Dan Tudor

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The Unique Challenge of Recruiting Junior College ProspectsMonday, January 12th, 2015

He was fit to be tied.

A client venting his frustration to me at seeing his junior college prospect take the completely opposite approach in the recruiting process highlighted, once again, just how different it is from approaching a high school student-athlete.

It’s usually only a two-year separation between their high school recruiting process and what they go through as a junior college prospect, but it seems like a lifetime.

“I recruited this kid three years ago as a Junior,” said the frustrated coach.  “Back then, he could barely put two sentences together and wanted to take forever to make his final decision.  Now, he’s the negotiating with me and isn’t coming close to involving his parents the way he did the first time around.”

Sound familiar, Coach?

The more we work with coaches who rely on signing a few key Junior College recruits every year, the more we learn as to how they go through the recruiting process.  And, we’ve found some very significant differences in the way they view the recruiting process – as well as significant differences in how you, as their next college coach, should approach them compared to a high school recruit:

They’re usually going to make their decisions faster.  Unlike their high school counterparts, they are usually more focused on shortening the recruiting process.  Instead of years or months, it is reduced to weeks.  Instead of years or months, most junior college recruiting efforts can be counted in weeks.

They’re usually not happy about having to settle for the Junior College option.  They had to, of course, because of academic reasons (64% of the time), not being happy with their athletic options out of high school (21% of the time) or an injury that reduced their “recruitability” in high school (%9 of the time), among other reasons.

They’re usually not as concerned with the relationship with your team.  This is a huge difference compared to high school prospects, who use their feelings towards the team as a primary determining factor as to whether or not they feel like they should commit to a particular college program.

They’re usually not going to involve their parents as much.  Whereas their parents were central to helping them make a decision in the high school recruiting process, now as a Junior College athlete they feel more independent and capable of making this important decision on their own.

They’re usually concerned with one primary thing.  That is, “What’s your plan for me, Coach?”  They have two years left in their college athletic career, and they aren’t usually looking to sit on the bench in a program for their last two years of college.  And, you probably aren’t looking for them to do that, either.  In other words, they want to get down to business as soon as possible.

So, with those five primary research points firmly established, here are some important questions I think it’s vitally important to ask yourself as you design a strategy for recruiting for your program:

  • First, how are you communicating your recruiting message in a way that fits their timeline and decision-making process?  If we know they have a shorter timeline in their mind, and are concerned about your plan for them, how is your communication plan reflecting that fact?  Do you have JC-specific points that you make with those prospects?  If your communication plan isn’t reflecting this completely opposite approach that these prospects take, you are short-changing yourself and your program.
  • Secondly, I’d ask you what kind of plan you have to control the process and professionally push for a fair, but firm deadline.  Time after time, we hear coaches who are afraid to be aggressive in their pursuit of a junior college prospect end up frustrated when that prospect takes an early offer from a competing program.  It’s much harder for a Junior College recruit to reject a sure thing, and take chances that another better offer is coming later.  That fact opens the door for a smart coach to set a fair but firm deadline, control the conversation and the process from the start, and then ask for the commitment sooner rather than later.
  • Lastly, I’d want a coach to look carefully at how they structure a campus visit for a junior college recruit.  If you’ve been through one of our On-Campus Workshops, or if you’re a client, you know the focus we put on striking the right balance between time spent with your team, what you should do with parents while they are accompanying their son or daughter on their visit, and how to balance your involvement as a coach in that visit.  With JC recruits, your visit should focus heavily on one-on-one time with you, and much of that time outlining why you like them and how they fit into your plan moving forward.  That’s critical to successful recruitment of these student-athletes.

Recruiting Junior College prospects has been something that has made all the difference in the world to many programs at all levels around the country.  Doing it correctly, however, makes the difference from just occasionally “striking it rich” with a good JC athlete, to developing a steady pipeline of those prospects that flows into your program reliably, year after year.

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