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The NFL Rulebook and Your Recruiting CommunicationsTuesday, January 26th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Colin Cowherd is one of my favorite radio/TV personalities. If you’ve ever watched or listened to “The Herd” you know that Cowherd is very transparent. He isn’t afraid to share his thoughts on sports, politics and business regardless of how unpopular they might be. I respect him because of that.

Just recently, Al Michaels the legendary announcer was a guest on the show.   One of the topics Cowherd questioned Michaels about was his knowledge and comfort level with the ever-changing NFL rulebook. Long story short, Michaels responded by saying that the rulebook, which is written by lawyers, has way too much confusing language in it. He went on to add that most of the rulebook is so convoluted that you can read it multiple times and still not be sure, for example, what constitutes a catch.

So, what can the conversation between Cowherd and Michaels about the NFL rulebook teach admissions recruiters? Keep reading because I’m about to tell you.

Not enough college admissions departments appreciate the need for using the right language in their recruiting communications to teenage prospects. I’ve reviewed letters that use the same small font, wording and letterhead from 20 years ago. I’ve reviewed emails from counselors that bounce from subject to subject without any kind of connection. Yep, stuff like this is happening all across the country, all the time.

This should be a strong warning to all college admissions departments and force some serious reflection on how their individual letters, emails, social media posts, and even the questions their counselors ask recruits on the phone are constructed. Oh, and if your school has an admissions marketing team, that doesn’t get you off the hook. Winning teams constantly collaborate, evaluate, and aren’t afraid to make changes.

Today I want to help you make sure that your recruiting communications are clear, effective and successful. Here are 6 tips:

  1. Understand your audience. If you want to appeal to your current group of recruits, which aren’t one in the same, I encourage you to “put yourself in their shoes.” Understanding your audience helps you to determine how you should arrange your information and what kind of details will be important for a specific segment of your group. It also influences the tone of the text.
  1. Less is always better. The worst thing you can do, especially with new inquiries, is try and explain everything about your college or university in those early letters, emails, and even during a phone call…if you want a response that is.  The tendency for many of us when we write and speak is to use not only more words but as many big words as possible. Our research with your students clearly shows that today’s teenagers are most apt to respond out of curiosity instead of information.  When you’re trying to explain something, less really is more. Again, use short, logical, fact-based repetitive messages where you leave room for their curiosity to take over. That’s a winning strategy.
  1. Word choices matter. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to revise your letters and emails to ensure your prospects read them, it’s all about word choices. While many of you might immediately add more descriptive adjectives ex. “We’ve got a really beautiful new student union!” I’m going to recommend a different approach: Verbs. Verbs are action, while adjectives are descriptive.  Action beats description every time in the minds of your prospects. Verbs also give your prospects a positive feeling and do a much better job of giving them clear ideas as to why they should want to be a part of your school’s student body.
  1. Tone matters. When we have a face-to-face conversation with someone we use the other person’s body language, tone and facial expressions to assess how he or she feels. Letters and emails don’t allow for such a determination, and that means we can’t tell when the other person misunderstands something. In addition to your word choices, which I just covered, both punctuation and capitalization matter. As an example, exclamation points can be used to express excitement. They can also easily be misinterpreted. Ask yourself, “Is there a chance that your message could be misunderstood without visual cues?”
  1. One topic per paragraph. Limiting paragraphs to one idea or topic is essential for clarity. When you do the opposite, it’s not only confusing but, also in many cases, downright overwhelming to your prospects (and their parents).
  1. Be clear about what you want them to do next. First, narrow it down to just one thing. Make it simple like “can you send me an email and tell me how this sounds,” versus complicated and rambling. When you ask for a laundry list, you’re complicating things. The rambling email is often unstructured and unclear as to what the sender is really after. In the early and middle stages of the recruitment process your goal should be to get and keep a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Every admissions team wants a competitive edge when it comes to building relationships with their prospects. The best place to start? Well, you can have us help create your letters and emails of course. However, if you were going to tackle that project in-house, I’d recommend a full review of your recruiting communications. You can make small changes today that can lead to big results this spring.

Tudor Collegiate Strategies works with admissions departments big and small, at public and private institutions around the country. We give them research-based strategies and custom designed recruiting communications that gets results. Want to know more? Just send me an email: jeremy@dantudor.com

How You Can Successfully Climb the Admissions LadderTuesday, January 26th, 2016

counselor-brianThis is the second post in a series from a college counselor attempting to navigate the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, a second year admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.

In his first post, which you can read here, Switay talked about keeping up with the inquiries.


By Brian Switay:

Ascending in the admissions profession can be as easy as changing a light bulb, or as lengthy of a mission as putting up Christmas lights. When I started as an admissions counselor at Stevens Institute of Technology in 2013 I had images of immediately learning the CRM, getting to know all the important people on campus, becoming versed in all the majors available here, and much, much more! It’s definitely been an interesting journey so far.

I’ve had some admission counselors tell me they thought this job would involve hanging out on campus, watching their school’s sporting events and eating lots of free food at the cafeteria. Some counselors have even said they were told that admissions is a way to delay leaving college and getting a real job (yes, I have been told multiple times to get a “real job” from disgruntled parents). It’s not that at all. You have very little free time. There’s a “travel season” and a “reading season,” not to mention the constant running back and forth to campus every other weekend to hold open houses for prospective students. From September to March voicemail and email are constantly full and overflowing. Some days you wonder if you’ll ever be able to recover and catch up to all those messages.

The first couple of years you are a “Yes (Wo) Man, Sponge.” You agree to cover different college fairs (outside your travel territory) and information sessions, not to mention prospective student interviews for colleagues. You become used to living out of your car and hotel rooms, and Netflix is now your best friend when isolated on the road. You conquer how to file your expense reports and get your reimbursement, which by the way is not as easy as you think it is. Weekends off are rare, and it seems like you’re always telling your significant other/family what time you will be home and where you will be that evening.

You do all this and more in an attempt to learn what it takes to become a strong leader and move to the next rung on the admissions ladder.

I want to share with you ways that you can improve your stock in your office and within your university. They’ve worked for me and can do the same for you if you’re new to the admissions profession.

  1. I became a member of NACAC and my states affiliates, NJACAC and SACAC (since I cover Florida). Becoming a member has led me to countless email group chains and involvement in discussions I never could have imagined. Just by being on the server chain I have learned of a ton of different changes, thoughts, concerns and everything else in-between.
  1. I have volunteered to become a more integral part of NJACAC (or your local affiliate). I have become part of the planning committee for the Annual NJACAC Conference. Being behind the scenes gives you an amazing networking opportunity. I can happily say that I have found many new friends just from being involved in NJACAC.
  1. I asked for a mentor from NJACAC (I am sure each affiliate has this option). This is another great way to network and meet with someone who has been in your shoes before. My mentor is a great individual and we set up times to discuss changes in the landscape of admissions, where our goals are at (professionally and personally) and just to catch up and keep me on pace to achieve my goals. I would highly recommend you look into this option if your affiliate has this.
  1. Set up a logistical and sound proposal to submit to your boss for you to attend the NACAC National Conference, which will be in Columbus, Ohio this year. The sessions are about an hour to an hour and half and the information you receive is incredible! It will be worth the money to send you out to learn any and everything you can. Become a sponge! Not to mention the amount of people you will meet. (I am looking at you, Phil Trout, NACAC President! Pleasure sitting next to you and your wife at the Keynote speech of Sal Khan this year)
  1. Submit a proposal for your local affiliate’s Conference. I just submitted my first proposal with a group of admissions counselors that I met on the road during my travels. I am honestly thrilled to wait on the decision. I feel like a student waiting on a collegiate decision! But, while I am waiting for my proposal to be decided upon, I have been asked to present proposals for other conferences. It becomes a life of its own, which looks awesome moving forward and up the ladder.
  1. Social media has become my friend. I follow #EMChat (Thursday Nights at 9pm on Twitter). Here you learn from different professionals in the field about how they are using different tools on their campuses as well as meeting and chatting with different levels in command. Everyone from counselors to Associate Directors, Deans, Directors and Vice Presidents of Enrollment Management participate in the conversation. I love it! I also use social media to connect with current and prospective students. I like to tweet out when I am on the road what high schools and college fairs I will be attending that coming day. Students have direct messaged me as well to ask questions about their acceptance.
  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! I have built, and currently am still building, a long list of colleagues.  Every time I reach out with a question I have always received a response, even from people I have met only once while at NACAC.

These are just a few things that I hope you can incorporate moving forward.

I now have a question for you. What are ways you get involved? I would love to connect and chat with you. Tweet me @brianatstevens

Hopefully I will meet some of you at the NACAC National Conference, #EMChat on Thursday nights, or at a local affiliate’s conference.  Good luck!

Reduce Think Time With ChecklistsMonday, January 25th, 2016

by Mandy Green, Coaching Productivity Strategies

There are a lot of tasks that we do as coaches every day, week and year in the office, with our teams, staff, and with recruiting.  In an effort to save time and stress in the office, for any task that you have to do over and over, find a way to automate it by using a checklist.
Basically, any time you can set up a system whereby you as a coach can reduce the amount of ‘think time’ you have to spend to complete a task, you will save time and almost guarantee that you will do it right every time.

For example, setting up a successful campus visit potentially can take a lot of time because there are a lot of details involved.  

As a reader of Dan Tudor’s blogs or if you have read his book How To Have Freaking Awesome Campus Visits, you know that you need to plan every possible area of your visit and your interaction with your recruits because they are watching your every move, and making judgment calls along the way as to whether or not to buy what you’re selling. On-campus visits are a pretty big deal, are a lot of work to set up, and can make or break your recruiting efforts.  

An easy way to reduce the time it takes to schedule the visit and make sure that everything gets taken care of is to invest a few hours creating a streamlined procedure and have everything documented on an on-campus visit checklist.

The reason why checklists are good is simple: it’s easy for us to forget things. When you do something that involves multiple steps, it’s likely that you would forget one or two of them. Using checklists ensures that you won’t forget anything.

Checklist are crucial especially if you have had turnover on your coaching staff or in case the coach who usually organizes the campus visit is not around for whatever reason.

Besides helping you do your tasks correctly every time, here are some other benefits of using a checklist:

  • Creating a checklist will allow you to take the thinking out of repetitive tasks.  Since you don’t have to remember all the steps you need to take, you can use your brain power for something else.
  • You can save time.  When you have to think, remember, weigh your options, and agonize over every small task, it takes a lot of time, not to mention mental energy.  But when you make decisions in advance, you free up time to focus on other important activities that need to get done.
  • You can delegate more easily.  If your recruiting coordinator is out recruiting, is ill, takes another job, or whatever, you don’t have to rush around trying to figure out what to do because every step for setting up a perfect on-campus visit is already outlined and recorded down on your on-campus visit checklist.

Start by writing down the steps you take when planning a visit from the start to the end of the visit. What tasks need to be done?  Who is responsible for doing each task?  When do tasks need to be done by?  What is the phone number and email of the people you would want the recruits to meet with?  What paperwork do you need completed by the recruits?  What compliance paperwork needs to be done?  I could go on and on but you get the idea.
Taking the time to map out each step in the process and document all of the important details will take a lot of work the first time you do it.  But because these will be steps you need to take every time you have an on-campus visit, by following a checklist you will save a TON of time in the long run and no important details will be forgotten.   

Off the top of my head, here are four other things that you might want to create a checklist for:

  • Running a successful practice
  • Game-day routines
  • Travel procedures
  • Camp Procedures

I urge you to evaluate all tasks that you do on a repetitive, routine basis to see if you can dream up ways to do them faster and better.  Take the time to create a checklist for all of these repetitive tasks and record all of the details involved.  You will be amazed at how much time and mental energy you will save when you are working off a checklist instead of trying to accomplish a task off of memory.    

If you have a great idea that you want to share, please email me at mandy@mandygreencps.com.

Have a great week!

Mandy Green
Coaching Productivity Strategies

Jonas, The Blizzard, And Coach ManeuversMonday, January 25th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToady.com

Jerry Rice, retired wide receiver of the San Francisco 49ers, is the leading points scorer in the NFL. It may surprise you to know that few NFL coaches wanted him on their team.

Except for one coach — Bill Walsh.

Rice wasn’t the fastest, the tallest or the strongest of college receivers. But Walsh drafted Rice nonetheless, few other teams were interested in him. That risk on Rice paid off with:

  • 3 Super Bowl wins
  • 13 Pro Bowl selections
  • Over 100 NFL records
  • Rice’s selection as NFL greatest player ever

The reported reason Walsh picked Rice — because of his maneuverability.

Maneuverability, the ability to change speed, direction, even reverse course with little negative impact, is what Jerry Rice did exceptional well.

Let me ask you, do you maneuver well while you coach?

Hard Right Turn

Why would a coach ever want to change speed, direction, or even put it in reverse? Aw heck, I can think of dozens of reasons, a few being:

a significant change in weather (more about that in a moment)

illness or injury that requires line up changes

policy changes

sudden unfair conditions

a “gut instinct” you have and feel compelled to act on

There’s many more, but let me give you an example. On Sunday our student-athletes were scheduled to return to campus from winter break. On Monday the coaches were committed to a day of work in our boathouse on equipment. On Tuesday, voluntary workouts were scheduled to start for the athletes.

Before any of these plans happened, a blizzard named “Jonas” rolled in. I had to maneuver.

School was postponed until Wednesday so all those plans changed. I had to arrange alternate workout schedules, find a different time to get the equipment work done, and be ready for student-athletes who might not be able to return for many days (or a week) because of rescheduling cancelled flights.

Here’s another coaching example making national news … two sports teams were stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, due to the storm. The women’s gymnastics team from Temple and the men’s basketball team from Duquesne spent days in their buses, along with hundreds of other travelers. I’m sure the coaches aboard were wishing they could have maneuvered a different way home.

Actions To Contemplate

Here’s the point I’m trying to communicate:

  • often our plans are good
  • usually we know the best
  • mostly our way will work

But not always, so that means there will be times when:

  • another plan is needed
  • we need more info
  • a different approach is needed

The coach who is ready and willing to accept and maneuver in those times of change will find greater success, and peace of mind.

The key to successful maneuvering is limiting the negative impact when you need to do it. You can help this happen by taking 3 simple actions:

1. Communicate clearly – let them know a change is happening
2. Keep cool and calm – be the eye in the storm
3. Be empathetic – know that change is hard for others

That’s what Jerry Rice did. What I tried to do in response to the storm.

Where do you, and can you, maneuver in your coaching?

— — —

Did you know 73% of coaches are focusing on getting better in 2016, and 50% of coaches know that “why they coach” is to improve others? That’s what coaches told me in my recent 5-minute coaches survey (which you can take here, if you haven’t yet). And one reason why I wrote the e-book Build Your Team: How To Create, Lead & Protect The Sports Team Of Your Dreams due out next month.

It’s also why coach Mike Hughes and I are making recordings like this.

Make a ruckus and coach well. We need ya!


How to Successfully Have the “Money Talk” With Prospects and ParentsTuesday, January 19th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Lately I’ve heard a lot people refer to it as the “money talk.”

Talking about paying for college is a stressful and complex topic for most families. In our focus group recruiting surveys on college campuses across the country we ask freshmen students which of the following three things was “most stressful” for them during the college search process – Thinking/talking about paying for college; Filling out applications; Waiting for decision letters/emails. The number one answer every single time (68% overall average) is thinking/talking about paying for college.

This past weekend while watching our local high school basketball team I got into a discussion with a friend of mine whose son is a senior. His son has narrowed it down to two schools, both of which happen to be private institutions with a COA of between $40,000-$50,000 per year.

What happened next is why I’m writing today’s article. The parent knows what I do for a living, so during the conversation he asked me when they should expect the schools to start talking about financial aid. No, that’s not a misprint. It’s the middle of January and no one from either admissions office has initiated the “money talk”…unless you count sending reminders to fill out the FAFSA and other aid forms (which I don’t). The unfortunate part is this isn’t an isolated incident.

Having a useful discussion on the subject of paying for college continues to be a challenge for many college admissions counselors. It’s one of the most frequent topics I’m asked advice about during my one-on-one counselor meetings that accompany our On-Campus training Workshops.

I want to share with you some strategies that we’ve seen work over the past few years that will lead to positive dialogue with families of this current recruiting class.

  • Start the conversation early. Too many counselors do the exact opposite. Why? Most are worried about getting an objection. The worst thing you can do is hope that by avoiding any real discussion about cost or financial aid it just magically takes care of itself. Not going to happen. If your admissions team is not prepared to talk about money with your prospects, it’s going to be hard to secure their commitment. Waiting on your financial aid team to do it is a risky strategy. Instead, your ability to clearly explain the process early on will lead to a greater comfort level and a lot less questions down the road when you try to convert those admits. I would also strongly recommend, if at all possible, 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 involved.
  • Don’t make assumptions. Many families may be reluctant to share details about their financial circumstances. Plan on having the conversation with every family and student regardless of what you “think” you know about the family.
  • Ask the parents what kind of challenges this process creates for them. That type of question is one of the “15 Great Questions” that I recommend to 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. The parents can then also become your allies.  Considering how important their feedback is in their child’s decision, you cannot afford not to reach out to them.
  • Focus on what you can offer them instead of what you can’t. Our latest focus group research also showed that more often than not, multiple other factors rank ahead of “being more affordable than other schools” in terms of their importance of influencing your recruit’s final decision.  The “feel” of your campus, how your admissions staff and students treated them on their campus visit, the perception of the college as a whole, and other non-monetary factors play a huge part in choosing a school.  Are you directing your conversation with your recruits back to those factors?
  • Frame the decision making process for your prospect.  By that I mean I want you to make sure your prospect and his or her parents aren’t using money as the final determinant.  I think it’s fair to ask them, for example, “Is it smart to make a decision that will effect the next 30 or 40 years of your professional life on who has the lowest price tag?” 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 they 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 necessarily better.
  • Guide them step-by-step and always emphasize what’s coming next. We’ve talked numerous 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 admissions colleagues 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. As an honest guide who makes the details easy to understand, you will gain their trust.
  • 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. If you haven’t already done some cross training with the folks in financial aid, now is the time. You need to 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 it, you can guarantee your prospects won’t be able to 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.

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 what they consider significant financial debt.

If you start the conversation earlier and focus more on the value of your institution and not the dollar amount, watch how different your conversations are with each of your recruits and their families.

Want personalized help in creating a better recruiting strategy? CLICK HERE for more about our Admissions Recruiting Advantage options that schools around the country are using.

Why Recruiters Need to Look at Their Sliced Bread DifferentlyMonday, January 18th, 2016

As we’ve worked with college athletic departments over the last year or two, I’m observing an interesting paradox:

I’m honored to get to work one-on-one with a selection of scrappy, never-say-die, highly intelligent coaches who are taking the approach that they can beat anybody – any coach, any program – for some of the top-tier recruits that they really want. These recruiters are telling interesting stories, making strong selling points, and guiding their prospects through the recruiting process in a logical, timeline-centered manner.

I’m also hearing from another group of coaches who have decided to make this year the year that they finally figure out what they could be doing better as the new year starts, and have reached out over the phone to talk. I love doing that, as it gives me a really firm idea about what is front and center in the mind of the coach who realizes that something different needs to be done, but doesn’t yet quite know how to make those changes. They’re struggling.

So, how can two groups of intelligent, experienced college coaches get vastly different results when it comes to the same activity?

It’s all about how the bread is sliced.

Actually, let me rephrase that: It’s about how you tell the story of how you slice your bread.

I’ll point to marketing expert and author Seth Godin who expands on this concept, using the story of the actual inventor of sliced bread, Otto Rohwedder:

“Otto Rohwedder thought he had invented the greatest thing because he invented sliced bread. He thought that if he got a patent on sliced bread, he’d be rich. What Otto forgot was to ask a very important two-word question: Who cares? No one knew about sliced bread. No one cared. It wasn’t until Wonder Bread came around and marketed it that sliced bread took off. It wasn’t the bread that won, it was the packaging and distribution.

Ideas that spread, win. What we’ve been living through is the greatest culture of spreading ideas that there’s ever been. At one level, that’s great because it’s easier to spread your ideas than ever before. At another, it’s harder because we keep raising the bar.”

College coaches who are engaged in serious recruiting are very much in the business of spreading ideas – about you, your program, and why that recruit should compete for you and not for your competition.

Here’s the problem: I am hearing a lot of coaches focus on the fact that they have “sliced bread”, and now how they slice their bread.

One coach I talked to recently, for example, was baffled that their new turf field, a facility that they had worked several years to fundraise for, didn’t seem to make a difference to this most recent class of recruits even though several kids and their parents had been citing that as one of the biggest reasons they would choose a competitor.

It wasn’t unreasonable for this coach to look at that problem and move quickly to solve it:

  1. Our facility needs new turf
  2. The kids I really want seem to say that’s why they’re not coming here
  3. If I get new turf, the best recruits will finally choose me

If you’re a hammer, sometimes all you see are nails, right Coach?

When we dug a little deeper into his situation, he and I realized that all of the upper-tier prospects he was losing were opting to go to programs that were in a better Division I conference…the teams weren’t necessarily performing better, but the conferences could all be considered “better” than the one that he coached in.

In short, I told him I felt strongly – based on over a decade of dissecting these types of scenarios with the coaches we work with as clients – that his recruits were using his facility as the excuse why they weren’t coming to play for him. In reality, I’m guessing that his recruits were telling them their own story about why another conference would be a better decision for them rather than “settling” for a lesser conference (and I’m sure the recruits’ parents weren’t doing anything to change that opinion).

Back to ol’ Otto Rohwedder for a moment: This coach was slicing his bread better, but his recruits weren’t examining the slices, per se. They were buying into the story, or the marketing, of a competitor’s bread.

Godin observes that Otto’s sliced bread invention, which he invented thinking that he would become rich with a patent on the process, really didn’t take off until Wonder Bread marketed and packaged the bread in a way that connected with our parents and grandparents’ concept of what would cause them to buy store bought, sliced bread.

What I’m telling you, Coach, is this: If you’re having issues with getting the recruits you really want, I doubt it’s because you are slicing your bread incorrectly. It’s probably because you are failing to tell a compelling story, with a mix of logic and passion, done over an extended period of time.

Back to that first group of coaches I told you about at the start of the article: How else could a rag tag group of yet-to-be-winners who are coaching in ordinary conferences and inheriting mediocre records starting to win over better programs? And in two cases, where their lower division teams beat a program in a higher division level? It’s the story.

If I’ve described you, or your recruiting results, here are three next steps to take if you’re interested in changing the flow of your recruiting conversations with prospects:

  1. Identify the potentially negative aspects of your program’s story. Facility? Cost of attendance? Your record? List everything possible that a recruit might give you as a reason for saying no to you, whether that objection ends up being real or invented. Be honest with yourself and come face-to-face with whatever negatives might be used against you.
  2. Write out the phrasing you usually come up with to defend against possible negative perceptions about those aspects. If one of your recruits, or their parents, list it as a negative, how do you explain it to them? And even if they don’t bring it up, how are you bringing it up in the recruiting conversation with your prospect? Write out the verbiage that you would normally use in those situations, especially if it involves listing an excuse or reason you aren’t successful in those areas.
  3. Re-package your sliced bread. Tell a different story about the same negative aspects that you can’t control. Your facility isn’t as good as you’d like it to be? Don’t talk about that; talk about how the recruit is going to get better on that field or court, and that choosing a college based on the facility is the wrong way to choose where you get an education. Is your college the most expensive your recruit typically looks at? Explain to them the cost difference between you and College B is worth it in the long run, and why. Whatever the story, say it confidently, and repeat it over a long period of time.

I realize that in an article like this it’s easy to over-simplify a solution to a complex problem, and I have little doubt that I’m guilty of that here. That being said, this three step procedure is exactly what we do when designing a strategic approach to recruiting a higher caliber of recruit that a client is probably seeking. And, we’ve seen it work way more often than it doesn’t.

Your circumstances are unlikely to change much at your campus, Coach. Your only real option is to change the story that you’re telling your recruits, and do it sooner rather than later.

Again, it’s not the fact that you slice your bread. It’s how you package it and tell the story to your consumers.

Just ask Otto Rohwedder.

If you want to take this concept to the next level, you need to have your Athletic Director bring us to campus to do in-depth research with your current student-athletes on why they chose your campus, and then teach you and your fellow coaches to tell your story in a more strategic, compelling way. For more than a decade, we’ve helped college athletic departments around the country with this personalized, information-packed session. Click here for all the details.

How A Pre-Mortem Can Save Your Coaching BaconMonday, January 18th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

I worry a lot.

During the season I can’t tell you how many 3:37 am worry sessions I have. Just me and my pillow trying to figure things out. For me, it’s one of the least enjoyable parts of coaching.

I’m not the only coach this happens to. I once heard football coach Lou Holtz say during season he slept like a baby — waking up every two hours, crying.

Rattling around the Internet yesterday I found a technique that might help with this Coach-Sleep. It’s called a pre-mortem.

In the medical world, a post-mortem is used to examine a negative medical outcome (someone died, spread of disease, botched treatments and the such). If you watch any doctor-type shows you’ve probably seen one done. The business and academic world does something similar — calling them things like exit interviews, satisfaction surveys, or wrap-ups. Regardless of the name, they are trying to discover what went wrong, and how to avoid the issue in the future.

Pre-mortem’s are different

A pre-mortem is doing a post-mortem BEFORE an event. A term coined by Gary Klein inSources of Power: How People Make Decisions, pre-mortems are about envisioning what COULD happen (instead of what DID happen); and then visualizing what action could be/should be taken.

Have you ever said, “Hey, what happened?” “Whoa … I never expected that!” “Jeez, they can’t do that. It’s not fair.” If so, a pre-mortem should be in your tool box.

Rarely Used By Coaches

Coaches rarely use pre-mortem because we:

  • have visualized a specific outcome, and can’t see things differently
  • don’t want to be distracted, and vary from THE PLAN
  • are superstitious, and know thinking about bad stuff will make it happen
  • have so little time, we can barely get our teeth brushed

Here’s the truth — your plan and the outcome rarely resemble each other. When you consider all the moving parts in sports — the promises that get broken, the rules that change, the differences in human nature — why the heck should the plan and outcome look the same?

They shouldn’t. And they don’t.

To reduce the number and size of the surprises you get, you need to be prepared — and a pre-mortem can help.

Yes, pre-mortems are mostly focused on worst-case scenarios, but we should add a variation to that. My pre-mortem, and your pre-mortem, should focus on the worst- case AND the best-case scenarios. For example,

  • What if we win the championship?
  • What if our next recruiting class if the biggest one ever?
  • What if they decide to double my salary?
  • What if we are asked to go to the White House?

To be clear, this is different than daydreaming. Building fantastical things up in your imagination is daydreaming. Pre-mortem is about things that really could happen.

Action You Can (And Should) Take

I can understand being resistant to trying this because of time or superstition. Fine. Go about your business then. But I think you’ll be missing out on an important tool to have.

For you that want to try a pre-mortem, here are some suggested action steps.

  1. Set aside non-emotional time.
  2. Have as many opinion people there as needed. Get your team together and pretend a blessing/disaster has struck.
  3. Have everyone write down 5-10 blessings/disasters. Go around to everyone (and yes, you might be the only one there). Pick the top several ones.
  4. Looking at that list, what action could you take to improve the chance of the blessing occurring, or reduce the instance of the disaster. Create solutions, with detailed actions, for future efforts.
  5. Record the discussion (whiteboard with photos taken, notes on paper disseminated later)
  6. Pass the information along to those who need it.

Granted, this isn’t rocket-live-brain-TV-science-surgery. It’s more like common sense, that’s not so common. Worth a try, I think. Here’s a really simple pre-mortem example:

  • We had a big recruiting event this Fall.
  • I wrote out a list of possible blessings (having more than our max numbers visit) and our disasters (a recruit getting sick during the visit).
  • I then asked “What if …we have 15 recruits show up?” And “What if … a recruit got sick?”
  • After “What if ….” I added “then I will …” So I had statements like these: “What if we have 15 recruits show up? Then I will have to ask the Men’s Lax team to borrow some of their air mattresses for the overnight visits.” And, “What if a recruit gets sick? Then I will make sure they have my cell phone number and know how to contact me immediately.”

The power of the list, and these actions, is that I was more prepared. You will be too, and have the presence to act with more control. You will be able to find more joy in the blessing and less trauma in the disaster.

— — —

This is going to be your year of coaching! I’m here to help. That’s one reason I’m writing bookslike this. Let me know what struggles or blessings you’re dealing with. We got this!

Coach well friend, we need you more than ever.

– Mike

The Little Things That Go A Long WayMonday, January 18th, 2016

by Mandy Green, Coaching Productivity Strategies

Recently I was asked by a few coaches to give them my top 10 coaching management books.  Number one on my list was a book called “Winning” by Clive Woodward.  

I had the privilege to be a part of an amazing lecture about team management around 10 years ago.  In this lecture, the speaker told us about the book Winning! The book is about the process coach Clive Woodward went through in turning a struggling England National Rugby team into an International Rugby powerhouse.

In an effort to take his team from good to great, Woodward set out to create a unique and incredibly special experience for the players coming into his program.  His ultimate aim was to make the environment so good that once the players had experienced it, they never wanted to be left out of it. 

Woodward created this experience and environment by focusing on the little things he called Critical Non-Essentials (CNE’s).  CNE’s are all of the little things or details that make your program what it is.  Not just any kind of detail, but the development of things that would and could set your program apart from everybody else.   

These CNE’s that he focused on included: the locker room (seating, equipment, lockers, extras, decorations, laundry); dress code (home games, away games); sports information (web, game, media guides, TV, radio, other); practice (before, warm-up, training, cool-down); equipment (practice gear, game gear, logo’s, colors, misc); game day environment; medical/rehab/recovery; nutrition; fitness/strength and conditioning.

So, how does this apply to recruiting?

What do you do to set yourself apart in the eyes of your recruits if your main competitors have the same quality of players, the same resources, and the same standard of coaching?  To be even better and set yourself apart from your rivals you have to do everything in your power to improve the Critical Non-Essentials of your program.

In my usual weekly readings, I learned that Pete Carroll, when he was the coach of the USC football program, sat down with his staff and captains at the end of every season and analyzed EVERY aspect of the program, from their practice tee-shirts to their game day routines.  They would sit down and he would ask “How can we make this better?”  He did all of this in an effort to create the most productive and special experience for his players.  His players knew that Coach Carroll was willing to go the extra mile for them and it not only showed in how hard they played for him, but in the quality of recruits he kept signing year after year.  

With all of the other things that need to get done in a day, I find with most coaches these little details are what get put on the back burner and never fixed.  The time spent doing this will not only create a more loyal team, it can and will be something you can use as a selling point that will separate you from the rest of the pack.  

Here is what I recommend: buy the book if you have a chance because there are a lot of really great ideas about team management in there.  Just a warning, it is a pretty long book and is mostly about Rugby (a sport I don’t think I will ever understand).  It will be well worth your time to read through it though.  

Next, take the time to examine every aspect of the players’ experience within your program (critical non essentials) and discuss it thoroughly with your team.  Don’t just do this exercise with your coaching staff!  

This is a great exercise to get your team involved with.  Empower your team to give you feedback on how they would like things to be.  You have the ultimate veto power, but let them come up with ideas on what could make each aspect of what they experience within the program everyday a little better.  

If you want more from the players, you first have to give them good reasons why they would want to put in the extra effort.  You do that by making the critical non essentials better.  If you make your program attractive, prestigious and exclusive enough, not only will the players give everything they have within them and more, it could be something that sets your program apart from the rest in the eyes of your recruits.  

The soccer team I was coaching before I read the book was 9-6-3 that fall season.  I was then introduced to Clive Woodward’s ways that next winter.  I applied every piece of information I read in that book in the off-season with the team and went from 9-6-3 to 17-3-1 the next season.  It took A LOT of time and effort to implement these ideas, but the results we got were amazing.   Not only was the team excited and committed to the direction the program was headed, and with the experience they were having, the recruits we brought in during that time were pretty impressed as well.  I signed my top 6 recruits that fall!   

Take the time to do this coach with your staff and team.  It will take some work and patience, but you will reap the benefits from this simple exercise for years to come.  

Mandy Green has been a College Soccer Coach for more than 17 years and is the founder of Coaching Productivity Strategies, where she helps coaches develop and discipline their time management. Mandy teaches practical and immediately usable ideas, methods, strategies, and techniques that will help you achieve more, work less, and win more daily work and recruiting battles. When you learn and apply these powerful, practical techniques, you will dramatically improve the quality of your life in every area. To get more awesome collegiate-specific productivity expertise, go to www.mandygreencps.com and opt-in! 

Helping You Evaluate Your Recruiting Phone CallsTuesday, January 12th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When you hear the word evaluation, what goes through your mind?

I have friends, as I’m sure each of you do, who are content with their current position at their place of employment. They’re good people who show up every day, do what’s asked of them, go home, and come back the next day to do it all over again. They’re happy with where they’re at and in many cases are fearful of change.

I’m not one of those people. That’s just not my mindset. I know that I’m going to make mistakes, and I’m okay with that. Now, don’t misinterpret what I just said. While I can accept that I will make mistakes, when one happens, I’m going to get to the bottom of it because I want to know why. I believe that constant evaluation is the only way that I can best serve you, the readers of this newsletter, as well as our clients at Tudor Collegiate Strategies.

So, if you want to get better today at what I believe is a key component of successful recruiting, (phone calls with prospective students) keep reading because I will help you analyze the content of your recruiting calls and determine what you can do better the next time.

When Dan Tudor and I ask our clients about recruiting phone calls we find that they either love them or hate them.

Regardless of which group you fall into, very few admissions counselors adequately evaluate their recruiting calls. Let’s change that.

I’ve developed a list of fifteen questions that will help you build the foundation for effective recruiting phone calls. Many of these can be asked regardless of where the student is at in the college search process.

  1. At some point during the phone call, did you make them feel wanted? I harp on this all the time when I lead an On-Campus Workshop. Successful counselors never forget that it’s not about what they want, but rather the wants and needs of their recruits. Having said that, if your answer to the question was yes, how did you accomplish that?
  1. How much talking did you do vs. them? If you spent a lot of time bragging about different aspects of your school or telling them all the reasons you’re better than school B and C, you risk boring your recruit. Also don’t be shocked if they forget key pieces of information that you discussed during the call.
  1. Did you start the phone call with a weak, non-specific phrase? In the same way that we recommend your letters and emails be original and have a strong opening sentence, the same holds true for your phone call.  Some common phrases that you should avoid include, “I was just calling to see if you had any questions,” and “I’m just calling to follow-up on that stuff I sent you.” Those sound weak and they don’t set-up the rest of your vitally important recruiting call for success.
  1. Did you give them the chance to ask questions? You need to create opportunities in each call that allows your recruit to open up and respond to your questions, as well as ask questions of their own.
  1. Prior to your phone call, did you communicate the call would be happening? If you didn’t and they still answered their phone, understand that you got lucky. If you don’t set up your phone communications with your recruits you’re missing an effective way to get them comfortable with the idea of talking to you.
  1. Did you make them laugh? If you didn’t, research shows that you failed to engage one of the primary ways we connect with each other.
  1. Were you able to get any missing information that you needed? Things like their transcript or other application supplements, parents’ email address, etc.
  1. Did you ask him or her what they view as the next step in the process? This is a big one! When we begin work with an admissions team, one of the first questions that we’re often asked to help with is determining where each of their recruits is at in the recruiting process.  Believe it or not the easiest way to do that is…ask them.
  1. Did you ask them what other colleges and universities they’ve spoken with lately?
  1. Did you tell them why you needed them to come to campus soon? If you did and they indicated that they might be open to that, did you nail down a specific campus visit event or other weekend to do so? And if they’ve already visited, did you ask if they’d be interested in coming back again?
  1. Were you confident throughout the phone call? Did you sound like you knew what you were talking about, or did you jump around and not finish sentences and thoughts clearly? If you don’t exude confidence and you don’t speak clearly and thoroughly, don’t be surprised if you hear crickets on the other end.
  1. Were you able to come away with talking points for future recruiting calls, letters and emails, or were you trying to multi-task during the phone call? (ex. respond to an email) Details matter! Always give your recruit your undivided attention.
  1. Did you remember to send a follow up email or text message to your recruit after you talked to them? The vast majority of your recruits tell us that they wonder if you “liked” them after the call, and would love to hear feedback from you.  Oh, and if you’re going to text them remember there are rules you should follow.
  1. Did you tell them what’s coming next? Where will the next communication come from? Should they be watching for a letter, an email or something else? You need to tie it all together for your recruit.
  1. If you’re at the point in the process where they’ve visited campus and have applied and been accepted, did you “ask for the sale?” Most counselors would answer “no” to that question, so don’t stress. Just realize that more prospective students than you might think want the process over and done with at that point. Students that we conduct focus groups with consistently say that when a school asks them for a commitment, it signals to them there’s no doubt that they’re “wanted.” Beyond that, asking for a commitment will give you an indication of where the recruit stands in their decision-making process.

That’s a list of fifteen common things that we would love to see more counselors talk about with their recruits. Why?  If a counselor covers each area that I just listed, it almost guarantees that they will be the most interesting admissions representative that the student is speaking with.

Regular evaluation is an invaluable tool to improve your communication skill set. You now have a research-based checklist to work from as you get ready for your next round of phone calls.

Questions? I’m just an email away at jeremy@dantudor.com

What Gets Measured Gets ImprovedMonday, January 11th, 2016

by Mandy Green, Coaching Productivity Strategies

You have probably heard this saying before, “what gets measured, gets improved”.  You probably even use stats a lot depending on your sport.

For example, if you are a golfer, you track your golf scores. You track the pitch of the Golf course, what club you need to use, and the direction and speed of the wind all factor into your decision to get that little white ball go where you want it to go.   Many different factors play into a golf score, and the one who has paid the closest attention to the details has a better score than the one who just goes out and randomly whacks at the ball.

Tracking is also one of business’s best practices. Really great businesses track all of their important metrics (leads, closes, sales numbers, etc.) so they know where their time and resources are best spent.

For coaches, I think that we all can do a better job of tracking our recruiting numbers.

This year, I am really going to make sure that I know where my time and resources are best being spent with our recruiting by keeping track of my numbers more.

For example, I am going to do a better job of keeping track of my numbers from each of the tournaments that I am recruiting at.  I don’t have an endless budget to work with so we really have to be strategic about where we go and when.

We have just been going to tournaments that we think we’re getting good results from, but we can’t say for sure because we haven’t been tracking the numbers.

These are some of the numbers we are going to start doing a better job keeping track of:

  1. How many recruits are we identifying?
  2. How many are writing to us in advance of the tournament?  How many of them turn out to be good enough for what we need?
  3. How many coaches are being called?
  4. How many emails are being sent out?
  5. Which emails we’re sending out and what are the responses like?
  6. How many get to our online questionnaire?
  7. How many are we getting on the phone?
  8. How many are we getting to campus?
  9. How many are we closing?

I will start doing a better job of this for every single tournament we go to.

Another saying that I have heard about measuring or testing is that 1 hour of testing could save you 10.  10 hours saved for me gets me 10 more hours with my kids or 10 more hours building my program in other ways.  It will be well worth it.

I will also be doing this for our recruiting phone calls, our recruiting letters, our social media, our campus visits, etc.

I am going to use these numbers to figure out where I am getting the best ROI of time and resources.  Tournaments, letters, or other tasks that we are not getting a good result from, will either be tossed out or a better way will have to be found.

If you want to see how I am using measuring and tracking with recruiting to be more productive this year, go to www.mandygreencps.com and subscribe to get my Collegiate Productivity Newsletter.  If you have other ways that you have been testing or tracking, I’d love to hear it.  Email me at mandy@mandygreencps.com.

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