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April 21st, 2014

I’m Going To Lose, And So Are You

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

It is going to happen.

The odds of either of us being undefeated are wicked small. Yet, I bet you plan on winning, focus on winning, seldom talking about “that other” outcome. I do the same, because we are an optimistic lot, us coaches.

But we need to think about losing, not for the team’s sake, but for our own sake. We need a plan for when (not if, but when) losing happens.

Here’s the deal … coaching is emotional and stressful. Some researchers have found coaches go through a heavy load of stress during a contest. When the contest is evenly matched, and the expectation of winning is great, the heavier is the impact of losing upon the coach.

We coach in a world where the winner gets the spoils, and the losers suffer, and that can be really tough on coaches. The moment the contest is over, there you stand, full of the emotion of the event, and what do you do? Me? I spent the first five years of coaching throwing up. That was a wonderful experience.

But I’ve learned my lesson, and for the last 28 years of coaching the following are what I do when I lose.

The split second an event ends and I’ve lost …


I breathe in to a 4-count, and exhale to a 1-count. Seriously, it just ended, and I’m breathing. And so should you.

Why? Focused breathing has a positive reduction-effect on stress hormones. So it reduces immediate stress. It also distracts me for a few seconds and brings me back to center.

Try it right now. Just stop for 30 seconds and breathe. 4-count in, 1-count out. There is a benefit to it. I haven’t lied to you yet, and I’m not going to start now.

Then, within minutes after losing I   …


I thank the opposition. Often contests are set up so the moment it ends teams shake hands. I do more than the shake, I thank them. For what? Making me a better person.

For the lead up to the contest, I and the team have worked on improvement, becoming better at what we do and who we are. That’s all because of the competition. So I am thankful for that opportunity. Thankful for them. I tell them, and I mean it.

Within 5 minutes of losing I …


Everyone is starring in their own movie. Meaning, my team’s fans, parents, and opposition are thinking about themselves, not me. I lost, and the person who cares the most is … me. The same for you. It is your movie, after all.

So, if it is all about me, I change the movie.

I try to find quick perspective of the importance of the event. There are so many huge, important, things happening in the World, the outcome of my collegiate event isn’t even on the Richter scale. Yes, I get it that the outcome of the World Cup or an Olympic event can be of huge importance, I’m not talking about those events. My event, your event, is tiny, so small. In the big picture, we aren’t there.

Before I leave the event, I …


I heard a recent podcast where a book author said, when you are hurting, help someone. Funky as it sounds, it is almost magical.

Recently, we were expected to win a race, but we lost. On the way to our vehicles I saw an elderly woman who was struggling to get her belongings in her car. I stopped, and helped her. It took me three minutes to do what might have taken her thirty. That was it. No fantastic backstory. But helping someone when I was grumbly sure made me feel better.

And, on the way home …


After leaving the event I begin planning. How are we going to move ahead in a positive, constructive, enjoyable way?

There are horror stories of the wrath of a coach after a loss. I offer no comment on what others do, but I have found the whip causes horses to run away, and a cube of sugar keeps them engaged.

A positive vision forward is what the team wants and deserves, more importantly, it is what we coaches need.

I’m out the door, to go to a race where I stand a good chance of losing. I have my mental toolbox packed in case I do. And what’s interesting, I’ll do all five things, also, if we win.

Dr. Mike Davenport is a longtime college coach and the man behind the popular website CoachingSportsToday.com.  He is a regular contributor to College Recruiting Weekly.

April 21st, 2014

Can Emoticons Improve Your Recruiting?

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Love them or hate them, emoticons (you know the smiley faces like :)) have found their place in common written correspondence and if you choose NOT to use them, you might be at a disadvantage. Experian (CheetahMail) recently did a study showing 56% of brands studied had an improvement in their unique open-rate when using emoticons in their subject line. What?

So when brands send out emails, and put an emoticon in their subject line, they’ve seen more people are opening them. Getting recipients to open emails is a fundamental challenge for marketers, recruiters, coaches, etc. It seems like such an easy task but with the amount of marketing emails the average person gets day to day, finding that niche can be a huge benefit. In the world of college recruiting, no doubt you are running into similar issues. A recruit might get an email from 10 different coaches in a day. So how do you improve the probability that they will open yours? An emoticon might be a potential answer. Fortunately it is simple math. You take whatever subject you were using before and add a :) to the end. Or use any other emoticon that might be fitting. The trick will be testing which work and which don’t.

If you are a purist and have an issue with emoticons, that’s fine. You might argue it dilutes the professionalism of the email and reflects negatively on your institution. That is a fair argument. The balance you have to weigh is whether that matters or not if less people are even reading the email to begin with.

Speaking of time saving tools, Front Rush is the best of the best.  If you’re a serious recruiter, this is one tool you don’t want to be without.  Click here for the low-down on this incredible resource used by thousands of coaches around the country.

April 20th, 2014

Teaching Recruiting Techniques While Selling Cosmetics at the Mall

If you keep your eyes open, there are people all around you in your daily life that can teach you really valuable recruiting techniques.

I was reminded of that on a recent walk through the Water Tower Place mall in downtown Chicago.  It’s seven levels of shopping paradise – at least if you ask my wife, my daughter, and my mother-in-law, who were with me in Chicago after visiting my daughter in college.

My 7-year old son knows that the second floor of the mall is home to a Lego store, so we were chasing behind him as he darted into  building block heaven.  As I looked behind me, I noticed that the rest of my family was now talking to a stylishly dressed cosmetics salesman at the Orogold Cosmetics kiosk.

I wasn’t worried.  My wife is a pro at politely listening to salespeople and then walking away.  However, as my son sat building a robot at the Lego table inside the story, I peeked out the door and saw that they were all still listening to what the cosmetics salesman had to say.  In fact, they looked like they were actually kind of enjoying it. (My daughter Kaley looked downright fascinated!)

Nasav 3

Uh oh.

Twenty minutes later, I made my way over to seehow the ladies were doing.  I walked into the middle of one of the best, most professional, most engaging sales presentations I had ever heard.  The sales professional’s name was Nadav, who I later found out was originally from Israel but was now part of a small group of owners who ran four cosmetics kiosks throughout the mall and across the street.

After he had made my wife and her mom an offer on a moisturizer and de-wrinkler they couldn’t refuse, I stuck around to ask him a few questions.  I wanted to find out his secret to selling in a highly competitive environment – a mall on the Miracle Mile in the middle of touristy downtown Chicago, where finding bigger, better known cosmetic brands in flashier settings.

I came to find out that Nadav was a highly successful professional, who had studied his market and taken time to develop his technique.  His all-time best single sale in the mall was $13,000 to one person, so this guy was a pro.

I asked him to share some of the principles that made him successful.  What he told me has direct application to any college coach looking to connect with his or her prospects more effectively, as well as sell them on their program (even if it’s not he biggest brand on the block):

  • Earning trust.  Nadav tries to earn the trust of each customer before he tries to sell.  Without trust, he says, he can’t justify why they should buy his product from him.  We’ve talked about earning trust before…how do you earn trust with your recruits, Coach?
  • Mastering the approach.  Nadav has put a lot of time and attention into how he first establishes contact with a new customer.  That sets the tone for the relationship, even if it’s for only a few minutes.  If he does that correctly, he says “I have the chance of earning a customer for ten years.”  How much time to you put into figuring out what your approach sounds like to your recruits, Coach?
  • Compliments.  Part of his approach is to compliment his potential customer.  It’s such a simple act, but extremely powerful.  And yet, many coaches don’t continue to compliment their recruits throughout the process like Nadav does.  ”Compliments”, says Nadav, “help make that connection.  And everyone that I talk to likes to be complimented.”
  • Knowing more about his competition than his own product.  “I don’t know if I can tell you everything that’s in our product, but I make sure I know everything that’s in my competitor’s product.”  Why?  Because he wants to make sure he can outline the differences between Orogold Cosmetics and whatever brand of cosmetics they are currently using.  He isn’t focused on “negatively recruiting” his competitor; rather, he wants to be passionate about outlining the differences between his product and others, as well as passionately explaining why his is the better solution.  ”From start to finish, I believe in my product and am excited to sell it.”  Are you passionately selling your program, and highlighting the differences between you and your competitors in a professional way?
  • 10 lines.  Nadav has ten memorized, rehearsed, fall-back one-liners and conversation points that he is ready to use with any new customer.  If the conversation is lagging, or they seem to be uninterested, Nadav has a stable of tried-and-true lines to get the conversation going, or to make his customer laugh.  He’s practiced them, and figured out why they work and when he should use them.  It makes him comfortable about approaching any customer in any situation.  Do you have a set of conversation points, questions, or one-liners to help connect you with your recruits, Coach?
  • It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  In other words, the “feel” of the language you use with your prospect is even more important than the facts you are relaying to them.  Why?  As we’ve said before, our research clearly shows that today’s teenage prospects are focused more on how you are making them feel, whether they are reading a letter you’ve written or engaging with you through social media.  That’s one of the big reasons we focus on the overall tone of the messages and recruiting strategy that we help develop for our clients.  The first thing recruits look for is the ability to trust you and connect with you (just like someone trying to figure out which cosmetic product to use).
  • Only sell what you think your customer needs.  Because he’s talented, Nadav could probably trick a lot of people into buying as much as he could.  But he holds to a principle of “only selling my customer what I truly feel they need.”  That helps build trust.  And, it’s the right thing to do.
  • “I love my job because it’s hard”.  Nadav works in an extremely competitive market.  It’s a $43billion dollar industry comprised with tens of thousands of products being sold by hundreds of different companies.  If you’re going to work in cosmetics – or in college coaching – you’d better love your job, because it’s hard and takes place in a competitive environment.  Approach your duty as a recruiter with passion, excitement, and an attitude like Nadav.  If you do, you’ll probably be successful at what you do.

So if you find ourself walking around the Water Tower Place mall on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, make your way up to the second level and spend some time with Nadav at the Orogold Cosmetics kiosk next to the Lego store.  You’ll probably end up buying some expensive cosmetics, and you’ll learn some incredible recruiting techniques that you can use in your future recruiting efforts.

April 14th, 2014

How Geno Made Pressure Fun

I had the chance to be in the crowd at the 2014 NCAA women’s basketball national championship game, where the UConn Huskies won the title and completed a perfect season.

At the center of the celebration was their longtime coach, Geno Auriemma.  Fans of women’s basketball seem to either love him or hate him (proportionally, I’m guessing, based on how close you live to Storrs, Connecticutt).  However, no matter which side you land on, you have to admire what he has built through recruiting and coaching.

But what I want to focus on has nothing to do with how well his Huskies played against a previously undefeated Notre Dame team.

It’s actually something I heard their talented center, Breanna Stewart talk about in front of their cheering fans as they were being presented with their championship trophy.  She was asked about how Coach Auriemma convinced them that “the pressure of going after perfection was fun.”

“This season we wanted to chase perfection, and we did that,” said Stewart, the 2014 Women’s Final Four MVP.

Added senior center Stefanie Dolson: “Everyone said we had a lot of pressure on our backs but we didn’t. We went in there having fun. We were loose and playing great.”

For me, this was the big story that not enough people are talking about – and not enough coaches are trying to emulate.

Coach Auriemma has put into practice an idea we’ve advocated for several years, based on our research and focus group studies with prospects and current college student-athletes:

Today’s athlete needs (and wants) to know how to think about ideas and facts you may be presenting them.

That doesn’t mean their not smart.  They are.  And, it doesn’t mean that they are ripe to be manipulated or tricked into playing for another coach (well, most of the time anyway).

What it does mean is that they need help defining how to think about an idea that you are trying to present them, whether that’s when you are recruiting them or when you are coaching them.

Let’s rewind to Breanna Stewart’s comments that I listened to at the Final Four.  To paraphrase, she recalled how Coach Auriemma starting talking to the team about how fun they were going to have trying to chase perfection and win a national championship.  And, that the pressure and incredibly hard work that it was going to take to achieve that goal should be…wait for it….”fun”.

In short, he took a concept with a lot of potential negativity tied to it – hard work, sacrifice, pressure – and declared it to be “fun”.  And, as most teenagers and young adults tend to do, his team listened to what he was saying and decided to believe it.

Understand, they had the choice to look at it as a negative. Truthfully, most coaches and student-athletes are going to choose to take that approach.  As humans, we tend to look at the worst possible outcome for a particular situation, not the best.  What happens when you are told something contrary, and buy-in to a coach’s vision and enthusiasm?  You win national championships.

Again, here’s what Coach Auriemma did:

  • Observed a potential negative situation.
  • Crafted a more positive way to think about that potential negative situation.
  • Verbally reinforced the way he wanted the situation to be viewed by his team.
  • Followed through with that idea throughout the season.
  • Resulted in a positive outcome.

Your words and ideas are powerful.  What you tell your recruits, your team, your assistant coach, your head coach, and your athletic director, about how to view a situation is key to making it through that potential negative situation.

What kind of situations or obstacles are needing your defining (or re-defining)?  It might be your team’s record, your facility, your college’s location, the challenge of trying to win a conference title, the challenge of winning your first conference match in two years, the challenge of recruiting your best class ever, or why the new offense you are installing this next season is going to be the key to turning everything around.

Whatever it is, your team is listening to you.  What exactly are you telling them?

April 14th, 2014

Two Speakers Added to NCRC 2014 Line-Up

We’re excited to announce two additions to the upcoming 2014 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.

Two coaches with an enormous amount of experience have been added to the speaker line-up, offering some valuable insights based on their combined 60 years of college coaching and recruiting experience.

Ronnie Arrow, one of the most talked about speakers at the previous NCRC, will offer a unique perspective in his session, “From Assistant Coach, to Head Coach, to Assistant Coach”.  He’ll talk about what he learned as an assistant coach, as well as what he looked or in an assistant coach as a head coach.  And, what it’s been like to go back to being an assistant coach.  This is an incredible opportunity to learn from one of college basketball’s most experienced recruiters and coaches.

In addition, Brian McCloskey – the former head hockey coach at the University of New Hampshire – will discuss what he learned in his long college coaching career, which ended recently with a controversial dismissal mid-year.  College coaching is filled with career threatening land mines, and Coach McCloskey will talk about what he has learned, and what advice he has for coaches in the middle of their career.

These two gentlemen are two great reasons to attend the upcoming 2014 NCRC!  Click here to look at the rest of the speaker line-up, and reserve your seat.

Want to hear from Coach Arrow at the 2013 NCRC?  Here’s a highlight:



April 11th, 2014

“I Got This” – Where The Unraveling Begins

by Tyler Brandt, National Recruiting Coordinator

After we moved into our new house, my wife and I knew at some point we would finish our basement as a place for our kids to hang out with their friends and obviously increase the value of our home. It was something we had done in our previous home and it was great for the kids. We had a handyman finish our previous basement as we were moving cross-country and needed it done prior to arriving in Iowa from Arizona.

This time it was different, I was here, I had some framing, drywall and finishing experience so this would be a great DIY project for me and save a ton of money. So, I went out and priced materials and decided to get a plan ready to go. As a kid I had worked on farms, in construction, some mason work, and took wood shop along with welding in school so – “I Got This.”

While I was at my son’s basketball practice I was talking with one of the moms about my upcoming project and she said that her husband was a Industrial Engineer graduate from Iowa State University and owns his own framing & construction company and would be more than happy to take a look at the project for me. I of course said, “That would be great – I would like his suggestions for MY project!” He eventually called and came over and we talked about the job and I thanked him for all of his great ideas and let him know that it was really going to help ME DO MY DIY PROJECT!!

For the next few days I walked around my basement drawing, measuring, computing and imagining how awesome MY project was going to be with the ideas from my buddy – The Construction Professional. And the time finally came to start the project and BE A MAN that can build things! While in Home Depot with a flat bed full of lumber and hardware a clerk came up and said Looks like a big project” and I said “I am finishing my basement” in my greatest Tim the Toolman Taylor voice stopping just short of the manly grunts. The clerk said “That is a great project but you should probably be using green treated lumber for the base of your wall frames.”

I said thank you and slowly put everything back into the places where I had got them and called my wife and said “What do you think about using Mark for the basement project?” Being the intelligent wife she is she says “Why – I thought you were going to do it? And the professional coach in me said “I was in the land of EGO RULES EVERYTHING but in the real world where results are accomplished by doing things the right way I would do more damage than good. It would get done but it would be done my way not the way it should be done!

So, I made the call. I have watched my choice to accept the help from a professional who has a skill set and a knowledge base different from my own transform my basement into something that we will be able to use and be proud of for as long as we own this house. What was the cost to me? Financially we paid a little more than if I would have done the job myself, that’s for sure, but the quality is 100 fold better. Let’s quickly talk about my EGO on this issue – my EGO is SOARING THROUGH THE CLOUDS! As I watch what is happening in my house for my kids I can’t tell you how good I feel about my choice to hire a professional to help me in a place that I needed it!

I am flying high right now because life is imitating art in my own home! I have written on many occasions about how we as coaches and business professionals need to seek out and secure people that can help us accomplish our goals in areas that we are not experts. That is exactly what I did and I couldn’t be happier with the results!