and the merger-area represents your coaching-value.

I’m wicked busy, why should I care about this?

I know you’re knee deep in alligators. We are all knee deep in gators, but here is why you, Coach, need to care about this:

If you don’t have coaching-value you will be known as a worthless coach.

Now simmer down, I’m not saying you ARE worthless, you’ll just get KNOWN as worthless in that coaching position. You might have immense skills and knowledge but in the wrong place there’s no value in that

That’s a bitter pill to swallow but it’s the way of coaching today.

And the coaches with great coaching-value? Well, they get the cool stuff.

Okay then, how do I become more valuable?

One more time with this image:

Step 1. Think about them: Turn your focus to the powers-to-be that employ you (or might employ you) as a coach. What problem do they have that needs solving? Fill in this blank for them (or better, yet ask them to fill it in):

     We need a coach who can ____________

A few possible answers:

  • We need a coach who can … recruit 10 student-athletes each year
  • We need a coach who can … fundraise $20k
  • We need a coach who can … win a national championship
  • We need a coach who can … turn the program around

Step 2. Be the solution: Now, if you are the solution to their problem, you have coaching-value. (Realize, if they are just looking for a warm body to watch some kids run around with a soccer ball, and you are a warm body, then you have coaching-value.)

To quickly increase your coaching-value offer a solution that is high quality. Give them more than they bargained for. An example, instead of just recruiting 10 student-athlete, recruit them and then retain them. Your coaching-value soars.

Step 3. Grow the solution. To really grow your coaching-value, take your solution and expand it, and don’t be afraid to show off.

For instance, when I first started coaching dealing with the rowing equipment was a constant issue. I developed a few processes, put that info into a book, did workshops, and created a website about those solutions. My coaching-value increased greatly. In fact, one administrator told me those steps had a significant impact on me being selected to the 1996 US Olympic team as the boatman (person responsible for the equipment).

Step 4. Repeat: Coaching-value doesn’t remain still, it is a constant effort to keep your value up. Once you have it, you have to maintain it, and grow it. If not? Well, remember all those other coaches out there …

Now What?

Let’s put a nice wrapper and ribbon around these with a quick summary:

  • It’s to your advantage to have coaching-value. The more you have the greater the advantage. 
  • Coaching-value is more important today than ever due to the expectations of the job and dynamics of the market.
  • The first, and arguably most important step for your coaching-value is to answer this question: They want a coach who can ____________
  • Don’t stop improving your value, it’s an endless cycle.

I’d love to know what you think about this. Blast me right here.

Let the journey to richer coaching-value begin.

You ready?

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, December 22nd, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Confidence is one of the greatest assets in a recruit. Cockiness can be another matter. Sometimes there is a fine line between the two, and it has to be studied in recruiting.

Jim Craig, who would be the goalie of the historic Miracle on Ice team, had been stellar in high school but his lack of size scared D1 programs away. After a growth spurt and a year at Massasoit Junior College near Boston, his skills could not be ignored. Boston University coach Jack Parker recruited Craig but told him up front he already had a guy marked
as his starter and an offer to a standout recruit. Craig plainly said he understood, had seen them both, and it would be him that would be his goalie.

At that point a coach has to make a decision. Is this kid going to rock the boat of the culture of the program, or is that just plain confidence embedded in his very being. Craig had a massive belief in himself. Yes, he could agitate teammates at times by telling them where to go on ice and what to do while he was behind them on ice, but they put up with it by joking that he was a goalie and goalies were different. When he would start his pre game chatter, the Olympians would fire a few shots at his head to let him know to tone it down. This team had such chemistry that they all could make fun of each others quirky ways. At their Christmas gag gift party, they gave him ear plugs to hand out to everyone when he decided it was time to jabber on and on and on about his philosophy of goal tending.

He would become the main starter at Boston University and lead them to a stock pile of wins (55-10-3). As a junior he went 16-0-0 and led Boston University to the D1 national title. Behind him they dominated their rivalry with B.C.

Though some experts had several college goalies rated ahead of him as pro prospect, coach Herb Brooks saw the fire within him and rode him the whole way in Lake Placid.

Craig’s NHL career was just 30 games. Maybe he wasn’t the right player for the NHL, but Herb knew he was the right player for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. Herb knew how to push the buttons of each player and with Craig he tweaked him just before Lake Placid, saying he was going to sit him after the 61 game exhibition slate where Craig had started almost all games.

“Your curve ball is hanging,” Herb told him. “I rode you too long.” This set off Craig, but Herb knew that was the last thing he needed to do to him to have him primed for the 7 games at the Games. Craig would allow less than 3 goals per game, including his stunning performance against the Soviet dynasty team.

After the game Craig went up to Herb and put his finger in his chest and told him that he had showed him. “Yes you did, Jim,” Herb responded. “Yes you did.”

Jim Craig’s confidence came because he had put in massive hours through childhood to develop the skills to stop the puck. As a little boy growing up in North Easton, Massachusetts they didn’t have enough money at first for a hockey chest protector, so he used a baseball one. They had to borrow skates and he shoved card board paper in their to fill the space. His Mom would take him to nearby Boston where he would sit in goal for hours against bigger kids, and then come home and take more shots. After awhile, he got to the point where he was stunned when a puck would get past him. It wasn’t cockiness, but an extreme inner belief that no one could or should score against him.

Besides being extremely confident Craig also did something you may want to suggest to your athletes. He broke each 20 minute period down to 5 minute slots, focusing on just the 5 minutes, and in between each period he would take off his uniform in the locker room and put it back on, signifying that whether he had played well or not last period, it was over and time to move forward.

One of the most irritating things in sports is the cocky athlete that really can’t back it up, but there is nothing wrong with the extremely confident player like Jim Craig.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Branding Your Program Effectively at the Start and End of the Recruiting ProcessMonday, December 15th, 2014

Why should a college coach care about their program’s “brand”?

Seriously, do you even have time for that?  With your limited budget, not enough hours in the day, administrative duties, student-athletes knocking on your office door, parents emailing you about playing time…am I really suggesting that you even begin to care a little bit about what your “brand” is in the eyes of your recruits?

Only if you really want them.

With this generation, branding is everything.

What shoes they wear, what music they listen to, what private school they attend, which clothing contract your school has, where your U.S. News ranking sits…it all matters at two certain points in the recruiting process, according to our ongoing research:  At the very beginning, and (if you don’t change their minds during your ongoing conversations) at the very end.

How you control those two points in the process will likely dictate the outcome of each and every one of your recruiting battles.

(That’s why you should care about your program’s “brand”)

Here are my recommendations for building a strategy around those two important parts of the recruiting process:

 

Controlling your program’s brand perception at the start of the recruiting process

Understand that nobody but you can establish your program’s brand at the start of your conversation.

Nobody. But. You.

If you don’t buy into that reality, you can stop reading now, because nothing else we talk about is going to matter.  Too many college coaches believe one of two things: 1) When it comes to their brand, they are hostage to their location, conference, division level, budget, history, and all of the other reasons coaches invent to not firmly and consistently establish their brand for their recruits.  Or, 2) their job is to coach, not try to establish their own brand and learn exactly what that entails.

A few coaches – many of whom are the coaches you admire in your sport because of their success – have figured out an amazing secret: If you consistently, confidently an creatively tell the story of why they should want to be a part of your program, you have a strong chance of landing that recruit.  You can be one of those coaches.

What it takes, at the start of the process, is to understand that most recruits don’t come in to the conversation with you as a “blank slate”.  There is some kind of definition they have started to assign to you at first contact, and most of the time its negative.  So, starting with that concept, let me ask you:

What are you saying to those prospects to convince them that you’re worth considering?

What are you telling them that makes the case for why they would be crazy not to come and compete for you?

Those aren’t throw-away questions.  They are the start of developing a real brand as a college coach who wants to take recruiting to the next level.  So, here are three things to do next:

  1. Develop a calendar of consistent messaging to your recruits, across multiple formats (mail, email, social media, phone).  Commit to it, and don’t leave any of those options out of your plan.  They all count, according to your recruits.
  2. Don’t prove to them that you want them.  Prove to them why they should want you.
  3. Let your prospect determine whether or not what you’re selling is “good enough”.  Don’t make their buying decisions for them.  Your job is to make the best case possible as to why they should want you and your program.  Focus on that.

Controlling your program’s brand perception at the end of the recruiting process

At this point, you’ve spent months either doing a really fantastic job of establishing your brand, or a horrible job of it.

Let’s deal with the more negative possibility first: If you’ve ignored those three core principles outlined for the start of the recruiting process, it’s likely that – at best – your recruiting results are random, and at worst they are really suffering.  Without controlling your brand identity at the start of the process, it is impossible to re-define it at the end of the process.

If, however, you’ve done a fantastic job of establishing your brand, you’ve now set yourself up for a strong branding message at the end.  Which is vital, for one big reason.

At the end of the process, your recruit’s natural inclination is to gravitate to the “safe” choice: The school with the winning record, the highest ranking on one of the twenty three college lists out there, the college closest to home, the one that’s offering the most money…those are all the “safe” choices.

Your job, at the end of the process, is to anticipate that they are having second thoughts about your brand.  No matter how much you think your recruit is leaning towards committing to your program, assume otherwise.  Continue to confidently, consistently and creatively explain to them why they should want to be with you and your program.  Especially after a campus visit.  Especially in the weeks leading up to their final decision.

So let me ask you two important questions as you end the process:

How are you managing your prospect’s timeline and tailoring your message to that timeline?

How are you calming their fears and making it o.k. for them to choose you over one of their “safer” choices?

Just as is the case at the start of the branding process, those aren’t throw-away questions.  They are the culmination of developing a real brand as a college coach who wants to take recruiting to the next level.  So, here are three things to do next:

  1. Control your prospect’s decision-making timeline.  We’re not talking about forcing them to choose you (that’s impossible, by the way), we’re talking about fully understanding when and how they will make that decision, and then holding them to that timeline.
  2. Maintaining your level of confidence and enthusiasm at the end, just as you (hopefully) have been doing since the beginning.
  3. Giving your prospect an ongoing supply of positive reasons to choose your program.

Branding is a key part of successful recruiting.  At it’s core, its coming up with a compelling story to tell your recruits, and then doing that consistently over a long period of time – just like a television ad campaign.  Take this part of your job as a recruiter very, very seriously.

If you’re a Client or Tudor University coach, we’ve produced a 20 minute video talking about the entire concept of successful branding in college recruiting.  Watch it here when you get a chance.

How to Effectively Talk About Paying for College With Your Prospects (and their parents)Monday, December 15th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

During a recent phone call with a good friend he mentioned that his daughter, a high school junior, was starting to receive a lot of mail from colleges and universities. What he said next is something that I’m sure many of you in admissions have heard a thousand times. “Most of the schools she likes are really expensive and I have no idea how we can afford any of them.”

Knowing that their family had visited a couple of those schools earlier this fall, I asked him if any of the college counselors had touched on financial aid before, during or after the visit. “Not one of them.” In the words of Tom Hanks’ character in Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem!”

More than ever before today’s prospects, and their parents, are limiting the college search to schools they believe they can afford. By doing this, many students sacrifice their best “fit” for an apparent lower cost option. Several do so without researching affordability or talking to an admissions or financial aid counselor at the better “fit” institution.

Studies have shown that when students were asked where they obtain information on financial aid, both admissions offices and admissions counselors ranked near the bottom of the list. Instead, your college’s website and the student’s high school counselor are the top sources. This is a trend that needs to change.

Discussing the issue of paying for college is a challenge. I won’t dispute that. It’s a frequent topic during my one-on-one counselor meetings when we conduct one of our On-Campus Workshops. How then do you approach your prospects correctly?

We have some strategies that we’ve seen work over the past few years, and we think you can use them to help overcome the “money” objection as you talk with this next class of recruits.

  • Be prepared to start the conversation early on. The “money” objection is one of the most common negatives that many schools face. We tell clients the worst thing they can do with any objection, including this one, is avoid talking about it in the hope that it will magically disappear. It won’t. If your admissions team is not prepared to talk about money with your prospects, it’s going to be hard to secure their commitment. Being able to explain the process ahead of time will lead to a greater comfort level, and a lot less questions later on when you try to convert those admits to deposits. I would also strongly recommend you have that talk with the parents, not the parents and your prospect together.  It’s a sensitive topic, and we find that your prospect’s parents will be more open with you if their son or daughter is not there.
  • Ask the parents of your prospect how this crisis is effecting them. That type of question is one of the “15 Great Questions” that author, speaker and founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, Dan Tudor, and I, recommend to college coaches and admissions teams during our On-Campus Workshops.  You need to understand how this crisis is effecting them, and what obstacles it creates when it comes to considering your school.  By engaging the family in that conversation, you will help them connect the dots, which is something they value. Mom and dad will also become your allies.  Considering how important their feedback is in their child’s decision, you cannot afford not to reach out to them.
  • Guide them step-by-step, and always emphasize what that next step is. We’ve talked many times in previous articles about how important transparency is with this generation of recruits. The college selection process is both confusing and stressful. You and your staff need to be their guides from start to finish. Be sure and reiterate key dates and deadlines well in advance. If you want to avoid “sticker shock,” explain to them how the bottom-line total is calculated and why that’s the important number to remember. In addition to the FAFSA, be prepared to discuss each of the three main types of financial aid – loans, grants and scholarships, and programs such as work-study. As an honest guide who makes the details easy to understand, you will gain their trust.
  • How you communicate the value your school offers matters. Especially in your letters and emails.  If you have a family who is worried about finances, your basic recruiting letter is going to have an even harder time getting through to them and grabbing their attention.  Communicating clearly, systematically and with some originality is vital. When you discuss the value or ROI that your college’s graduates have experienced, have institutional data or at worst national data at your disposal, in addition to success stories of your alumni. It’s your job to show the value of your school’s diploma, and the benefits that will come as a result of the experiences your prospect will gain during their time on your campus. When done correctly you will be able convince many of your recruits and their parents that cheaper isn’t always better.
  • Collaborate with your school’s financial aid staff. The days of directing all “money” questions to your financial aid office are coming to an end. Admissions’ collaborating with financial aid is now essential. If your college hasn’t merged the two entities, then I strongly recommend you do some cross training. Understand what financial aid officers look for and how they make their decisions. Be able to navigate your school’s financial aid website, because if you can’t do so, you can guarantee your prospects won’t either. Cultivating these relationships will make a tangible difference. Remember that both offices are working towards the same goal of enrolling the “best fit” students.
  • Understand that they might have the money, but aren’t sure they want to spend it on your school. When a family talks about not being able to afford your school, understand that in some cases they can afford it, they just haven’t decided that they want to. Ask yourself what would happen if a bigger brand name school with a perceived higher academic reputation entered the picture for your prospect and offered the exact same financial aid package. Chances are that family would find a way to “make it work” financially. Just remember that more often then not your prospect has the money, they just aren’t sure they want to spend it on your school. You then need to consistently and creatively find ways to get them to justify the expense and why it’s worth the investment.

At the end of the day there will be times when despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to overcome the reality that some families just cannot afford your school without taking on significant financial debt. Your goal is to present smart reasons why your school is the “right fit” for their child, and demonstrate greater value than your competition.

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