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April 20th, 2015

Overcoming Ellsberg Paradox in Recruiting

How many times have you been the program that is the logical, “right fit” for a prospect, only to see that same prospect end up choosing another program that’s a completely illogical choice? A place where they probably won’t compete as soon as they would for you, won’t be appreciated as much, and generally won’t have as good of an experience.

If you’ve been coaching college sports for any length of time, you know the answer is “a lot”.

Here are the typical scenarios I’ve seen play out with the coaches we work with:

  • A program that competes at a lower division level loses a recruit to another program that’s one level up.
  • Despite assurance that your recruit will get significant playing time during their Freshman season, they choose a more prestigious program where they will have to sit the bench for their first two years.
  • You spend two solid years getting to know your recruit, forming a great relationship, only to have that recruit choose another program with a coach who is able to throw a little more money their way at the last minute.

If any of those situations hit a little too close to home, you’ve probably fell victim to the Ellsberg Paradox.

It’s an interesting theory that is having direct application in college recruiting, and is becoming more of common tactic we employ in developing strategies for our clients. It is named for former military analyst and activist Daniel Ellsberg, who became famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers – a set of documents outlining decision making procedures by the U.S. military during the Vietnam war – to newspapers around the country.

He is less famous for another theory on decision making, called the Ellsberg Paradox, which has direct application for smart college coaches who want to dig deeper into how their prospects make their decisions.

Essentially, it’s a theory that says people (your recruits and their parents) overwhelmingly prefer taking on risk in situations where they know specific odds rather than an alternative risk scenario in which the odds are completely ambiguous—they will likely choose a known probability of winning over an unknown probability of winning even if the known probability is low and the unknown probability could be a guarantee of winning. That is, given a choice of risks to take (such as bets), people “prefer the devil they know” rather than assuming a risk where odds are difficult or impossible to calculate. (If you want to dive deep into the experiments that help prove the theory, dive right in.)

Let’s bring that back to recruiting for a moment:

What the theory postulates is that your prospect, learning a little bit about your program and hearing you make guarantees of playing time and other promises, is still apt to choose a better known, more proven, bigger-name-coach at the end of the process.  That other program is “the devil they know”; there’s less risk, in the mind of the recruit, than opting for a program like your’s that is still unproven in their eyes.

Hopeless situation if you are that coach that we’re describing?  Not at all.

But, it takes consistent effort and a strategic approach to recruiting. The Ellsberg Paradox is the natural, undisturbed state that your recruit will likely operate in unless you change the conditions.  Are you hoping that recruit just somehow figures out that you’re the more logical choice on their own, and ignores the Ellsberg Paradox, you’re not going to find much success.

You have to “change the conditions” to neutralize the Ellsberg Paradox that might be handcuffing your recruit.  Here are three key things to begin that process with your next class or recruits:

  • Become the “known probability”.  This is the part where I pummel you with all of the reasons for telling a consistent story to your recruits. If you are that risky program in the eyes of your recruit, there is no quick fix to swaying them over to your program. It takes a consistent effort of interesting messaging, engaging enough to prompt their questions and conversations with you, and making the case that you are just as good of an option as the other program. Ellsberg Paradox demands that the chosen option be the one that is best known and less risky (note that I didn’t say “better”, or “has the best facility”, or “was ranked higher in U.S. News”). Become known to your recruit, and do it in a consistent, conversation way.
  • “Winning” or other logical advantages aren’t always going to get the job done.  Remember, according to the definition of Ellsberg Paradox, “your prospect will likely choose a known probability of winning over an unknown probability of winning even if the known probability is low and the unknown probability could be a guarantee of winning. In other words, don’t rely on your record or history to sell your program. I can tell you first hand from the research and coach training we do on campuses around the country that those two factors matter very little once the recruiting process gets past the initial stages. As opposed to proving yourself to your recruits based on your past, prove yourself to your recruits by explaining how they fit into the future of the program.
  • Reduce the odds against you in the eyes of your recruit. Note that the focus of this point is to change the way your recruit sees you and your program, not necessarily the actual facts surrounding your program – your mediocre history of performance, inexperienced staff, older facilities…don’t let your view of those assumed negatives cloud your enthusiasm and reasoning as to why your recruit belongs with you. One of the saddest aspects of what I do is hear a coach explain why they’ve convinced themselves that they just can’t recruit good athletes based on their location, or their lack of financial aid, or their facility. Much of the time, of course, those situations will make it nearly impossible to recruit every good recruit.  However, you don’t need every good recruit.  You need a handful of great ones to form a solid recruiting class. Make sure you identify what odds aren’t working in your favor, and create solutions to reduce your exposure to those negative adds.

The theory, of course, isn’t universal. It won’t apply to every recruit, just many of your recruits.

Decide what strategies you need to employ and then make a plan for implementing those strategies. If you don’t, expect the same hurdles to appear in your next recruiting class.

Intelligent coaches are going through the in-depth recruiting certification training at our learn-as-you-go, online education program called Tudor University. One low annual fee lets you take all of the courses at your own pace, and gain recruiting certification for future job opportunities in college coaching. Or, just become a dominant recruiter! Get the details and enroll here.

April 20th, 2015

5 Valuable Recruiting Lessons From My Daughter’s Soccer Practice

NewSoccer1by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I used to hear about it all the time from friends who have kids, and now I understand. Last week the Tiers taxi was busy. My daughter began playing youth soccer. Practices were Tuesday and Thursday, with a game on Saturday morning. Sandwiched in-between those practices was a gymnastics practice, Kindergarten registration and our latest shopping trip to the mall because she continues to “grow like a weed.”

One of the drills that my daughter’s soccer coach introduced at practice on Thursday was “snake.” Some of you may be familiar with it. At one end of the field two children link arms. At the other end the rest of the team members each have a soccer ball. Their goal is to kick the ball to the other end without getting tagged by the two children who are linked together. Each time someone is tagged they join the snake until everyone is out. Seems simple enough, right? Not when you’re dealing with 5-year olds and the rule is the snake must be one connected group for the tag to count. Needless to say it turned into organized chaos…albeit fun, organized chaos.

As I watched from the sidelines I was reminded of an important recruiting lesson that all admissions professionals should be applying. By the end of practice that night, one lesson had grown to five.

Here then are those five real life lessons. Applying them, if you’re not already doing so, will help you become a more effective recruiter:

  1. Consistent communication is a must. Early on during the “snake” game the first two kids were tagged with relative ease. After that confusion ensued. Some of the snakes including my daughter wanted to run in one direction, while another wanted to go the opposite way and decided to let go, as you can see in the above photo. Instead of communicating with one another the kids who were the snake spent most of their time running and pulling each other in circles. After about five minutes the coach had them stop, link back up, and talk to each other. This eventually yielded a new addition to the snake chain.

The inconsistent contact hardly ever worked for snake, and it will rarely yield prospects for your school. Instead make a plan that involves a consistent track of messaging every 6 to 9 days. That’s what today’s recruit has told us they want from you. Mix it up and make sure your content demands interaction and clearly states why they should choose your college. Infrequent communication will lead your prospect to question just how serious your school is about them and will likely create a feeling of pressure when you ask them if they’re closing in on a decision.

  1. Keep it simple. How you communicate your message, and the degree of simplicity in which it is delivered, is key to making sure it sticks with your next class of prospects. Each time my daughter’s coach had a teaching point during a drill he got straight to it and broke it down to a single thing for the kids to remember. Simple gets remembered.
  1. Being different is good. We consistently stress to our clients the importance of taking a creative approach and standing out when it comes to recruiting. It’s a proven fact – people are programmed to notice what’s different. That means you need to differentiate your messaging, your campus visit, and your phone conversations, among other things. During your campus tour get rid of the non-impactful meetings and instead have a discussion about something that matters in the eyes of your recruits like ROI. Separating yourself from the competition and the traditional way of doing something may sound risky. When schools are willing to do that however, we’ve seen it produce big recruiting wins.
  1. Demonstrate passion. My daughter’s coach is “all in” with the soccer team. He wasn’t just at practice going through the motions and checking his watch every five minutes to see if it was almost time to go home. He got there early. He offered to stay afterwards and answer any questions that parents had. And he even followed up with an email congratulating the team on their progress after the first week. Can you say the same thing when it comes to recruiting your prospective students? Do you tell them why you think they’re the “right fit” for your school and how those on campus will help them achieve their long term goals?   Do you smile and speak with enthusiasm and listen closely when they reveal an objection? Those who have passion are able to create meaningful long-term relationships with their recruits.
  1. Be okay with losing more than you win. Towards the end of practice the team had its first scrimmage. It became clear rather quickly that one of the boys (the league is co-ed at this age group) liked to dominate the ball and was a very good player. Whatever team he was on won, primarily because he scored just about every goal. None of the other kids complained. They were just happy to be playing the game as best as they could. The point I’m trying to make is you will lose recruits to other institutions – sometimes for reasons that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Be okay with that. It’s a fact of recruiting life. Don’t let it discourage you.

Follow these five rules that I’ve laid out as you develop your new recruiting plan for this next class of prospects, and watch what happens.

Our team of recruiting and marketing experts work with schools around the country helping them craft and deliver the right messages for their recruits.  Want to see what we can do for you?  Email me at jeremy@dantudor.com I’ll show you how we do it and pleasantly surprise you with how affordable it is.

April 20th, 2015

Heads Up. Your Coaching Life Is About To Be Disrupted

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

How do you react to disruptions during practice?

Do you have a plan for the tech-device revolution about ready to land on your head?

For thousands of years humans have lived in a linear and local world. Things hardly changed and when they did it was a slow, incremental process. Our lives were seldom impacted by actions and events in other parts of the world.

Not today. Today our world is exponential and global. Meaning that we now live with change that is happening wicked fast and increasing almost daily. And events around the world impact us quickly.

This is your new coaching life.

Disruption Ahead

Today, the 10-year old athlete who comes to your practice has more computational power in her pocket than the entire NASA program had when they landed men on the moon.

That same athlete has at her finger tips more knowledge and wisdom than the US presidents had 10 years ago.

And if she wants, that athlete can (and will) video and post events within seconds of them happening.

You know all this already. But did you know this is just the tip of an enormous iceberg?

As computational power continues to double every 18 months, as access to the internet increases, and as mobile devices innovate, more changes are coming. Here’s the thing we coaches need to grasp — these changes will cause major disruptions in how you and I coach. They already do:

  • Your left fielder is texting his girlfriend during a timeout
  • Your star athlete is on the phone with her parents 15 seconds after THE meeting you just had
  • The wise guy on your team just left a social media bomb on your competition’s website, and their coach is texting you right now
  • Your center is tweeting from the bench about your latest substitution
  • 7 locker room photos were just Snapchatted and the pounding at your door is your freaked out Athletic Director
  • Two of your athletes want to know why they are not doing the US Olympic team workout, which they found online this morning and have on their iWatch

You can deny any of these have happened to you — and you may be right. But just wait 60 seconds. Disruption is right around the corner, and it has you in its sights.

Accept And Adapt

You have two choices. One, you can accept that disruption is coming, and adapt to use it to your advantage. Or, two, you can fight disruption and be swept away.

For years I prohibited cell phone and laptop use in my classes. Too disruptive, I said.

Then one semester my college began an iPad pilot program, and my class was selected as one of the test courses. I went from nothing “on” to students with “full time on,” right in front of them. And … I loved it. So did they. It was one of the most productive and enjoyable courses I have taught.

It was at this point I realized I could not fight this battle, so I needed to accept and learn how to adapt to it. But this isn’t about me, or about college courses. It is, however, about coaching and the wave that is about to hit us. Let me ask …

What will you do tomorrow when your goalie comes to practice wearing Google glasses?
How will you react when your rower pulls out her phone and announces that today’s practice had more minutes in the C3 zone than her online coach advises?
How will you alter football practice when you running back’s helmet “hit monitor” reads in the danger zone?
What’s your policy about wearing Smart watches during practice and contests?

This is not the first time coaches and sports have faced disruption. When they brought the 3-point shot into college basketball, over the objection and disbelief of many people, Coach Jerry Tarkanian immediately worked it into his offense, much to his advantage. Tarkanian accepted and adapted and won a national title soon after.

Where I grew up women were not allowed to run without a male escort, and certainly not allowed in running races. (That seems incredible now.) The disruption of this standard happened in 1967 when Kathy Switzer managed to get an official entry (using a gender neutral name) into the Boston Marathon. During the race it was discovered she was a female and an official tried to physically stop her. This picture was taken of that happening, and within days it was causing outrage around the world,

The Marathon soon realized they could no longer fight this disruption, and they needed to accept and adapt to it, allowing women to officially race shortly after. Now the Boston Marathon is one of the best known sporting events in the world for men and women runners.

The Wave Is Coming

Why should you expect more disruption today, compared to just yesterday? Three significant reasons why.

First, the exponential growth of computational power has reached a tipping point where things we could only dream of are now becoming reality.

Second, our athletes are wicked hungry for new and exciting ways to use technology.

Three, there are companies who are only too happy to feed this hunger.

Look at your wrist, wearing a watch? Maybe yes, maybe no. But this afternoon someone on your team will be wearing a watch that is connected to the Internet every minute of every day.

Grab your surfboard dude, big waves are coming. And there are even bigger ones behind these.

Actions You Can (And Should) Take

Following are a few actions I’ve taken to get ready for the wave. There are certainly others, but these might be a good place to start for you:

  1. Do a survey of your team to learn what technology and/or disruptions are happening that you may not know about within your team. (I learned several team members were getting way less sleep than they needed. Their sleep was disrupted by social media involvement way onto the night.)
  2. What current policies do you have specific to technology that may run afoul of changes coming? (Like my class example.)
  3. What disruptions may be coming that you need a policy for? (Hint: look at latest news magazines for stories of where technology has caused disruption in schools or sport.)
  4. Look for places where technology can help you with your coaching processes. (Hint: service such as Ubersense.)
  5. Go to Kevin Kelly’s site Cool Tools, and read the daily update

So What?

Is it worth your time and energy to even think about this? Heck Yes!

Disruption is coming — count on it. Will you be ready to accept and adapt? As Chris Taylor from Actionable Books says, “The world is changing. Different skills matter. Different attitudes matter.

Accept and adapt, or be swept away.

* image from katherineswitzer.com

Thanks for spreading the word about CoachingSportsToday. Have a great week of coaching. And coaching well, we need you!


April 13th, 2015

Get Geeky: Using Technology to Establish Trust with Recruits

by Ingrid Rockovich, College Coach Marketing Manager

NCSA Athletic Recruiting


A few weeks ago, this article surfaced showing a recruiting letter from 1919 – it was drafted on a typewriter and then customized by hand, mailed to Dr. Harrison aka “Chicken” by Coach Bible.

Coach Bible talked about updates to the program, support of alumni, and also one very powerful sentence about how Texas A&M really needed Dr. Harrison to report in September. Coach Bible was able to really put it all out there via typewriter. But we sure have come a long way from those days, haven’t we?

In the last ten years, the college recruiting game has developed tremendously, bringing many new opportunities and challenges to having athletes commit to play at the college level. Between finding prospects at an earlier age, learning new rules and regulations each season, and the emergence of social media, there are now so many ways coaches can communicate with a recruit. How are they supposed to keep it all straight?

In turn, technology has really stepped up in order to help coaches keep pace. There are multiple systems that track athletes through the recruiting process, others that help monitor social media and those that help identify athletes and their skill levels.  But how are coaches currently using technology to communicate with recruits and create the emotional connection like Coach Bible did back in 1919?

In the world of Facebook and Twitter, it is one thing to create initial interest and spark a conversation with a prospect that would help fill a roster.  But it is another thing to get that conversation go deeper and help build a connection.  One way to do this is through finding out more information about what a particular recruit is looking for out of a college experience and what kind of person they are now.

If you can find out their personal goals, what size college they’re looking for, or if they want an urban or rural environment and you match that with what kind of athlete they are, it will only help identify those that are the right fit for your program.  This information can then be used to build up a solid level of trust with the prospect.  By using technology, this search and discovery process becomes easy and won’t cost you or your staff valuable time in the fast-paced recruiting process.

Tools like NCSA’s Coach Recruit Match System enable college coaches to easily locate recruits with the right preferences and skill sets and allow them to find better matches for their programs. Coaches can identify athletes by their preferences and then use that information to forge deeper connections.  This online tool provides the real details about recruits and NCSA has verified all information up-front.  It is this invaluable information that can help coaches create conversations that are authentic to that student and their family.  By creating this type of personalized and genuine recruiting experience for a prospect and their family, coaches are ensuring that the right recruits are making it to their school and helping grow the success of their program.

For the record, the 1919 Texas A&M football team went undefeated and is famous for not allowing any of its opponents to score. What are you currently doing with your recruits to start building your next championship season?

April 13th, 2015

How to Take the Early Lead With Your Next Class of Prospects

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Here we go again. New names, new faces, yet the goal remains the same. The Class of 2020 will soon take center stage with college admissions. Are you ready?

Spring college fairs and high school visits bring with them the chance to make a lasting first impression with your junior prospects. That should never be undervalued. Your follow-up communication in the coming weeks however will be equally, if not more important. Here’s why. Early in the process prospective students are looking to see which schools maintain consistent contact. In their minds, it’s an indicator of just how serious of a prospect your institution considers them to be.

Determining those early talking points can be a challenge for many counselors. In fact it’s one of the biggest reasons that admissions departments start working with us. The messaging in those first letters is simply not generating a reaction.

Today we’re going to change that. It starts by defining what gets them to keep talking to you after you make that first contact.   Our research shows that when a prospect and his or her parents are comfortable engaging in conversation with an admissions counselor, that school immediately moves up the list.

Here are five things your next class of prospects wants and needs to know from your initial messages:

  1. If possible, remind them where you met. This is a great example of the obvious getting overlooked. Most counselors don’t even think to mention where they first met a prospective student. And yet, recruits tell us it’s one of the easiest ways for them to determine that your school is serious about them initially.  It gives them context for why you are reaching out to them and more importantly why they should take the time to reply back to you.
  1. Tell them what you like about them. This generation of students wants to know what you like about them. Why? Believe it or not some of your prospects aren’t sure they’re good enough to be considered by a school such as yours. Pointing out two or three specific things you saw from their information is another important way to tell them they “have what it takes” to be considered for admission to your school. If you include these first two points in your initial messages, you will see an increase in replies versus a more generic, non-specific message.
  1. Write a short story, not a novel. If you read last week’s article on creating impactful recruiting letters then you understand that worst thing you can do early on, is cram tons of information about your college all together. If you want a response from your prospect, that is. By being short and to the point, you will leave room for their curiosity to take over. That curiosity then prompts them to want more interaction with you.
  1. Engage the parents. Our research finds that many parents are anxious as you begin contact with their child. They want to play a part in the recruitment process, and naturally they too have questions they want answered. While a majority of your competition will ignore the parents as long as possible, I encourage you to do the exact opposite. Begin contact with them early and work to establish that same emotional connection. If you do, you’ll find that they’ll be more than willing to contribute useful information during the process.
  1. Have a call to action. This is essential if you want them to respond to you. You need to clearly tell them what the next step in the process is and how to do it. Start off with one simple thing. For example, the next logical step in the communication flow if you’ve been mailing and emailing your prospect, is to speak with them on the phone. Establish a day and time for that call and let them know what needs to happen between then and now.

Early communication with a prospect is about getting a response. Your goal should be to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Do you have more questions about how to generate that initial response or carry on a logical, consistent conversation with your recruits from the start? Send me an email. I’m here to help.

April 13th, 2015

How Successful Coaches Make The Most Out Of The Night Before

by Mandy Green, Head Women’s Soccer Coach, University of South Dakota

In my endless quest to be more efficient and productive, a pretty common thing I am finding is that what separates the successful from the rest is that before the successful go to sleep, they plan ahead so they can start the next day with a purpose.

Planning keeps successful people on course in achieving their goals and objectives.

Planning is also the difference between reacting to the day’s events as they occur vs being proactive in determining what you will achieve during the day.

What does a reactive day look like? You arrive at work in the morning with no clear idea about what you want to achieve. Things begin to happen and you just fly by the seat of your pants—you open your email, the phone rings, one of your players drops by. With a flurry of activity, you put forth considerable effort to respond to these various demands with very little to show for it by the end of the day.

So here is what you need to do.

Take out you’re your planner and prepare your action plan for the next day before you leave the office or at least the night before. Decide what will make the day highly successful. I am a big believer in making a plan for each day based on your goals and vision for your program. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you’ve been productive and successful? Write those things down in whatever time management system you are using.

Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.

It’s really that simple. It takes about 15 minutes. It is being more proactive vs being reactive. Take the time to put a little more thought and intention into what you are going to work on during the day.

For you coach, this plan becomes a map to guide you from morning to evening in the most effective and efficient way. This guide tells you what you have to do and what is more or less important which will help save you a tremendous amount of time that you might have otherwise wasted on less important busy work that isn’t necessarily going to move your program forward.

Please try it and let me know how it works for you. Email me at mandy@mandygreencps.com

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