Breaking up is hard to do, as the saying goes.
Especially for college coaches.
We’ve worked with coaches who feel heart-broken about having to tell a recruit that they’re no longer interested. Some coaches avoid the discussion all together, and just stop communicating with a recruit. A handful of coaches I’ve met even feel obliged to follow through with an offer if the athlete stays in touch and continues to show interest, even if the coach now feels that he or she isn’t going to perform at the same level they did when the coach originally recruited them.
Many times, stopping the recruiting process is also a matter of strategy: A coach knows that if they end the recruiting process incorrectly, they might risk offending a coach, the parents or the recruit – all of whom may have influence over other recruits in the future.
Like I said, breaking-up is hard to do.
That being said, we’ve seen a few very effective ways to do it. And since letting a prospect go is something that happens year around, I wanted to pass along some of the best strategies that have worked for other coaches. Specifically, there are key phrases and ideas that we’ve seen work best over the years. This way your recruits understand why you are ending the process, and what you see as the positives in the situation:
- Explain why you’ve made the decision, with lots of detail. Tell them exactly why, based on your plan, they aren’t going to be a good fit for your program. The more details, the better. It tells them that they mattered to you, and that’s the best way to lessen the blow. We have had consistent focus-group research that tells us coaches who explain their reasoning, and base it on athletic facts and reasoning, will win out over emotion as they formulate a reaction to the news. So, the key phrases we would recommend including in your messaging would include “I want to tell you exactly why my staff and I came to this decision”, as well as, “When we looked at your strengths as a player, we just figured out that it wouldn’t be fair to bring you in and not utilize some of your strongest skill sets here.” Remember, lots of detail and an honest explanation. That’s goal number one.
- Point them in the right direction. Another important aspect of an effective ending conversation is to tell them what you’d recommend they do next: Suggest the right kind of conference, a coach you know…something that tells them they really can play at the next level, and that “based on your experience as a college coach”, you’d recommend a specific next step in the process for them. It’s an incredibly powerful way to end your relationship with a positive, action-oriented plan.
- Write a letter. Explain yourself, and include some of the details that you included in your original conversation. Why a letter? It’s powerful, and it has staying power. Your prospect may not like your final decision, but a professional and personalized letter will – in time – show respect for the fact that you were honest with them and took the time to explain the reasoning behind your decision. In addition, the letter will get shared…with other parents, other recruits, and coaches that you want to maintain good relationships with – for months and years to come. Paper is powerful. (By the way, if you’re a client, please consult us and have us help you create the right communication plan for your specific situation, and help construct the right content for the message).
Is this an exhaustive list? No. But it does contain three elements that we’ve seen be the most effective when it came to ending the recruiting process and ensuring the best possible results when it came to how prospects and their parents (and coaches!) reacted to the end of the process. We highly recommend these three strategies when you reach the decision to no longer recruit one of your prospects.
Looking for more information and research, but aren’t quite ready to have us work with you one-on-one? There are a variety of free and low-cost recruiting resources we’ve developed specifically for college coaches. Click here to find out more.