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February 23rd, 2015

Letting Your Inmates Run the Recruiting Asylum

It all started to go right when San Diego State women’s golf coach Leslie Spalding had to leave campus and go out on the road to recruit.

At the last minute, she assigned the task of doing a video for a little trick shot contest to the young women on her team.  She gave them no instruction.  The last-minute project wasn’t planned out and assigned by Coach Spalding, and there were no adults nearby supervising and directing them.  It was just the women on the team, an iPhone, an iMovie editing app, and took a little over an hour to make.  They made up the shots as they went along.  (The segment of the team putting 7 balls into the hole at one time?  It took 25 tries!)

Fast forward a few weeks:

Their trick shot video has become an internet sensation.  It’s approach 1,000,000 views on YouTube at this writing, and has received publicity in USA Today, various golf magazines, The Today Show, and more.

It’s received so much attention that the video has now been turned into a fundraising tool for the team, as well (come on, Coach…give a little something to reward these young ladies for their creativity!)

It’s matching the success that the Harvard University baseball team and SMU Women’s Rowing team had with their creative videos a few years ago.

And none of it happened until the coach let her team take over the project.

And therein lies an important lesson for college coaches:

If you let your team take more of a role in your recruiting efforts, good things will happen.

This generation of recruits tell us on a consistent basis that they look to your team to gauge whether or not they would want to consider your program and, ultimately, commit to your program.  To be sure, you, your college’s reputation, and how you show your facilities all have a part to play in painting a picture for your recruits.  But your team holds a big key to connecting with your prospect and making him or her feel like your program feels right to them.

Here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Give your team the reigns.  Show them the videos and other ideas that other teams have done, and ask them to come up with ideas.  Let them have fun with it!
  • Focus on video.  It’s the easiest thing that gets attention, and can be easily forwarded to experience by your recruits.  Let your team come up with video ideas and execute it.  NOT YOU, COACH!
  • Consistency is key. Whether it’s once a week, or once a month, make sure you’re letting your team come up with something on a regular basis.
  • Let your Freshmen and Sophomores lead the way.  It’s not a universal “rule”, but your younger players are usually going to be the ones that approach this kind of project with more enthusiasm and more creativity.  Give them a role in your program by letting them lead this effort.
  • Your team can write a letter or email to your entire prospect list.  Have them tell your recruits why they came to compete for you.  Their voice is more believable, and more interesting, than your voice, Coach.
  • Give your kids a bigger role.  We’ve talked a lot about involving your team on the campus visit – including in our new book.  What three aspects of the visits can you turn over to them that would add more energy and creativity to the visit?

The simple message is this: Take it to your team, and challenge them to beat what some of these other programs have done.  Give them control.  Trust their creativity.

When your team is given just a little bit of power to take control in the process, good things happen.

February 23rd, 2015

Have You Given Them a Reason to Visit Campus?

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Spring break weeks are fast approaching. A large majority of your younger prospects, primarily juniors, are currently putting together a road map of college campuses to visit. Have you and your admissions staff made a compelling case highlighting the benefits that prospective students and their parents can gain by visiting your campus?

“Wait a minute Jeremy, I’ve written personal letters, sent emails, and had productive phone calls with them. Why wouldn’t they want to come and visit?”

Even though a campus visit would seem to be the next logical step in the process for those prospects, I’m here to tell you that it’s not a mere formality.   Being consistent with your messaging, building the relationship over time, and inviting them to visit won’t always be enough to persuade prospects and their families to take time out of their busy schedules and invest a day at your institution. Especially given that today’s prospect is applying to more colleges than ever before. You have to give them a reason to come to campus.

When we conduct one of our many admissions workshops throughout the year, part of our research includes conducting detailed focus groups and surveys with current college students.  We continue to find that a large majority of your prospects need to understand why you want them to become a member of your student body. Essentially, they want to be able to justify why they should spend their time and money on your campus instead of somebody else’s.

So, what’s your answer then to my question in the subject line of this week’s newsletter? Other than you being interested and sending out reminder notices for your information sessions, what have you really given them? Do they view coming to your campus as a chore, or could it actually be fun?

If you’re on board with me, there are a couple of questions you might need to ask yourself, and one vital point I want you to remember as you make efforts to get your next group of recruits to visit campus.

  1. Have you laid the foundation for the visit?  As I touched on earlier, consistent messaging and cultivating the recruiting relationship over time are extremely helpful. I don’t recommend asking them to visit as part of your first conversation. That initial chat will be unnerving for most prospects, and the last thing you want to do is overwhelm them and start things off on the wrong foot.
  1. Have you created anticipation? If you’re a client of ours, you know how important it is to have the flow of the recruiting process move as quickly and efficiently as possible toward securing a campus visit. Your prospect will anticipate the campus visit if you’ve given them glimpses of what campus is like, why he or she would want to see the dorms, and what the surrounding community is like. Those are some of the key elements our research has uncovered as to what triggers that anticipation in the minds of your recruits when it comes to committing to a campus visit.
  1. You need to have a “because.” A big motivating factor in many prospect’s decision to visit campus, was the idea that there was something important to talk about during their visit. Focus on the idea of selling a personalized tour where they’ll have the opportunity to sit down face to face with the dean of the business school if the recruit is strongly considering that area of study…or the opportunity to meet some members of your school’s drama club if that’s something they’ve indicated an interest in. Bottom line – What your recruits need is what we all need to prompt action from time to time:  A “because”. Do you have one?

In a nutshell, recruits will rarely visit a campus without a good reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own, or a picture that you have painted for them over a period of time.

When the visit date finally arrives, make sure you and your admissions team avoid making any of the common mistakes that many colleges fall victim to during the all-important campus visit.

February 23rd, 2015

Coaching Sports When Things Go Wrong: 8 Tips To Use

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, I wish I coached an indoor sport.

Especially when our river looks like this:















Usually we are ice-free by this time of year, practicing happily on the water. But not this year. Ohh no… This year we’ve been thrown a knuckleball.

Batter Up!

A knuckleball is a pitch which has the tendency to move unexpectantly and erratically, veering from its original path. It looks like one thing, yet becomes another.

Here’s the thing … coaches are thrown knuckleballs all the time:

  • A starting player has to go home for a family emergency, right before the big game
  • Wednesday’s contest is changed to Friday, due to weather, and that conflicts with your important personal obligation
  • You miss practice, because you are sick (yes, I know, you’d have to be “wicked sick” but …)
  • Your budget gets reduced 10%, and you have no idea how to make up the shortage

The list is almost endless. You’re nodding your head in agreement, aren’t you?

A knuckleball causes the batter to react – to make a change from his normal swing. We coaches have to do the same thing all the time. Adapt – and quickly. Handling knuckleballs are an occupational requirement.

Following, if you are interested, are eight tips that work well for me when I get knuckleballed.

1. Are you sure it’s a knuckleball? Sometimes a knuckleball isn’t. It’s entirely something else. Before you take radical action to fix an issue, is it really an issue? More than once, especially in my younger years of coaching, I was quick to react to something out-of-the-ordinary, when I should have just waited for a short time. A prime example is the time a mom called and left a cryptic message that “my daughter just left school.” I quickly deduced that she, one of our best athletes, had withdrawn for the semester. Panic.

I called the Dean and the Registrar demanding to pin down how and when this happened. Long story short, she had “left school” for the day to drive home, and mom just wanted us to know. Yes, that was a relief, but in the meantime several folks had been stirred into a frenzy, including myself.

2. Respond, not react. Being too quick to react to a knuckleball can be harmful, like above. Yet being quick to find a solution can be a positive, if your mind is clear. I have found that five minutes (or even 30 seconds if things are moving fast) spent focusing on my breathing helps me keep calm and clear headed. To respond wisely, instead of react haphazardly. Friend Jay Forte writes about that here in You Could Change Things In 10 Seconds, and I’ve written about the power of breathing here, and here.

3. Be open to quick changes. Dedicating time and energy to plan an event doesn’t insure it WILL happen. But it does mean we might be less open to alternate ideas when a curveball is thrown. Personally, being quickly flexible is something I had to learn. I struggled with it in my first year of coaching. In my sport, a 5 mph change in the wind can alter a practice plan, or even cancel an event. The wind can change in the blink of an eye, so I learned to be open to quick changes almost as fast.

4. Into the batting cage. A little common sense here – waiting for a knuckleball in a game is a bad time to figure out how to hit one. Practice beforehand is critical. This Fall we took a shell with nine rowers out on our river and purposely flipped it. Why? Because it could happen at anytime and the coaches, rowers, and rescue squad knowing how to respond in case of a real emergency could be a life saver – literally.








5. Always have an Option B, and then an Option C. A backup plan at the ready is invaluable. And if Option B doesn’t work, you’ll be glad to have another idea at hand. Each day my coaches and I gather to plan out the day’s practice. We usually have three options. Several times each semester I’ve been glad to have Option C.

6. Steal ideas from other coaches. Once per month the coaches at our school get together for a Coaches Coffee (hat tip to Coach Steve for the name suggestion). We trade notes and solutions on current hot topics. It’s been great to learn how lax, soccer and other coaches handle knuckleballs in their sports. More than once their solutions have saved the day.

7. Write your Options. The act of writing has a way of clarifying thoughts, both internally and externally. Once, when faced with losing an athlete for disciplinary reasons, writing down the situation helped me get past the raw emotion of disappointment, and get to empathy. At the same time, having described the situation in writing, along with the solution, allowed me to quickly share the info with my supervisor and assistant coaches.

8. If it sounds too crazy, save it. A seemingly crazy solution for TODAY’s knuckleball might actually work for TOMORROW’S. You never know when things might just come in handy, that’s why it can be helpful to write stuff down. I put mine into Evernote, where they are searchable, quickly accessible, and shareable.

Actions You Could Take

So that’s a list of numerous actions you can take when on the receiving end of a knuckleball. Certainly there are others, especially because the knuckleball you’re thrown can be so erratic it may require extremely creative thinking. All the actions seem to breakdown into three categories:

  • Prevent a knuckleball being thrown
  • Practice how to hit one
  • Be ready for the next one

Personally, I focus on the last two, since the only sure way a coach can prevent receiving a knuckleball is not to be a coach.

I’ll add this question for future discussion, what if you are the one throwing the knuckler? How do you react if there is a plan in place and it has to change because of you? A topic worth discussing?

February 23rd, 2015

The 35th Anniversary Of The Miracle On Ice

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

For coaches out there reading this today, Tuesday, this is the actual 35th anniversary date of the ending of the Miracle on Ice. On Febuary 24th, 1980 coach Herb Brook’s USA team rallied to beat Finland 4-2.

“The impossible dream comes true,” said ABC’s Al Michaels, two days after his famous “Do you believe in miracles?!” call.

The 19 surviving players returned to Lake Placid Saturday night. It was the first time the whole surviving team was back in Lake Placid since 1980. No doubt, one reason they made sure to return was the realization of mortality. Bob Suter became the first player to die back in September when he died of a heart attack at age 57. He was at his rink in Madison, WI where he helped so many kids.

Every coach dreams of assembling a team that reaches the pinnacle like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. I can’t emphasize enough how important the psychological part of it is. Shortly after Brooks died in a car crash in August of 2003, former Soviet star Slava Fetisov wrote a wonderful tribute to him that the New York Times read. Fetisov wrote, “he was one of the first to prove that a modern coach is first of all a wonderful pschologist.”

When Slava speaks, people listen. Wayne Gretzkey felt Slava was one of the two best defenders he ever faced, saying Slava could skate backwards and sideways faster than he could forward. Slava was so good an asteroid was named after him.

Brooks’ degree in psychology and his emphasis of that area enabled him to recruit players at the college and Olympic level that were incredible at coming through at opportune times. He also knew exactly how to push the different buttons.

Psychology and motivation are so important in building a team and championships. Here is Herb Brooks on it:

“Motivation is the energy that makes everything work. It is clearly the single most critical part of performance.”

Herb Brooks had different motivational talks for every game in Lake Placid. They ranged from confronting Rob McLanahan after the first period of the sluggish Sweden game to where they had a near fight, to his compassionate ‘you were born to be here’ talk before the Soviet game, when his boys were on edge. Then, trailing Finland 3-2 before the final period in the gold medal game, he merely walked in and said, “You lose this game, you take it to your $@*# grave”. He walked back out, and back in, and said, “To your !@$%! grave.” And left.

Team USA destroyed Finland in the final period of the gold medal game, rallying from 3-2 down to win 4-2. Scoring the winning goal was Rob McLanahan, who was so enraged at herb during that Sweden fiasco that he had to be separated. Today, McLanahan is on the board of directors of the Herb Brooks Foundation, has coached Herb’s grandkids, and will tell anyone no other coach could have done what Herb did back in 1980.

Being a wonderful psychologist and understanding nothing is more important than motivation. That comes from Slava Fetisov and Herb Brooks.

Today is the 35th anniversary of it all. If you would, please take a minute to Like the Herb Brooks Foundation on Facebook, as they do so much wonderful work to help young people.

February 16th, 2015

A Valuable Admissions Recruiting Lesson Learned

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Overcoming an objection from a prospective student can be a difficult challenge. For many admissions counselors it’s one of the most frustrating parts of the job.

Late last fall during a one-on-one consultation with a counselor, the topic of recruiting a new territory was broached. To be clear this new territory was not a bordering state, but rather a region in a different geographic area of the country.

Fast forward to this past week when I got a phone call from that same counselor. Her recruitment in the aforementioned new territory had produced more applications than expected. Great news I said! “Yes and no,” she responded. The recruitment of those out-of-state prospects had gone so smoothly that she failed to inquire about an issue that had now become a critical objection from a handful of those recruits and their parents – “distance from home.”

For many institutions, recruiting students who will have to board a plane or spend most of a day in a car to get to campus can be a tough sell. Simply put, it can end the recruiting conversation before it even begins.

In a perfect world every prospect would be honest from the start and tell you that they won’t consider attending a college that’s a long way from home. The reality is, most recruits will rarely offer-up their true feelings until late in the game, as this counselor learned.

This situation provides a valuable lesson for all counselors who recruit out-of-state, region, or even the country. Determining those feelings right away is something that all recruiters can and should attempt to accomplish by probing. By asking smart questions and being persistent, you will learn when to pursue and when to move on.

Here are two effective questions you can ask early in the process that we’ve seen work, when trying to decide if you should invest your time and your school’s resources in that long distance prospect.

  1. As early as possible, ask the prospect why they’re choosing to look at out-of-area colleges.  Answers like, “I want to see what’s out there,” or “my parents want me to consider your school because of how much mail you’ve sent me,” should be cause for concern. If the prospect cannot verbalize a specific reason, you’ll need to probe further and attempt to discover the true meaning behind those statements. Conversely, if your long distance prospect responds by saying, “Your nursing program offers the hands-on clinical experience I’m looking for,” or “I want to go somewhere with warm weather,” those both indicate a concrete reason behind their interest in learning more about your school.
  1. Ask the parents why they would want to see their son/daughter go “away” to college.  I want you to phrase it exactly like I worded it:  “So, why do you want to see your son/daughter go away to college?”  If the answer is something like, “I don’t really want him/her to go away…but it’s good to keep all the options open,” proceed with caution.  Our research shows that when it comes time for a decision to be made, mom or dad (or both) is going to play the emotion card and push for them to remain close to home.  I’m not telling you to throw in the towel if you hear that response, however, it does mean that you really need to have the parents define why they view your school as a smart consideration for their son or daughter.  Asking this question will provide you with the information that tells you how to move forward.

Let me again reiterate that critical questions such as these should be asked sooner rather than later. Starting the conversation early on is an effective way to determine what course of action you should take with a long distance prospect that you hope to enroll.

Furthermore, I encourage you not to give up at the first sign of resistance, especially if you have an out-of-area recruit that you consider to be “high potential.” Keep the communication flow consistent, but always be listening and looking for those hidden clues. Prospects have been known to change their mind as the recruiting process moves forward. Their top local college may not come through with a strong enough financial aid package, or over time your story may be more compelling and create those all-important feelings.

Want to talk to the national experts about how to recruit specific prospects?  Become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.  You’ll get access to a group of experts who can advise you on how to approach specific recruiting situations you’re facing, and a team of off-site staff members that can create recruiting messages that work and help shoulder the load of all aspects of your recruiting duties.  Contact Jeremy today for all the details.

February 16th, 2015

5 Things I’d Love To Tell My First-Year Coaching Self

by Erika Brennan, National Recruiting Coordinator

My first head coaching job came at the wise old age of 24.  There was a senior on the team who was just 18 months younger than me.  I inherited a squad who previously had a part-time head coach and thus was used to part-time commitments.

This team witnessed me as a first year head coach who was still very much finding her footing, her philosophy, and her way.

I wish I could go back and share these 5 things with the 24-year-old version of myself.



…instead of being hyper-critical.  I was incredibly hard on myself in that first year.  I wanted everything to be perfect right out of the gate, and I didn’t allow myself an ounce of grace in the transition process.  At one point, the lone senior mentioned in passing, “Lighten up on yourself, Coach, you’re doing just fine.”

That comment was the turning point for me!  This job is hard – and it’s dynamic, and messy sometimes, and infuriating, and “oh my gosh I should have just taken an 8-5 desk job somewhere.”  It’s also the most rewarding, fulfilling and downright amazing experience all at the same time.

Cut yourself some slack, coach, and remember Jimmy Dugan’s advice in

A League Of Their Own “It’s supposed to be hard.  The hard is what makes it great.”



…not friendship.  I made this critical mistake and worked the entire next season to fix it.  Culture is like that – it is not easily created, and once established, is even harder to change.  If you seek to earn respect, you will in turn, earn friendship once a student-athlete becomes an alumna.  Seek friendship, however, and you’ll end up losing out on respect….and probably the friendship once their playing career is over anyway.

It’s easier to begin by being stern and loosening up as you go along, than to begin by being too easy and trying to get sterner as you go.  Strike the right balance in the beginning, and you will, in turn, make it much easier on yourself in the long run.



…veteran coaches.  Said differently – there is no shame in not having all of the answers.  Rely on those coaches who have been in the game longer than you.  Pick their brain!  Ask situational questions and dig deep into their responses.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel, especially in the beginning.  Read about the legendary coaches and emulate the parts of their philosophy that align with your own.



…then worry about being understood.  This one is so important I almost listed it twice.  Put yourself in the metaphorical shoes of your student-athletes as often as possible.  Consider the demands on their schedules, the interpersonal relationships that are always at play in their lives, and that for many, this is the first time away from the comfortable protection of their parents.

By seeking to understand and then modeling your coaching strategies accordingly, you will be much more easily understood.  If you want your student-athletes to be “bought in” to what you’re selling – take the time to understand what makes them tick outside of your respective sport.  Invest in them as people first – for there are no limits to what empowered student-athletes can accomplish.



…in the area of work-life.  Coaching can become a vacuum that sucks you in to a nearly 24/7 time commitment.  Certainly, there are times of the year when this is almost necessary.  In those other times, however, make a concerted effort to find work-life balance.  Prioritize family time, down time, and opportunities to focus on your own health and wellness.

It is perfectly fine to schedule this time just like you would a strength and conditioning session, or team meeting.  Carving out time for you, and your family and friends, is imperative to prevent burn-out.

I suppose that’s the beauty in all of this, that you cannot possibly know the lessons until you live and work through them.  Wouldn’t it be nice though, if hindsight would disguise itself as foresight.

As Vala Afshar says, “You win some.  You learn some.”   

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