Dan Tudor

Join The Newsletter and Stay Up To Date!

Text Size Increase Decrease

Are They Full of Anticipation or Anxiety?Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services


What’s the last thing that you really couldn’t wait for, or that you couldn’t wait to do? Maybe it’s this week’s NACAC Conference in Salt Lake City.

In the Tiers’ household it was something that happened a little over a week ago. My wife and I took our 9-year old daughter to her first concert – Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour. For about the past six weeks our daughter had been counting down the days on a chalkboard in our kitchen and talking about it all the time.

Needless to say it was quite the event. They actually ended up setting the all time attendance record for a concert at Lucas Oil Stadium – 55,729. And while we were driving home after the concert, our daughter told us, “Best day ever!”

Anticipation can really be a powerful thing if you use it correctly while recruiting new students, especially via storytelling. You can create a whole lot of emotions and positive feelings! As I’ve told you many times before, the reason that’s so important is because it’s those same emotions and feelings that most students rely on when they make their college decision.

On the other hand when you create anxiety you can really hurt your chances of getting a student to take any serious action in favor of your school during their college search. By serious action I’m referring to things like visiting campus or completing an application.

Let’s be real, almost every student you’re recruiting right now is feeling some level of anxiety about their college search, some more than others. And I’d also argue that your prospects notice when you communicate with anticipation compared to communicating and recruiting with an attitude of anxiety. All of this means you’re already fighting an uphill battle. The good news is it’s a battle that you can still win.

So, how can you use anticipation to your advantage when you’re recruiting? I’ll get to that in just a second. First, let me add that when admissions professionals communicate and recruit with anxiety, they hesitate and they second-guess themselves. I’ve seen it firsthand many times. They also end up giving up much earlier on those students they don’t seem to have a chance at landing. Please take a second and really think about what I just said as it applies to your daily interactions and conversations.

Now, on to four easy concepts that you should incorporate as part of your regular recruiting strategy:

  • Start by looking at the tone of your messaging. There are two different tones that Dan (Tudor) and I see being used all the time, neither of which is usually effective. First, some schools are too “sanitized,” meaning they rattle off a laundry list of statistics about their college and facts about their campus. All of that is too detached and too unemotional to make a connection with most young people. Secondly, you don’t want a constant tone of pressure (i.e. visit or apply every single time) or anxiety. I encourage you to review your recruiting materials and define if and how they build anticipation (and if they don’t, work on changing them).
  • Prospective students will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with your previous message. This is a foundational strategy that we use when we create our clients’ monthly recruiting message campaigns. Your emails and letters should be ongoing and sequential. Whenever possible they should set up the next message. Too many communication plans that I’m asked to review contain singular messages for different people that try to cram every key point about a certain topic into one email or letter. The result is something that feels pieced together, is way too long, and overwhelms and/or bores the reader.
  • Ask yourself, “What can I get them to anticipate next?” If you’ve had me on campus to lead a workshop before then you know how important it is at this time of the year, for example, to have the flow of the recruiting process move as quickly and as efficiently as possible toward securing a campus visit. So, ask yourself, how would we want to have a prospective student anticipate the campus visit? I can tell you that one effective way is to focus on selling the idea of meeting and interacting with your current students; or sitting down face to face with a professor or Dean in the student’s academic area of interest (and preferably one that they could actually be taught by); or having a 1-on-1 meeting with someone to introduce and outline the key parts of the financial aid process. It could be anything that’s a logical next step in the process. The key question is, “What are you getting them to anticipate next?”
  • Prospective students will anticipate talking to you if you exceed their expectations. Too often admissions counselors jeopardize future interactions and conversations with a prospect when they fall back on the same tired, boring, run-of-the-mill conversation points that students tell us they dread: “How was school this week?”, “Do you have any big plans this weekend?”, “How’s your college search going?”…you get the picture. When you have a one-on-one conversation with any prospective student, you need to have a plan to engage them and keep their attention. Much of that begins and ends with the types of questions that you ask. Whatever you choose to discuss with them, make sure you’re consistently being helpful and doing your best to create excitement and anticipation.

Good luck, and thanks for taking the time to read my latest article. I really appreciate it!

Tiger Woods’ Comeback & Your Recruiting StorySunday, September 23rd, 2018

On the night Tiger Woods won his first tournament in five long years, following his very public personal setbacks and injuries, I was at the airport.

Every television was tuned to his final few holes, and crowds of people were clogging the aisles, gathered around to watch Tiger finish off his comeback.


Tiger Woods has won before, no big deal there. I seriously doubt every person watching was an avid follower of the PGA. So why all the interest in Tiger Woods winning (another) golf tournament?

Because of the story.

Because when it comes right down to it, we’re a sucker for great stories. And it seems like all of us are in agreement that Tiger’s comeback is a great story. But what exactly makes his story such an interesting one? Some of the same things that absolutely terrify college coaches when they’re faced with telling those parts of their stories to recruits.

Here are some examples:

The rise. Was there anything more awe-inspiring and exciting than watching Tiger Woods absolutely dominate professional golf in those first few years? We were watching him redefine the game, and add a glitz and glamour to the game that hadn’t been seen before.

Now, granted: For college coaches, the rise is probably the easiest to talk about with their recruits. But what I often see, in the language and approach that a coach who is leading his or her program to new heights, is humility that is almost crippling. The same “work-hard-but-don’t-call-attention-to-myself” approach to life that fueled you to greatness when you were an athlete is, ironically, now handcuffing your efforts to parlay that rise into better recruiting results.

There is a time to clearly state why you are a program that should be a destination for prospects, and why they should want to be there. Confidently, unapologetically, and enthusiastically. Don’t aw-shucks your way through your program’s rise. Talk about it, and let your prospect feel the energy of everything that’s going on in your program. That’s what drew us to Tigers’ rise, and that’s what is going to attract your recruits to your story, as well.

The struggle. Remember when Tiger started to slip a little? By then, aside from die-hard Tiger fans, we were getting a little tired of all the winning. In fact, there were plenty of stories at the time of other golfers (and fans, and the media) who were actually a little excited about him slipping a little and starting to struggle.

When college coaches and their programs struggle, or slip a little bit in their performance, you need to answer the question that we were asking about Tiger when he was struggling: “What’s going on?”

More than nine out of ten coaches I talk to would want to shy away from answering that question for a prospect, hoping that it gets overlooked in their decision making. It doesn’t. The only difference between what’s going on with them compared to Tiger’s is that we had non-stop 24/7 news coverage about his struggles, so it was easy to have the conversation. Your recruits, in case you haven’t noticed, tend not to spill out their every concern and question about you and your program – especially during your struggles.

My recommendation: Identify the struggle, lead with it in your conversations with your recruits, and explain it. As we talk about frequently during our on-campus recruiting workshops, it is your job as their recruiter to tell them how to think about something related to you, your program, or your college. They don’t have SportsCenter to explain it to them and offer in-depth analysis; they’re left with their own thoughts, which frequently don’t give you much slack in trying to come up with a logical reason you’re struggling. Fill that gap for them, Coach.

The fall. Your worst finish in the last ten years. You just took over a program after the last coach was fired. Your athletic department just dropped two sports. Five of your upperclassmen just quit the team, and their opinionated parents are talking to the media about why their sons or daughters decided to jump your sinking ship (spoiler alert: They usually pin the blame on you, Coach).

True, on the scale of public humiliation, it’s not stories of your spouse chasing you down the driveway with a golf club smashing the daylights out of your car before filing for divorce as you’re in the middle of a substance abuse problem…but in your world, it’s still feeling pretty awful.

What do you do? Most coaches get back to putting their head down, and working hard, never addressing the fall. Or, worse, they come up with lame excuses that recruits and their parents see through.

Just like during the struggle, it’s my strong advice that you acknowledge the fall, dissect what went wrong, and then explain your vision for how you see your prospect being a part of the comeback. That’s what they’re looking for, Coach…a reason to say yes. If you don’t give it to them, their own reasons to say no usually speak to loudly for them to take the risk and sign-on to your rebuilding effort.

(A quick note on these last two phases of a great story: First, very few great stories don’t include a struggle and a fall. Unfortunately, years of Hollywood movies have conditioned us to look for those elements in a good story. So, they’re necessary. Don’t bemoan the fact that you’re going through a struggle and/or fall; instead, embrace it! You’re about to be able to tell a great story for your recruits).

The comeback. Why was everyone gathered around airport televisions during Tiger’s final round that I described earlier? It helped complete the story. We all knew the first three parts of the story, but we were missing the end. Ever have to leave a movie unexpectedly 3/4 of the way through it? It feels like you got ripped off…you were sitting through the struggle and fall in order to get to the comeback. We’re a society addicted to comebacks.

Your recruits are, too. They want to be a part of one, but you have to explain why they should want that. And, you have to tell the story of how they fit into your overall plan for accomplishing it. That’s how you get good athletes to say to yes to playing for bad programs: They have bought in to the story. But you absolutely have to start telling it, Coach. With enthusiasm, confidence, and urgency.

We now know the latest chapter in Tiger Woods’ story. What are your recruits waiting to hear from you so they fully understand your story, Coach?


Increasing the Value of Your Coaching, and Why You Should Do It ASAPSunday, September 23rd, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

If you want to make our world a better place, there are few ways more powerful than being a coach. – Dr. Jim Knight

Sport coaches are a dime-a-dozen.

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

The truth lies in the fact there are many, many coaches in the world, at least 3 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 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 litter, 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.

As dumpy as that store was, it had value.

A simple little value equation …

I get it, a term like value can cause eyes to glaze over, yet if you don’t have value as a coach you won’t make an impact.

So, what is your coaching value? A little simple math can help:

coaching value = solution + cost + quality

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 …

Your athletes problem, combined with your solution as a college coach, is your coaching value.

Now hold that thought for just a minute.

Why you should care about your coaching value

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?

Here’s how you increase your coaching value.

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 themselves):

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 websiteabout 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 millions of coaches out there …

What’s the next step is your coaching-value journey?

Let’s put a nice wrapper and ribbon around this 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, the dynamics of the market, the competition for the jobs.
  • The first and most important step for increasing 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.

Let the journey to richer coaching value begin.

Keep Reading

A College Coach’s Keys to ProductivitySunday, September 23rd, 2018

by Mandy Green, Busy Coach

As we are almost 2 months into the fall competitive seasons and 1 month into school, I wanted to send you a few friendly reminders about how you can completely change the energy that you bring to everything you do as you are trying to finish this fall out strong.

You might be asking, “Why is Mandy talking about my energy levels again?” For me, managing my energy levels really has been key to my productivity and getting things done.  If you want a great book on the subject, read the book The Power of Full Engagement, by Tony Schwartz.

How is your health these days? Can you wake up before your alarm and do what’s important, handle all the demands of the day, and put out the inevitable fires, all without ending the day exhausted and out of breath?

It’s a fact that the state of your health and fitness is a huge factor in your energy and success levels— especially for coaches. Doing what’s required to keep your team performing at a high level while staying on top of the whole recruiting process requires a ton of energy.

Like the athletes in the sport you are coaching, as a coach, you need an almost endless supply of energy and stamina.   To do all those practices, be constantly prospecting for new recruits, and ensuring each and every student athlete is having a good experience and staying on course to graduate can be exhausting. If you are overweight, out of shape, and constantly out of breath, setting bigger and bigger career, recruiting, or team goals is, in my opinion, a recipe for disaster.

The great news is that this is completely within your control! Here are three practices of top performers that you can use to ensure that your health, fitness, and energy levels fully support your program, recruiting and career goals and objectives:

Eat and drink to win. Put very simply, everything you ingest either contributes to your health or detracts from it. Drinking water puts a check in the plus column; 8 cans of Mountain Dew everyday probably won’t. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables equals more plusses. Rolling through the drive-through to wolf down some fast food, not so much. I know you know the drill. This isn’t rocket science, but you do need to stop fooling yourself. Become aware of what you’re eating and how it’s affecting your performance as a coach or recruiter.  If you are interested in really seeing how your eating is actually affecting your performance, check out my new Tracking Journal

Sleep to win. Getting enough rest is as critical to coaching performance as what you do or don’t have in your diet. A good night’s sleep provides the basis for a day of peak performance, clear thought, and recruiting calls after successful practices. You probably already know how many hours you need to be at your best. Reverse engineer your schedule so you are asleep in plenty of time to get all of the rest you need to perform at your best.

Exercise to win. It is no coincidence that you rarely see top performers who are terribly out of shape. Most invest 30– 60 minutes of their time each day to hit the gym or the running trail because they understand the importance that daily exercise plays in their success.  I try to start the day with 5– 10 minutes of exercise or yoga, I also recommended that you engage in 30– 60 minute workouts at least 3– 5 times per week. Doing so will ensure that your fitness level supports the energy and confidence you need to succeed in this profession. 

If you are interested in seeing how your food, exercise, and sleep really are affecting your performance, you can do that by using my energy tracking forms

In these energy tracking forms, you just keep track of some very simple information: 

· Write down how much sleep you get. 

· What you eat for each meal. 

· How much water you drank. 

· What exercise you got for the day. 

· Pay attention to how your energy is throughout the day and record it on the tracking pages. 

· Then at the end of each day, make not of what went well and what you could do better. 

Based on the information you collect and the results that you get, you need to keep adjusting and tweaking until you find the right amount of sleep, food, water, and exercise that will get your energy to the level you need to be at to perform at your best day in and day out.

What You Should Do With All Those New NamesTuesday, September 18th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services


As your admissions team navigates through college fairs and high school visits, I’m sure everyone has been accumulating plenty of new names to add to your database. Once those leads are inputted, now what? How are you going to get those students excited enough to visit campus or start filling out your application?

That early impression, specifically the first one you make with name buys or new inquiries, or the initial follow-up you have with new students after a college fair or school visit, is something you don’t get a second chance to make. How are you going to build excitement or build on the excitement you’ve generated and begin creating those feelings that convince students to take the next step in the process with your school?

Our ongoing focus group research continues to show that students are looking to see who contacts them consistently early in their college search process. And, just to be clear, I’m not talking about sending a bunch of marketing materials to them over those first few weeks. I’m talking about personalized, helpful, and easy to digest communications that clearly show them they’re important and that you understand this process is about them. In their minds, this is a strong indicator of just how serious you and your school are about them.

Here are some ideas that I urge you to consider if you want to make all those new names count:

  • Deliver that first communication right away. There needs to be a clear strategy in place as to how those new names will make their way into your CRM quickly, even when you’re on the road. If that’s something you’re struggling with, or if the strategy in your office isn’t clear, I encourage you to talk to your supervisor immediately. Sending a prospective student that first communication in a timely fashion is extremely important. I’ve previously discussed who the first contact piece should come from and what kind of communication that first one should be. If you missed that article or you need a quick refresher, click this link.
  • Limit the selling. This one isn’t a new idea, but rather a reminder. Take it easy on all of the info, numbers, and statistics about your school. Our research shows that most students aren’t interested in being “sold” on your school right away. In fact, you can’t realistically do that in a first email, letter, or phone call, so don’t try. The goal of your first contact or two should be to get the student to engage with you, to find out as much as possible about the students’ wants and needs, and to learn how they see themselves going through the college search process.
  • Tell them what you like about them (be specific). It might surprise you, but this is one of the top things that prospective students want to know right away. It’s also something that your competition probably isn’t doing, so you’ll stand out. Why do you think your school is a good fit for them? How will your school help them transition smoothly both academically and socially? And how can your school help prepare them for success after graduation? Those are some of the questions that you need to answer early on.
  • Plan to stay consistent. Make sure you’re communicating foundational, logical facts every six to nine days through a variety of communication methods. That’s what our ongoing focus group research says most students want in terms of frequency. Our research also indicates that when a prospective student sees ongoing, regular contact from you, not only do they engage with the messaging on a more regular basis, but they also make the judgment that your school has a greater interest in them and values them more.
  • Address that other 4-letter F word. I would argue that fear drives just about every decision that students make during their college search. One of their biggest fears is making the wrong decision…there are others. I want you to create a discussion around this topic and then help them come up with a plan to alleviate their fear. Do that, and you’ll win their trust and in turn gain a major advantage on your competition who doesn’t believe this topic is important or doesn’t know how to address it.
  • Come up with a list of better questions. Knowing that prospective students are nervous or in many cases scared to have a conversation with you, especially early on, the kinds of questions you ask are extremely important. Questions like “What are you looking for in a college?” are fine, but they’re also probably going to get you a vanilla, untrue answer much of the time. Instead, ask them to walk you through how they’re going to make their college decision, or ask them what are two or three must-haves that they need to see in their future college. The better the questions, the greater chance you have of connecting with your prospect, understanding their mindset, and ultimately coming up with a strategy to successfully recruit them.
  • Create curiosity. We frequently remind our clients about the importance of crafting emails or ending a phone call with unanswered questions, especially early in the process. You want to create curiosity and prompt them to want more interaction from you…something that makes them want to go to the next step in their communication with you. (Hint: Creating curiosity is done by giving less information, not more).
  • Start a conversation with their parents immediately. Establish early contact with the parents, and through consistent communication, work to establish that same emotional connection with them. Make it clear that your goal is to help make this entire process easier for their family. If you do, what you’ll find is they’re happy to provide you with useful information, and more importantly, they will look at you as the person that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner.

As I said earlier, communication with new prospects and inquiries (and parents) should result in one thing at the start of the recruiting process – a response. I want you to do everything you can during the early stages to create an environment where students feel comfortable enough to communicate back and forth with you.

If you’d like to talk about this article further, or if feel like you’re off to a slow start with this next class, I’m happy to help. Reply back and let’s start a conversation.

On Being a “Reasonable” CoachMonday, September 17th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

[This is an update to a post from 2013 and is not intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as so. It is only meant to introduce a concept to coaches.]

Take a situation.

What would a reasonable person do?

What would a reasonable person think about that situation?

What action would a reasonable person take?

What is a reasonable person?

A “reasonable person” is defined as “a hypothetical person in society who exercises average care, skill, and judgment in conduct and who serves as a comparative standard for determining liability.”

That straight from Wikipedia.

Does being reasonable matter for you, Coach?

What a reasonable person would do is a standard used more-and-more to measure whether a person’s (and a coach’s) actions were appropriate, or not.

For example, imagine a rowing coach walking to the dock, looking out upon the river, and seeing nothing but a heavy blanket of fog.

Should the coach venture out into the “pea soup” to practice?

Or, should the coach decide to stay on shore and have the team do their workout off the water?

What would a reasonable person do?

Let’s say the team did launch their boats and row in the fog.

Then something terrible were to happen related to it being foggy.

How a reasonable person would have acted could make a difference if the incident becomes a legal issue.

Hard coaching decisions and being a reasonable person

Let’s take a different example—you are coaching high-school football.

It’s the fourth quarter.

Big game—championship game.

Your star tight-end takes a heavy hit to the head.

It’s pretty obvious the collision has taken a toll on him.

What do you do?

Do you sit him? Do you play him?

There are college coaches in the stands specifically watching him.

They might decide his fate in terms of the scholarship to Wicked-Big State U.

Tick-tock…what’s your decision?

Unfortunately, you are both physically and emotionally engaged in the situation and often it’s hard to act reasonably.

In the heat of a contest the focus we have can cloud our decisions.

Can you act like a reasonable person would?

Meet my imaginary friend

I’m not suggesting every decision you make should be filtered through our imaginary friend—that reasonable person.

What I am suggesting though is that when facing a coaching decision that could have serious repercussions, as a baseline, you MUST consider what a reasonable person would do.

And if it’s too difficult to do that, then you must find a real reasonable person to help you with the decision.

Let’s go back to the previous football example.

It’s been determined that it is too difficult, because of the pressure and emotion of such a situation, for a coach to decide like a reasonable person. So another person, someone more skilled, like a trained athletic trainer or physician, now makes that decision about the player returning.

So where do you go from here?

Again, this is not intended to be legal advice. But you need to know about the reasonable-person standard.

As the job of coaching sports continues to get more challenging, thinking and acting as a reasonable person could keep you out of hot water.

Improve your decisions.

Actually make coaching a little more enjoyable.

Keep learning

An Exit Plan Today Will Make You a Better Coach TomorrowTuesday, September 11th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

Jack is in line at the supermarket, waiting to pay for his bananas. He knows exactly what he is going to do as soon as he gets his change.

He has a plan.

Barb, a fifth grader, is watching the clock slowly move toward 3pm.

She has big plans when school is over.

Both Jack and Barb have what is known as an “exit plan.”

They know what they are going to do after they have finished what they are currently doing.

They know “what’s next.”

It amazes me how few coaches do.

You will leave coaching

Sooner or later every coach leaves coaching.

You will not be different.

Holding a pink slip after the first year, or with a gold-plated wristwatch after 45 years, or somewhere in between—we all leave.

Right now…just down the hall…or up the street is a coach who is getting ready to move on.

But to what?

I’ve worked with hundreds of coaches and I’ve asked many what they would do next if they were to leave their current job.

Very few knew.

Leaving on your mind

It is hard to dwell on leaving, especially if you’ve had to fight hard to get the job.

However, having leaving-on-your-mind, specifically, having an exit plan—can help you be a better coach.

It sure did me

Before I left my first coaching job I had an exit plan.

The plan was to travel to New Zealand and work as a white water raft guide.

And that is exactly what I did.

It was a great experience and one thing that helped make it amazing was that I had my exit plan in hand two years before I used it

How’d that help?

As soon as I knew the plan I starting becoming a better employee and a better coach.

An exit plan can help YOU, right now, to be a better coach. It did me. Here are three ways how.

An exit plan helps you build better relationships

You want to leave your job on good terms, right?

Sure, most people do.

They want to be liked, remembered fondly, and be able to use the employer for a good reference.

Yes, there are few folks who don’t care about those, but they are a small group.

Me? I want to leave on good terms and I bet you do too.

See, that’s one way right there having an exit plan makes you a better coach.

My plan made me realize that the relationships I had at work were critical to my success, so I became better at my end of the relationship.

It is commonly thought that a poor win/loss ratio is why most coaches find themselves out of a job. Not so—relationship issues are the number one reason.

So build positive relationships by doing things like:

  • Helping out your co-coaches and peers.
  • Jazzing up the place with your positive attitude and great work ethic.
  • Being methodical with random acts of kindness.

Do things now to build strong relationships could give your career a boost, and you’ll be a better coach because of it.

Become a student of the game

If you plan to stay in coaching, are you learning as much as you can?

Are you developing skills to take you to the next level?

Not just sport-specific skills but other critical skills such as problem-solving skills, communicating-skills, recruiting-skills.

Let’s say you are currently a college assistant coach, and you have an exit plan to become a head coach.

There is a lot to learn to make that step.

Your exit plan (knowing you want to be a head coach) should motivate you to learn as much as you can. Become a student-of-the-game, a sponge that absorbs as much as possible, and then a little bit more.

  • You learn more, you are a better coach right now.
  • You learn more, you’ll be a better coach tomorrow.
  • You learn more and you’ll be much more likely to keep that next job when you get there.

Two down, one to go …

Leave with grace

How you leave is often remembered more than what you did while you were there.

And your coaching legacy, what you leave behind, is an important part of your coaching career.

That is the third way your exit plan can help you be a better coach—grace in leaving.

Remember I told you about leaving my first coaching job?

My Dad, who had been in business for years gave me great advice he used when he changed jobs—be thankful.

When it was time to leave (according to my exit plan) I made sure that I found everyone at the school who helped me along the way and thanked them.

From bus driver to athletic director, I told them how much I appreciated their help, shook their hand, gave them a card.

How did that make me a better coach?

Well, it made be a better person, and thus a better coach.

See the connection?

To tomorrow and beyond

There is only one guarantee in coaching sports, and that is that one day you will leave the job.

It happens to every single coach.

Your decision or theirs, it doesn’t matter, that day is coming.

Don’t you want to be prepared?

The future is right outside your locker room.

That’s why it’s important you have an exit plan.

Mike Davenport is a thought leader and coaching expert. Through his work with Coaching Sports Today, and Tudor Collegiate Strategies, coaches learn the correct philosophical approach to build a great college coaching career. Contact him at mike@dantudor.com

The Most Confusing Part for Students and ParentsTuesday, September 11th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services


In our focus group surveys throughout the year we ask what one part of the college admissions/college search process was or is the most confusing. The winner by a wide margin, every single, time continues to be financial aid or specifically the FAFSA.

What concerns me is I continue to read and hear stories about colleges and universities waiting until their school’s financial aid packages are distributed before starting a real conversation with families about cost and paying for college.

In addition, more schools are starting to have their admissions counselors be the point people for these conversations, which I believe can be extremely beneficial if done correctly. I phrase it that way because, behind closed doors and via email, some of those same counselors tell me they either don’t receive any real financial aid training, and/or there are parts of that process that they don’t fully understand. Just like financial aid shouldn’t be a one-time conversation with a prospective student/family, one training session on this topic is not nearly enough for those who are tasked to explain it.

I want to help, so today I’m going to share with you some strategies and tips for starting the cost conversation and making the overall financial aid process a little less stressful for the families you’re trying to serve. These are things that I talk about when I lead a staff training workshop and when admissions professionals reach out to me for advice/best practices.

Let me start by giving you some specific financial aid items (I call them pain points) that students have mentioned numerous times in our aforementioned surveys this summer.

  • The paperwork was hard to keep up with (and not the same for every school)
  • Different deadlines
  • Financial aid online vs. on paper
  • FAFSA – My parents are divorced and have split custody. What do we do?
  • Trying to figure out outside scholarships
  • FAFSA verification
  • Different loan options and applying for them
  • How much the actual price of a school really is

All of these things, and more, lead to frustration. And frustration can unfortunately lead students and families to do nothing. As one student said in a survey last month, “FAFSA was too hard so I didn’t fill it out and submit it.”

On to the strategies and tips:

  • Start the conversation early. Let me define what I mean when I say early. For high school freshmen and sophomores, it’s helpful to educate both them and their parents about financial aid processes and terms. Be mindful though that they’re at a different spot in their college search than juniors and seniors are, so don’t overload them with too much information. Instead, focus on things like sticker price versus actual price, especially if you work for a private college and don’t want them to potentially rule you out because of sticker shock. For juniors and seniors the process is becoming more real, but again be mindful of where they’re at in the overall process. Once they’ve shown “demonstrated interest” in your school (ex. they visit campus) I would encourage you to begin the conversation about paying for college. I’ll talk more about how to do that below. For seniors specifically, if you haven’t already brought it up, this needs to happen as soon as possible. Start with the students who rank high on your list or again have shown demonstrated interest in your school. I cannot stress enough how much harder you’ll be making things for yourself if you wait until after your school has sent out financial aid awards to start a real conversation, or you assume that your school’s financial aid staff will handle this for you. Don’t avoid talking about cost because you’re worried it will be uncomfortable and/or lead to an objection. Be proactive because this will lead to a greater comfort level and a lot less questions down the road when you try to convert those admitted students.
  • Start it with the parents. This should always be a parent first or parents together with the student first conversation…not a student first one. That doesn’t mean you can’t touch on things like completing the FAFSA or deadlines with the student. But anything much beyond that should always involve their parents. In most cases, the parents are going to play a significant role in their child’s college decision, so go ahead and make them a valued partner from the beginning. And because this is the biggest financial decision that just about every student has had to make to this point in their young life, most believe this is (and want it to be) a mom and dad conversation anyways.
  • This is NOT a one-time conversation. I would argue it’s not even a two or three times conversation. Because there are so many moving parts with financial aid, I recommend you break things into a bunch of single, easy to digest conversations throughout each student’s search. It’s about educating each family on processes, timelines, and terminology, while also being mindful that some families won’t need as much education. For example, the FAFSA should be a single conversation. So should the “4 buckets” talk.
  • Begin by having the “4 buckets” talk. Every family you’ll deal with falls into one of four financial aid buckets when it comes to paying for college – Parents will be paying for everything; Student will be paying for everything; Parents and student will do some type of split; and some version of, “Our family is so confused by all of this that we have no clue.” As your icebreaker, I want you to ask the parents which bucket sounds most like their family right now. Having that information will be super helpful in allowing you to keep the processing moving forward.
  • Ask the parents what kinds of challenges this process creates for them. That line of questioning is extremely important for the parents of every family you work with. You need to ask questions that allow parents to ask questions and share their challenges, concerns, and fears. You also need to probe and figure out how important a factor cost will be in their families’ decision-making process (and why). Doing these things will allow you to understand what type of family you’re dealing with, meaning some families have the ability to, and will pay more if, they fully understand the value that your school offers. Other families would love to choose your school but may not realistically be able to afford the leftover cost.
  • Help them develop a financial aid timeline. I talk a lot in this newsletter about developing timelines. So many students in our surveys tell us they wish they had a list of next steps specific to financial aid. Sending them a step-by-step checklist that includes key deadlines will make everyone’s lives easier and in many cases make this process more efficient.
  • Explain what the FAFSA is and why it’s important. We both get it, but you might be surprised to learn that in 2018 there are still a large number of students and families who either don’t know what this form really is, and/or why they should not only complete it, but complete it as early as possible after October 1. I encourage you to figure out what they know/don’t know about the FAFSA, and then educate them as much as needed.
  • Explain the difference between scholarship and net price. If I had a dollar for every time I heard about the following situation occurring, I’d be a very wealthy person. A student considering your school looks at your financial aid award letter and compares it to the award letter from school B that they’re also interested in. As part of your school’s award they will receive a $15,000 scholarship. As part of school B’s award they will receive a $19,000 scholarship. However, the net price to attend your school is $4,000 cheaper than school B. Instead of processing that fact, the student (and in some cases their parents) focus on just the scholarship amounts and view school B as the better option and the college that wants them more. This again is where I encourage you to educate the families that you’re working with early in the process so when they receive their award letters they have a better sense for what the actual cost will be.
  • Share examples they can relate to (aka: storytelling). Show/tell the parents and/or the student that they’re not alone when it comes to feeling the way they do about this part of the college search process. Tell them about a similar situation with a family where someone like them succeeded…and how you helped. It’s much easier when they have a current example (or two or three) of someone like them, or someone in a similar situation to theirs, who moved forward with confidence and made the investment in your school…and is loving their decision.
  • Be prepared to provide detailed student outcomes. Building off my last bullet point, you can’t and shouldn’t expect a family to commit to making a greater investment or taking on additional debt unless you can provide detailed examples of the potential return on their investment. Detailed outcomes and alumni stories will help prove your school’s value in easy to understand dollars and sense terms.
  • Continually educate yourself and your colleagues. Just like prior-prior, changes will continue to happen. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the days of college admissions counselors directing all “money” questions to their financial aid office are quickly coming to an end. That means ongoing education on this topic is more important than ever before. In addition to collaborating and cross-training with your school’s financial aid staff, make sure you understand how to navigate your school’s financial aid website, because if you can’t do it, I can guarantee you there will be a bunch of prospective students that won’t be able to either.
  • What is your school’s “value proposition?” This final bullet point is a question that I want you to think about. If I asked you to explain your value prop to me today, could you? How well would you do? I frequently ask this question of college admissions professionals, and too often it’s radio silence. If you want families to make the investment in your school, you need to have a firm grasp of your value prop, part of which is what makes you different from your direct competitors and other schools with a similar profile. I would also tell you that the customer service piece is another part to consider.

Here’s something else I want you to keep in mind. 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. Be okay with that as long as you’ve been transparent and helpful throughout.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this week’s article. If you’ve got a question about it or any other aspect of student recruitment or leadership, I want you to reach out and connect with me.

See you back here next Tuesday!

Are You a Coach Struggling to Reach the Next Level?Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

by Mandy Green, Busy Coach

Coaches work hard to get things done.  We are passionate, persistent, and we are ambitious. 

But, because you are talented at what you do and have high levels of competency, it can sometimes backfire on you. You know what you are supposed to do and you are very good at just going in and doing things.  But what happens over a period of time is that you end up losing where you are at in the space of time and never really progress anywhere.

So let me ask you, even though the new school year has just started, are you where you want to be?  If not, it is time to sit down and actually examine why that is. 

All year long, we’re always examining how our team is doing. If they are off track or if they are falling short, we invite them to come in and meet or watch video.  We will ask questions, gauge their performance, and look at the stats.  Then we have the conversation about where we think they should be at this point in the year.  We’ll say things like “right now I thought you would be just a little bit further on your RBI’s, shot percentage, your goals scored (enter stat here).” 

I think as coaches, we need the same kind of feedback.  If you don’t do it consistently for yourself, who is going to do it?  Your sport administrator is not there every day so this needs to be something you do for yourself.   

Most people do this once a year and it’s usually at New Years.  It is really the only time they are checking in and doing an evaluation of their life. 

It is very important at this time of year to schedule time to get this done.  Take 30 minutes after you are done reading this or schedule it during the week.  Just sit there and think about your career, your job, your life, your kids, your health, your income, your relationships.  Sit down and evaluate where you are at in the context of what you thought you could build or become this year.  Really be honest with yourself and check in.

Coach, are you struggling to reach the next level because you are too busy scheduling to-do’s and tactics and not spending enough time doing a quick check-in on your progress?

The level of success you reach this next year is your responsibility.  If a progress check is not on your calendar, I believe you are leaving your progress to chance.  When things are left to chance, neglect and distraction will set in. Never leave your own success to chance.   

Do a quick 30-minute check-in every 90-120 days.  Based on what you find, use the information to tweak, eliminate what isn’t working, and improve whatever you can. 

Over the next year, my goal is to get as many coaches in the game of making and focusing on progress over busyness.  I want to revolutionize how coaches are working in the office because I believe how most coaches are working, are not working.

Want to join the ranks of college coaches who are using the proprietary techniques and strategies of Coach Green to organize and structure your office and approach? Contact her directly at mandy@dantudor.com

Build a Brand Message Your Recruits Will Connect WithMonday, September 10th, 2018

You and I, just like the teenage prospects that you are recruiting, love to align themselves with good brands.

Coaches talk to me all the time about the idea of establishing their own unique brand, and telling the story that’s effective in the eyes of their recruiting audience. It’s hard to do, but they know it’s important, and so they make every effort to tell a great brand story, and to develop a unique overall brand message that differentiates their program from their competitors

In the world of Internet travel resources, TripAdvisor is a great brand. I myself use their rating system and reviews for hotels I’m considering, and I often look up fun things to do on family vacations if we’re in an area for the first time. TripAdvisor is one of our go to resources, as it is for many people.

I even have an added reason to align myself with trip advisor: Our favorite local burger place here in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Al’s Burger Shack, just got named by TripAdvisor as having the best hamburger in America, according to an average of all the reviews of their hamburgers compared to other restaurants around the country.

And yet, I would never even think for a second of buying this TripAdvisor coffee mug that was advertised prominently inside of a Charlotte International Airport gift shop.

It’s odd, out of place, and probably is being featured just because somebody in the corporate office at TripAdvisor figured it was good to put their brand name on some sort of items that the general public might want take with them on their way to the next flight. Except that’s not what the general public is usually looking for when they are on their way to their next flight. Honestly, I can’t think of any compelling reason anyone would want to buy a TripAdvisor coffee mug.

So, what does and oddly placed Internet travel website coffee mug have to do with recruiting, and your college marketing message efforts?

Glad you asked. It’s largely up to you to define your brand to your recruiting class. When it comes to branding, which every coach these days seems to be concerned about, I want to offer up some advice  to follow when you and your staff are trying to craft your brand message for your next batch of potential recruits:

Decide what you are, and what you aren’t. And when you do that, be specific and as discriminating as possible. By ‘discriminating’ I mean this: Define some things that would potentially turn prospective student athletes off of your program, essentially explaining who isn’t right for you as a coach and for your program. There are things that aren’t right for every prospect on your campus. The more you explain what those things are, along with the aspects of the college or your program that would be right for recruits, you’ll begin to establish the basis for a good, solid brand a message that stands out when compared to other programs who are trying to get the same attention of the same prospect.

Making an outrageous claim, and then work to prove it to your prospect. If you want a good example of  being on the edge when it comes to ideas of brand development that really become successful in the marketplace, grab a copy of the outstanding book, Marketing Outrageously. You’ll know it when you see it, because it’s the one of a with a picture of the sumo wrestler dunking a basketball on the cover. It’s the story Joel Spoelstra, the man in charge of season ticket sales and marketing for the lowly New Jersey Nets of the NBA many years ago. He describes how the used outrageously creative branding and marketing ideas to go from the bottom of the pack in season ticket sales, to the top team that was getting sellouts every night – even when their team was still really bad on the court.  He describes the mandate he gave to his marketing staff when it came to creative ideas they would use to market their brand: It has to be an idea so out rages and on the edge, that eventually they would say to themselves “I’m not sure if the owner will let us do that“. That, he said, was when he knew they were getting close to a great idea that would actually work. For most college coaches, they could use a dose of outrageous, creative, one of a kind marketing and branding ideas that set them selves apart and really define their program in a compelling way to recruits.

How are you different than everyone else they’re looking at? For a detailed explanation on this important point in the branding process, listen to this recent podcast episode we did on the topic. In summary, it’s vital that you explain why you were different then other programs they were also looking at. Because of that short timeline that I just mentioned in the previous point, they are trying to assess differences, and whittle their list down as quickly and as efficiently as possible, the best they know how. Understanding who’s different, and why, is one of the big ways they do that. Like I said, we go into a lot of detail on that topic in the podcast episode. Devote a few minutes of your day listening to it if you have the time. (Listen on iTunesGoogle Play, or Sticher)

Branding with out measurable action is worthless. The one difference between you and the marketers at Ford, Kellogg‘s, or TripAdvisor, is that you don’t have a long time to let your brand image sink in for most recruiting classes. You have a 6 to 18 month window, in most cases, to attract the attention of your retreat through whatever branding message you choose to put forward. That means you are aiming for them to become a buyer in one to two years, tops,  like many companies do. You need action quickly. So, your branding message should consistently be asking for action on the part of your prospect. That interaction, coupled with the introduction of the brand that is justifying why they should take action, because its is the ‘secret sauce’ that a select few coaches have discovered is one of the secrets to attracting good recruits on a consistent basis.

Branding is your responsibility, Coach. The faster you establish you brand, and then go about the daily business of putting that message in front of recruits, the faster you’ll see your prospects being able to define who you are, and what your team is all about.

  • Not a member? Click here to signup.