A few weeks ago at an On-Campus Workshop I was conducting for an athletic department, it happened again.
A coach that I was speaking with had way too much modesty for his own good. He was the nicest, most humble person you’d ever want to meet. However, from a recruiting standpoint, it could be making a hard task even harder.
Why? Because your prospects are trying to get to know their potential coaches. They are trying to understand whether you want them or not. And they are trying to formulate the beginnings of a relationship with you.
And when a coach is reserved, quiet, and – yes – even a little too humble, it makes it hard for a recruit to get a good “read” on who you are and, more importantly, whether or not you’re excited about the prospect of them competing for you.
It all illustrates a hard, cold fact of life for coaches that they need to understand about this generation of teenage prospects: Our reasearch shows that one of the two major factors in how they decide if a college is right for them is their view – and their relationship – with the coach at that school. Take the coach out of the equation, and suddenly the college isn’t viewed in the same light as it once was.
Agree with me so far? Good. Now that I’ve established this nearly universal truth about today’s college prospect, here’s the bad news for a lot of you that are reading this:
The letters, emails and other printed material you send a prospect barely reference you.
I’m serious, Coach: What percentage of your mailings talk about you as a coach? What you are like as a person? What your coaching philosophy is? What your plan for them is? What you’d like them to do next in the process?
When we begin working with a college coach and their program as one of our Total Recruiting Solution clients, one of the first things we do is to establish the coach as the person that is going to be the main attraction to the program. Sometimes, college coaches are uncomfortable with the idea of not being modest. I try to make the best case I can for them to get past that feeling.
If it were all about the school, logic would dictate that a coach could leave and the recruits wouldn’t care one bit. But that doesn’t happen: When a college coach leaves, it causes the recruit to reconsider.
So, how should you put yourself in the spotlight more effectively? Here are some ideas that we’ve found to work well for our clients:
Make all of your messages centered around you. As you lay out all of the nice facts about your school, make sure the conversation comes back to you. Never assume that the school or your program is going to sell the recruit on coming to your campus.
Talk about the personal side of you along with the professional side of you. Yes, your impressive win totals count, as do your Coach of the Year awards. But your prospect is looking for more than that…they want to know the person behind the whistle. Learn ways to reveal the real you to your recruits.
Unveil your screw-ups. Your prospects know you’re not perfect. Don’t be afraid to talk about the mistakes you’ve made, and what you learned from them. In our workbooks for college recruiters, we make the point that this is one of the best techniques for breaking down walls that might exist between you and your recruit.
Invest in your Twitter presence daily. It’s an incredible social networking tool that is paying off for the coaches that are using it to build a following. Twitter is free, it’s easy and it’s a great way to reveal the real you to your recruits (and your fans, and your boosters, and other coaches and Athletic Directors that might be looking to hire you). It’s important that you maintain consistency, which means posting daily, and making sure that you share things that show your recruits the personality of your team and your program.
Create a fan page on Facebook and Instagram. If you don’t have one yet, this is a prime opportunity to showcase your team and update your recruits on what’s going on with you and your program using the most popular communication tool in the world. This can be one way communication out to a group that broadcasts the daily pulse of you and your program. While you’re at it, you need to make sure you’re on Instagram, as well. Especially if you coach a women’s team, but increasingly for male recruits as well.
Write a blog. The benefits are too many to count. If you want more ideas on what makes a great blog, and how to get started, click here for a popular article on the topic that we wrote a few years ago on the power of this under-used medium.
Make it all about the conversation. All of your communication should focus on building the relationship between you and the prospect. Not the school and the prospect, you and your prospect. Everything you send out should prompt them to feel more connected with you.
Here’s the bottom line, Coach:
Whether you’re a Division III softball coach that only won three games last season, or a Division I coach that we see interviewed regularly on ESPN, the facts remain the same: Your prospects are going to pick the program who has the coach they feel most connected to.
Still don’t believe me? Just ask one of the dozens of recently de-committed prospects who are searching for a new coach they feel connected to…they’ll back me up on what I’m saying.