Dan Tudor

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Why Being Their Perfect Fit is Far From Perfect RecruitingMonday, February 26th, 2018

When we think of things that are perfect in our lives, its a pretty short list. 

Even something simple like finding clothes that fit just right can be a challenge, much less finding the “perfect” college to spend four years at as a student-athlete.

To rise to the level of “perfection”, several things usually need to happen:

We need to figure out if it’s even a possibility that it might be “perfect”, we need to take time to make sure all of our questions and fears have been answered, and then we have to be ready to own the “perfection” after we decide that it is, indeed, a perfect fit for us.

But to read some messaging from colleges and coaches, you’d believe that declaring a university was a “perfect fit” for a given student-athlete would be the secret to untold success. The number initial messages that declare that, from both coaches and the admissions departments at the colleges where they work, are actually hurting their chances of initiating a serious conversation with those prospects.


It’s too big of a jump. It doesn’t make sense. By making that claim, a coach or college communicates that they aren’t interested in making their case to their prospects; instead, they are demanding those same prospects rush to the decision that they want them to come to as soon as humanly possible.

And the prospects see right through it, according to our research. That shouldn’t be a surprise:

    • They need to figure out, on their own, the merits of a particular college or athletic program.
    • They need to take their time in determining whether all of their questions and fears have been answered adequately, Rushing that process only makes a coach or college look insincere, or at the best, clueless.
    • Because of those first two factors, they are unlikely to be ready to “own” that perfection. In short, they haven’t decided that it is indeed a perfect fit.

Hopefully that makes sense. In case it does, here are three out of the seven strategies that we typically will use with our college coach clients when we want to denote a connection with a new prospect, without trying to make the case that a particular program is “the perfect fit”:

Tell them one specific thing you want them to know about you. That’s one of the most effective ways to get them curious about what you and your program are all about without trying to make the ridiculous case that you are “the perfect fit”. Detail one special thing about your program or campus, let them know that you can’t wait for them to see it for themselves soon, and then ask them if they feel like it’s something that would be a factor in them choosing a college.

Give them some reasons you might NOT be a good fit. These don’t have to be actual negatives about your program or campus…I’m not suggesting that you throw your program under it’s own bus for not winning too many games during the last two seasons, or point out that prospects would hate your on-campus housing because the rooms are run down. I’m talking about personality traits (“lazy kids who don’t want to work towards a championship aren’t going to be a good fit here”), the size of your campus (“if you’re looking for a campus where people don’t know your name, and it’s not personalized, then this place won’t be a good fit”) or what your team is like (“we’re looking for prospects who want to join a group of guys that love hanging out together off the court as best friends”).

Ask them to give you their top two or three factors in choosing the right program, coach and college. If they reply and are honest and open with you, they’ll give you a beginning roadmap to winning their attention, and they’ll be more likely to listen to the case that you make.

Describing your campus as “the perfect fit” is just one of the verbal miscues we see well-intentioned college coaches making on a regular basis. The fixes are actually pretty easy, and the results can be significant.

The lesson I want you to remember: Be careful choosing the terms you use to describe where you coach!

Advanced uses of language in recruiting is just one of the next-level topics you’ll learn about at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this summer! Register now to save your seat…it’s a fantastic event by coaches, for coaches. And, it’s one of the only places you’ll go to learn how advanced recruiting is really executed by creative coaches from around the country.

How Should You Convince Your Prospect to Choose You?Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

In the quest to inform their prospects, many coaches paralyze them.

And they have help. When the typical high school student-athlete begins to explore college options, takes the SAT or ACT, or is identified by a college coach and the recruiting process begins, that teenager – and his or her parents – are bombarded by information. Letters, emails, brochures…from athletics, as well as admissions. Not to deep into the process, that student-athlete achieves information-overload status.

Now, the result of all of that attention at the start of the process kind be kind of exhilarating. After all, this is why they’ve worked as hard as they have in their sport or in the classroom, right? And it’s always fun to be “wanted” by a new college or coach. The attention is great when the possibilities seem endless.

But like I said, that’s during the first part of the process. As it gets deeper into the process, our research shows that an athlete is apt to stop reading what a coach or college is sending. Is it because they get tired of reading, or have some kind of aversion to it? That’s a myth that a lot of college coaches buy in to – and it’s false. This generation of prospects actually reads more than previous generations…all the texting and social media attention, as well as easier ways to access books through technology, prompts them to want to read as a primary way of taking in new information.

The problem is the information seldom leads them anywhere. It states facts, it cites statistics, but it seldom compels. The emails, letters and conversations you’re having with recruits never leads them down the path towards a specific conclusion that they’re looking for, and are accustomed to finding in movies, books and social media content.

In other words, Coach, telling your recruiting story needs an ending. But unlike the movie or book ending that they might be used to experiencing, this one is going to affect them personally.

So, if you find yourself trying to convince an athlete to pick your program over someone else’s program towards the end of the recruiting process, I want you to do just that:

Convince them to pick your program over someone else’s program.

Of all the methodologies and strategies we’ve seen tried in our one-on-one work with clients around the country, here are the best ways to do that:

It’s incredibly important for you to tell them what to think about you and your program. You need to offer a clear, simple definition of who you are and what you’re all about as a coach. They need to understand what makes you different than the other programs they may be considering.

Explain why you’re better. I can’t emphasize enough how vital this part of the overall strategy is down the stretch. After they’ve collected all of the information from you and your admissions department, and they slip in to ‘analysis paralysis‘, they need you to explain why you’re better. Not just a ‘good choice’, but the better choice. That’s not to say I would advise you to engage in negative recruiting; it does mean you need to make your case as to why he or she should choose you, and why you are better than their other options (if you choose to skip this step, your competitor will often be glad to fill that void you’ve left).

Tell them you want them. Sounds simple, and you probably think they already know you want them, but as the process nears the end they need to be reminded.

Tell them you’re ready to hear them say yes. They need you to open the door frequently, of course, but at the end of the process it becomes critical. Why? Because even when they feel like you’re program is the right choice, and they are ready to tell you ‘yes’, it’s incredible hard for most of them to take the initiative to get in touch with you and voice it themselves. Telling them “I’m ready” makes it easier for them to reply with their intentions.

Repeat everything you’re telling recruits to their parents. Ignoring the parents, and not involving them deeply in the conversation as the process draws to a close, will result in a loss the majority of the time. They don’t have to be on the same call, email, or text exchange that you have with a recruit, but they do need to be brought up to speed as to what you’re discussing with them.

The thing many coaches tend to want to do at the end of the process is to back away, and not put any pressure on their recruit. From their perspective, we find that he or she reads that as declining interest in them as a potential member of your roster.

Is that the signal you want to send?

The Logic Behind Your Prospect’s Dislike of Phone CallsSaturday, January 21st, 2017

The coach’s hand went up in the middle of one of my recruiting workshops on a campus recently.

“Here’s what’s frustrating”, he said. “If I text my prospects, or send them a direct message on Twitter or Snapchat, they’ll talk to me for an hour or more. But if I try to call them, it’ll usually go to voicemail – which doesn’t get returned – and if I actually get them to answer, they won’t say much at all.”

And then he asked, “Why can’t they just talk with me on the phone the same way they do when they text me on their phone?”

Because for much of this generation, a traditional phone call just isn’t logical.

When we begin work with new clients and start the process with a detailed focus group study of how their players came to the decision to come and compete at that particular university, we ask them about the communication that they had with various coaches. Consistently, they detail instances where the coach who was comfortable with text messaging them consistently was the coach that they felt was easiest to “talk” to and the one that made them feel the most wanted.

Our ongoing studies with athlete prospects, as well as other non-athlete millennial communication studies, tell us why they have an aversion to talking to you, and other coaches, on the phone.

For them, phone calls kind of seem like a waste of time. If you think about it, that’s true. Calling on the phone means the superfluous chit-chat at the start, before you eventually get around to what you wanted to talk about. And even then, that conversation will always be longer instead of shorter. For your prospects, that’s inefficient. Text messaging is faster and straight to the point. They like that.

Conflict avoidance. One of your prospect’s number one fears throughout the recruiting process is that you will criticize them, get mad at them, or pressure them into visiting campus or making a final decision. When you talk to them on the phone, they feel like there is a higher likelihood of that happening. In a text message conversation, they feel more in control. There’s less of a chance of them being put on the spot with a tough question, which gives them more comfort when they’re talking to you.

They get time to think. In a phone call, this generation of student-athlete feels enormous pressure. What it they say something wrong? Or something that makes you less interested in them? With a text message conversation, when you ask them a question or send them a response, they have time to think about what their reply should be. They can type, read it, edit, read it again, and then send it to you. It puts them in more control.

It’s what they’re used to. In the same way that many coaches are more comfortable using a phone because that’s what they grew up using, today’s student-athlete grew up learning to communicate letting their fingers do the talking. In the same way that a coach would complain about having to use text messaging to communicate, they would feel the same way about having to navigate their way through a conversation on the phone with you.

The good news for you phone lovers out there? Once you establish a relationship with them, and earn their trust through their preferred communication methods, they tell us they’re more comfortable with the idea of talking on the phone – or in person – with you. But I’d stress that this is only after a foundational communication relationship has been established.

The bad news? This isn’t optional. Developing a strategic approach to how you set-up the communication relationship is going to determine how well you are able to move your prospect through the recruiting process, from start to finish. And, I’d recommend doing it on their terms.

This generation of student-athlete recruit demands it.

The best way to learn the latest communication techniques so that you can become a more successful recruiter? That’s easy: This June, join your fellow coaches from around the country to the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. You’ll learn what other coaches do to create effective recruiting plans, and how to make the right changes to your plan. Click here to register.





Hit Em’ Where it Counts!Monday, August 8th, 2016

nicole1by Nicole Sohanic, Front Rush

Long gone are the days of snail mail and email correspondence as the main tools of communication. Historically messaging apps had a tone of being too casual and lacking in professionalism. Times sure have changed. Being the main medium of communication among ‘kids these days’, it has also found its place as a staple communication tool among working professionals.

What are messaging apps? These apps replace text messaging on your devices. Among them are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and many more. Using messaging apps, you can avoid text messaging charges and even communicate across country borders without worrying about a hefty bill. These messaging apps all have their special affordances that cater to individual’s needs. They can provide awesome bonus features that the regular text messaging app on your device just cannot do.

Competing with other coaches, you need speed and clarity when reaching out to your recruits. The quickest way to get in touch and express your interest is through messaging apps! That recruit will receive your message right away and can immediately start communicating with you in a medium they use every single day.

Casual is Comfortable

We all have at least one adult friend on facebook that will close their comment with their name as if they are writing a formal letter. No need for such formalities when you are messaging! Say hello and express your interest. Keep it light!

Short and Sweet

It is best to keep your messages on the short side! When chatting in a messaging app, sometimes it is hard to keep up. Messages can be long or can come in short, rapid bursts. Make it easy, give recruits time to respond to the messages you send. The more you get to engage with your recruit, the more you get to learn about them as an athlete and a person.

Timing is Everything

Even though recruits may receive your message right away, does not mean they can respond at that time. The tone of messaging apps can sometimes bring about some anxiety or impatience when someone doesn’t respond as quickly as we would like. Be patient, give the recruit some time to finish up whatever they could have been doing. If you have not heard from them in a day or so, feel free to touch base again to be sure they got your message.

Team Communication Tool

With your existing team, you can use messaging as a fast way to communicate. Group messages are your number one friend for mass communication. Inform your roster of practices times, schedule changes, and upcoming team events. GroupMe is a popular app among college teams. Allowing you to see when messages are sent, received, and read is super crucial to making sure everyone knows what is happening. This instills responsibility in your athletes to get back to you in a timely manner and acknowledge your message. You also have the ability to set up groups for your support staff, trainers, and current roster. Since these groups always remain, you are one click away from talking to who you want.

Get out there Coach! Jump right into these awesome messaging apps and take advantage of them for recruiting and team communication. Learn something new, talk it up, and have some fun along the way.


Are There Enough Nouns in YOUR Recruiting Message?Monday, December 7th, 2015

VotersMany college coaches don’t appreciate the need for using the right language in their recruiting messages to their teenage prospects, but politicians sure do.

There may be no other endeavor in the world more centered on the right language, used at the right time, in order to elicit a specific action. Regardless of party, politicians make word study a hallmark of a successful campaign.

For college coaches who are serious about being successful recruiters, the lessons in language should be a priority.

At the heart of that language focus is which type of word elicits the most positive reaction from voters in the world of politics. Recent studies highlight the need for a noun-based, versus a verb-based language approach, to reach the best results:

The study shows that people’s desire to shape their own identities can be harnessed to motivate behavior. That is, using noun-based wording to frame socially valued future behavior allows individuals, by performing the behavior, to assume the identity of a worthy person.

That should be a strong warning to college coaches, and force some serious reflection on how their individual letters, emails and social media posts, and even the questions they ask their recruits on the phone are constructed.

Think about it: Do you, as a recruiter, want your prospect to think about their self-identity? Or, do you want them to think about their behavior. As the voter study proves, savvy political candidates will focus on nouns and get their targeted audience motivated to take action. As a college recruiter, you should take the same approach.

Nouns beat verbs.  But, as we’ve outlined before, verbs beat adjectives.


Nouns paint a picture of who the person is. Action is important, and verbs are all about action. But for your recruits, simply prompting action isn’t enough to gain a long term commitment. As we outline in our popular recruiting guides for college coaches, your job as a top-tier recruiter is to get them to understand who you are, and what your program is all about, thereby creating the attraction to your program. In other words, the nouns identify who you are as a coach, thereby prompting a recruit’s actions.

Verbs are about doing, nouns are descriptive. There are certainly times to use verbs in your recruiting message. Absolutely. Especially when your goal is to elicit a specific response or action. But you can’t do that too soon, or too often. If you’re describing your program as one that’s “going places”, “on the rise”, or that you want to “build your program around them”, it may seem too fast, too soon. When you focus on verbs, you’d better be darn sure that your recruit is ready to ‘move’ in that same direction with you – or else you risk leaving them behind in the dust.

Your recruits want to know who you are. That requires nouns. Many coaches, when we begin working with them as new clients, are so focused on getting a recruit to campus, or getting them to apply, or just getting them to return a phone call, that everything is focused on action. What we have found in our research is that most prospects take time to ramp-up to that point where they are interested in taking any kind of action. What gets them to that point? Understand who you are, and that they want to associate themselves with you. To achieve that, you’re probably going to need to use nouns.

In a sense, this language strategy focus on appealing to the insecurities of your prospect. Use nouns instead of verbs to get your recruits to change their behavior, eventually prompting the action you’re seeking. People, like your recruits and their parents, think about their self-identities when they hear nouns. When they hear verbs, they think of behavior.

Nouns win, Coach.

It’s well worth your time to review what kind of language your messages contain, and what needs to be changed right away in order to get more desirable results from your recruits

Does the idea of using more scientific, results-oriented language as a part of a consistent, comprehensive recruiting plan sound like something you would like to do (but you really don’t want to take the time to figure out how to do it so it works for your program)? Let’s talk. We can explain why our decade of experience has lead us to uncover specific language that can elicit the right response from your recruits, and tell you how we can create a customized plan specifically for your prospects. Email dan@dantudor.com and we’ll get you information and set up a time to talk one-on-one about your specific situation and challenges. It’s worked for programs around the country, and it can work for you, too.

4 Ways to Pump Some Life Into Your Recruiting MessageMonday, September 27th, 2010

Words mean things.

It’s a simple mantra, but often overlooked even by experienced recruiters.

Why does it matter?  Because the first chance you have to get a recruit’s attention – whether you are a Division I coach who has a program in the national spotlight, or a coach from a small Division III school – is through an email or a letter.  Great copywriting is an essential part of a successful recruiting campaign, it’s the life-blood of your entire recruiting message.

Here are some of the recommendations I shared with a Division II coach I’m working with as a new client.  We’re helping them develop a series of messages that will go to recruits after they visit their campus, and agreed to share just a few of the things we’re using to develop their campaign.  Can any of these tips help you be a more effective communicator?

Send mail in different looking envelopes.  I don’t usually open “junk mail” but two years ago I remember receiving a letter and small brochure booklet in a clear, see-through envelope.  It looked cool, I got a glimpse of what was inside because of the see-through material it was mailed in, and I opened it.  Getting mail opened by your recruits is getting tougher and tougher, even if you’re a coach talking to an athlete about a possible scholarship.  Another tip that a college I recently worked with is using: A personalized message on the outside of each envelope.  They look great, and they’re getting opened.  Each is allowed by the NCAA and the U.S. Postal Service, and is considered regular first class mail.  You have lots of options to stand out from your competition.  We have a lot more on this specific topic in our two popular recruiting guides for college coaches…click here for information on them.

Ask a question at the beginning of your message.  Make it compelling.  Make them stop and think.  And, most importantly, tie it in to a motivation that your prospect has on their mind as a recruit looking at your school, as well as many others.  Getting their attention at the start of the letter or e-mail is crucial.

Use active verbs.  At the risk of sounding like your high school English teacher, let me recommend that you use active verbs throughout any communication you have with athletes.  How?  Be eliminating the verbs “is”, “are”, “was”, “were” and “am”.  For instance, if you’re talking about your program’s great graduation rates, don’t say “Our graduation rate for 2005 was 95%”.  “Was” is a no-no, remember.  Instead, say “Our graduation rates soared to 95% in 2005.”  A minor detail?  Yes.  But, an important one.  Using the right verbs keep your reader engaged.  Using the wrong verbs runs the risk of driving them away.

Use an active “voice“.  Kind of the same theory, except this applies to your overall message.  Never write in the past tense.  Write in the present, active tense.  For example, “Our athletes had the chance to attend the bowl game last year” isn’t that exciting.  Instead, how about “Our athletes attended the bowl game last year.”  See the difference?  It’s subtle, but like using active verbs, it keeps your readers engaged

Writing effective recruiting letters isn’t easy, but it’s vital to your recruiting success.

Ignoring the little things like the way you are speaking to your prospects runs the risk of never fully attracting the attention of the athletes you hope to recruit to your program.  Take a look at your current letters and emails and get to work on those changes, coach!

Have questions about your recruiting message?  Need help getting a jump-start on transforming your letters?  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and arrange a time for a talk with you and your staff.  We’re here to help!

Three Wishy-Washy Words That I Wish You Wouldn’t SayMonday, December 21st, 2009

Off target!We say it when we pick up the phone.

We say it when we start a new email.

When we say it, the recruiting process slows down.  Or, it stops altogether…never to be re-started again.  It gets us WAY off target.

And you know what?  We actually say it because we think it’s polite, non-pressuring and even a bit clever.

It’s just three little words:

“I was just…”

Those three words, when combined together, do more to grind the gears of recruiting to a stop than just about any other phrase I’ve heard when helping coaches over the past few years.

“I was just calling back to see if…”  Or, “I was just writing to check in…”

Have you ever done that?  I have many times over my professional career.  And every time I let it slip out, the results are less than desireable.

Why is that?  What is it about “I was just” that makes it so bad in a recruiting situation?

When you use that phrase, we all know what you want: You want information.  You want an update.  You need to find out if the prospect you really, really, REALLY want is close to making a decision.

And, since you are a professional who doesn’t want to pressure your young recruit, you play it cool and slide into the conversation by saying, “I was just…”

However, what you are doing in most cases is giving your prospect the unintended message that they don’t need to take action right now.  Or, depending on the topic of the discussion, you might be telling them that they aren’t all that important to you.  Here’s why starting a sentence with “I was just” can be so crippling:

  • It conveys weakness.  There isn’t much drive or energy behind the phrase, and that communicates all the wrong things to your prospect.
  • It’s a lie.  You weren’t “just checking in” when you called that last prospect, Coach.  Right?  Of course not.  You were wanting concrete information.  You wanted a progress report so you could know what to do next.  You weren’t “just checking in”, and your prospect knows it.
  • It gives your prospect permission to put you off for a while longer.  You say you were calling to just “check in” and see if I was close to making a decision?  No, sorry coach…I’m going to need a little more time.  And since it sounds like there’s no urgency on your part, I’m going to take as much as I can get.

So what should you say as your new opening line?  Here are a few ideas:

  • “I wanted to get in touch with you because…”
  • “There’s a decision we need to make here in the next week to ten days…”
  • “I need your feedback on something…”
  • “We were talking about you in the office yesterday, and wanted to ask you…”
  • “I had something happen with another prospect that I needed to let you know about…”
  • “We’ve got a deadline coming up and I wanted to talk to you about it…”

Each of those phrases can set your next conversation in the right direction.  They are strong.  They are going to prompt action.  They are going to demand attention, and – most importantly – they are going to demand a reply.

I encourage you to really focus on how you start out your sentences when you start conversations.  I know it sounds like such a small thing, but it makes a big difference when it comes to how your recruit responds to you, and what information you get from them.

Try replacing the wishy-washy “I was just” intro when you call or write, and lead-off with something stronger that will stand a better chance of getting the response you’re really looking for from your prospect.

Want even more tips and strategies to use in your everyday recruiting at your college?  Bring Dan to your athletic department for the Selling for Coaches On-Campus Workshop!  We’re rounding out our travel schedule for the upcoming months and would love to add you to the tour schedule.  Email us at dan@sellingforcoaches.com for all the details and to check on dates, or click here for more information on what this two day event is all about. 

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