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The 3 Critical Hardwires That Impact Your CoachingMonday, October 19th, 2015

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Our brains are hardwired. Firmly fixed in the ways we perceive the world.

For coaches, you ignore these hardwires at your peril. If you do ignore them, odds are your coaching efforts will fail.

We have numerous hardwires, but there are 3 critical ones you need to know about because every time you work with people these hardwires start buzzing.

Hardwire #1: People crave stories

Think back to your early schooling. Remember the story of Columbus sailing the “ocean blue in 1492?” Or Aesop’s Fables? Or those books like “Captains Courageous?” Stories were the way we learned.

Today, it’s stories like Harry Potter, House of Cards, and The Martian that grab and hold our attention — because we are hardwired for them.

So what?

How this impacts you. First, a story will help get your point across. Telling an athlete to “eat a good breakfast on competition day” won’t inspire habit-breaking action. Yet, your story of Bobby, who skipped breakfast and on his way to break the Conference record ran out of gas and collapsed 10 meters from the finish line, just might inspire the action you want.

Second, people hate story-vacuums. If they believe a story is missing, they will create their own.

For instance, years ago, I removed a member from the team for disciplinary reasons. I believed it best to only tell the team, “Betty Sue will no longer be with us as we try to win a championship.” I thought, “That’s that!”

Not even close.

Team members filled in the vacuum of what I didn’t say with god knows what. Her dismissal became a “drama-point” for weeks, and drained the team of critical mental energy.

Since then, I implant a story in other’s minds before they create their own.

Hardwire #2: People are the center of their stories

This story thing gets more involved because we are hardwired to be the center of our stories. It is, no kidding, all about us. We are the center of our own Universe.

It doesn’t matter if you are the most giving and selfless person in the World, it is still your-story.

So what?

How this impacts you. Each athlete has a story, and he is the center of that story. Going one step further — you are the center of your own story, Coach.

Again, so what? Well, think about that for a moment. Constantly running through our heads are me-stories. Your athletes see their time with the team from their perspective. You see your coaching from your perspective.

Understanding this hardwire gives you insight into athlete behavior, and also yours.

For instance, going home torqued because an athlete disappointed you at practice? That’s your-story. At this very moment the athlete is creating her-story. Understanding both stories will help you be better prepared for the next outing.

Hardwire # 3: People value approval over results

“I’d rather be liked than be right.” I heard that a while ago in a locker room.

I get it.

We are hardwired for approval. Okay, some folks don’t have this wiring, but I bet many of your athletes and peers do. Odds are, you do to.

How this impacts you. Let me share two perspectives. First, relationships, especially with youngsters, are often more important than winning.

Second, wording is critical. Read both of these:

  • “I liked your effort. Next time, with some improvements, you might win.”
  • “You are not playing the way we want. Play better so we can win.”

The first one has approval, the second is about results. Think how each of those plays out in the athlete’s me-story. If you want better performance from me, give me the first one any day.

How about you? And what if results get you approval? How does that play out? There’s a question to chew on.

Action You Can (and should) Take

As a coach, you take on the role of a lay-psychologist. You benefit when you understand the working of your athlete’s mind.

Interesting, to thrive in coaching, you need to understand the workings of your own mind, also.

For better understanding, try each hardwire:

  • See how stories resonate with your team.
  • Ask yourself what your-story is. Ask an athlete what his-story he is telling himself.
  • See how approval comments do or don’t impact the quality of action you get.

Knowing what goes on in the other person’s mind makes you a better coach. Knowing what goes on in yours, makes you a better person.

The Epic Coach Struggle: To Yell Or To FascinateMonday, January 19th, 2015

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

[This is part three in the series on effective persuasion for sport coaches]

Melissa was a great swimmer. Extraordinary some would say. In the straightaways she was tough to beat. But she had a fault — her flip turns. They weren’t as good as they could be.

Coach knew that and had developed a plan to improve Melissa’s turns. He told her the plan, explaining if she could improve her turns she might make the cut for the national championships.

Melissa listened to her coach, she wanted to win, and wanted to make the cut. But she wasn’t convinced she needed to make the change. She tried for one practice, but then gave up. She would just swim harder in the straights, which she knew she could do.

At her conference championships, she swam her best race ever, but missed the cut time by .02 seconds. A time she could have bested if her flip turns had just been a little bit more effective.

An outsider looking in, at Melissa and her performance, could be excused for laying all the blame on Melissa. “Too stubborn,” or “Un-coachable” they might say.

Yet her Coach missed out on a valuable part of convincing Melissa to make the change she needed to make. Know what it was?

Persuasion To The Rescue

For the past several articles, the focus has been on persuasion, the art of convincing someone to take positive action. So far, we’ve discussed:

Melissa’s coach did a great job on those two steps, but let the ball drop on the next step, Step 3: Fire Up Fascination. If he had accomplished that, Melissa might be swimming at the national championships right now.

Welcome To The Fascination Dome

This step, Fire Up Fascination, is the fulcrum of effective persuasion. All too often coaches will ace the first two steps; then assume the athlete’s motivation (or whoever else they are trying to persuade) will be so peeked that the positive action will just happen.

Not so.

It’s harder today than ever to persuade people. Distractions are plentiful and shortcuts are everywhere. To persuade today you need to go further than grabbing their attention and sparking their interest. You have to fire up the fascination. This element alone can make or break whether you are successful persuading someone (or a group) to take positive action, and be an effective coach.

Value Redux

People want to know, demand-to-know, the value to them if they take the action you want them to take. That is the way of the coaching world today.

Yet, many coaches go wrong here. Because the value they espouse is of value to the coach, but not to the athlete.

For instance, you might value winning your conference. Ache for it. But, your athlete, a freshmen, new to your team and to the sport has no attachment to the conference championship. To him, its just another contest. To you, it is the world.

See the detachment between the two? It’s a wide gap. The key to value is to determine what is of value to the OTHER person.

You find that, and here’s where the fulcrum comes in …

Fascination Time

The fascinating element of your persuasion is where your coaching-skills shine. It’s where you make the value to the person so appealing, so enticing, so tantalizing they WILL take the positive action you want them to.

Listen to how one of the leading experts on fascination, Sally Hogshead, describes it:

Fascination is a state of intense focus. When you fascinate your listener, they become completely engrossed so that they’re not distracted. In this neurological state, they are more likely to listen to you, remember you, and take action.

Doesn’t that describe what you’d like your athletes to do? Can you give me a, “Heck Yeah!”

My Example

On Tuesday, I am going to walk into a room full of athletes. They’ve been away from college for 5 weeks, and in the off-season for 13.  I have to persuade them to commit to our spring training plan, and convince them that:

  • There will be value in the hard work
  • The time commitment will be worth it
  • The changes we will be making are wise and in their best interest

It’s a strong-willed group of athletes. What am I going to do?

Point blank, I’m going to show them the value in the plan, and then fascinate them.

How Do YOU Fascinate

Fascinating is not a difficult process, and it’s not perfect, but here’s how to fascinate:

Have empathy: dig deep into how the other person feels and thinks

Describe value: describe it and show them how to get there

Build a fire: spark their interest and build that spark into a fire … and keep it going over time

So for my team, I’m going to:

  • Determine what the benefits/rewards are of our plan and tell the benefits to them
  • Make sure objections/concerns are satisfied (for example seniors might object to not traveling for Spring Break and practicing at home, freshmen might object to a different training plan then they had in high school)
  • Summarize
  • Stoke the fire

And then there’s one last step I’ll take, which I’ll tell you about next week. (Sneak preview: Step 4: Call To Positive Action)

Your Turn

In your pocket you now have three critical steps to convince someone to take positive action. Big deal, right? It is, if you do something with them!

Hey, you want to improve your athlete(s). Right? Do you think that’s going to happen by yelling and screaming? No! That model of persuasion doesn’t work, pure and simple. Your success will come from being effective at persuasion. That’s how you become a coach they remember, with statues and bobbleheads of you, and a paycheck to drool over. You want that right?

(See, I used Steps 1-3 right there, on you. Did they work?)

Coaching In 2015, Love, And Two VoicesMonday, December 29th, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

I’ve been coaching amateur athletes for a living for the past 34 years — mostly collegiate, but also pee wee and even international competitors.

During that time, I’ve worked with some really tough athletes.

And I’ve learned a very important thing from those tough athletes:

If you want to be tough you need to fall in love

The two voices

There is a loud and powerful voice that screams in most coach’s heads, and it sounds like this:

  • If I fail, I will lose _________.
  • If I do that, I’ll look dumb.
  • I could never do that, I’m not smart enough.

I call that the FEAR VOICE.

This Fear Voice sucks. It does NOT instill toughness, but instead panic. It distracts. It paralyses. It causes stupid stuff to happen.

For instance, as I walked into the 1996 Olympic Stadium with the US team for the Opening Ceremonies the Fear Voice was totally in control. “Oh, my God, don’t trip. If I trip everyone in the World will see what a klutz I am.”

And, of course … I tripped.

Going down the ramp … in full glory … I’m sure it’s on tape somewhere.

That is what the stupid Fear Voice does to people.

The good voice

Ah … but there is another voice — the Love Voice. This voice says, “I love competing, and the results are meant to be.” In my case, my Love Voice would have said, “I love the chance to show off in front of people. Walking into this stadium will be great.”

The LOVE voice is positive. It is warm. It is happy. And it is tough (as hell).

All you need is love

In my book, love is infinitely tougher than fear. And it is a secret ingredient of being tough.

It may sound silly, until you see that it in action:

  • What helps an athlete win a World Championships just days after his father passed away? Love.
  • What helps a mother do, and do, and do, for her family? Love.
  • What helps a Coach work crazy hours, take risks, while improving her World? Love.

Here’s an example … we have a two-time all-American on our team. She arrived there because she loves to test herself. Our conversations are all about her training and competing against herself and her LOVING that part of the journey. Her inner voice is NOT “beat others so I can be the best.” Instead, her mantra is “I’m loving this opportunity to find out who I am!

Coaching with love

How can you put this Love Voice to use for you? Try these steps:

1) Determine what you need to do that requires toughnessI need to recruit 5 student-athletes this year.

2) What is the part of that you FearAsking people to make a commitment to your school/team.

3) What is the part of this you Love, and give it a voiceI love recruiting because it helps athletes find a great place for them to further their education!

4) When the Fear Voice appears drown it out with the Love Voice“I love helping student-athletes find their inner strengths, and asking them to commit to my school/team is good for them and their future.

You will find power through that love. Athletes do all the time. Love is what makes tough people tough.

And you in 2015

Is there a place for such talk as “love in coaching” in 2015? Not just a place, a big need. Athletes need, today more than ever, to have positive vibes sent their way. Not because they are spoiled, or lazy, or don’t care. Instead, because the expectations on them are enormous, the support dwindling, their goals lofty.

Will love help you get where you want to go? To convince athletes, supporters, parents to do what needs to be done? Well … what catches more flies, honey or vinegar?

PS: Coaching can be pretty lonely. Do you have a plan to stay connected with your social support group in 2015?

Why Your Prospects Might Not Care About Your Version of “Better”?Monday, November 24th, 2014

The college coach that can prove their business degree is more highly rated than a competitor’s business degree is often bewildered when their prospect chooses the other school.

The same holds true for the coach who wins their conference championship, only to lose a kid to a program with a new coach and no winning history.  Or, the coach who can boast that her program is closer to home, only to lose the prospect to a school 2,000 miles away.

In each case, the coach can make a very good case that their program.

Here’s the problem:

Their prospect may not care about their version of “better”.

This time of year, college coaches need to be aware of this very important reality with recruiting this generation of teenage prospects.  Whereas you – being a smart college coach – have made career decisions, recruiting decisions, and game decisions based on the best (or “better”) information possible, your recruits aren’t using that same process.  As we’ve chronicled in detail over the years, your prospects make decisions based largely on emotion (and so do their parents).

So, as a coach begins to formulate a recruiting strategy based on simple assumptions on what’s better, they run into the stinging reality that their recruits aren’t operating on the same level.  What I’m saying is that many of your prospects that you’re in the middle of recruiting may not really care about your version of “better”.

Why?  There are some very simple, but vitally important, principles that you need to know if you want to successfully make your case to these athletes:

Your recruit may not know why you are the better choice.  How could that happen???  You sent them two or three very detailed messages, outlining all of the awards and honors your program and your college has won.  Plus, they came for a campus visit.  So how could be there be any confusion on their part?

Quite simply, because your story has been lost in the noisy, marketing-filled world that they live in.  That’s why we preach the need for a consistent, ongoing message starting as early as possible in the recruiting process.  We have case study after case study that proves this is the best methodology when communicating ideas to recruits and their parents.  If you aren’t sending out a message to your recruits every six to nine days that clearly states why they should choose you, there will be a high likelihood that they don’t figure out why you are the better choice. (If you’d like our help in creating that strategic plan, click here)

Your recruit may not believe what you’re telling them.  It’s another hard truth that many college coaches don’t put enough focus on: Your recruit needs more than just words, they need proof.  They need proof that your team, your program, and your school is going to give them exactly what they are looking for in a college.

It isn’t enough to just say that your classes have a great teacher-to-student ratio.  It may be true, but you have to assume that they’ll say “so what?”  Or worse, they may think to themselves, “that’s great, but every college I’m looking at has told me that…they’re just trying to sell me something.”  As a coach, let me ask you this important question: What have you told them that proves you are telling the truth, and puts it into context with where they are at in their decision making process?  Answer that question, Coach.  If you have a good answer, then you’ll be on your way to eliminating this point as a possible reason they would reject your version of “better”.

Your recruit may not believe the risk of switching allegiances to you is worth it.  For the top 1% in your sport, they have the luxury of picking and choosing the prospects that they want, and those prospects will happily accept their offer.  If you aren’t part of that 1%, you need to assume that there are legitimate reasons your prospect will have reasons to not choose you as one of their top choices.  Taking that glass-is-half-empty, worst case scenario approach will help you take the right approach as you communicate with your prospects.

This is probably the primary reason you lose most of your prospects.  They just haven’t come to believe that you and your program should be the logical choice.  Yes, it’s because of their own prejudices, ideas and decisions.  And most of those are illogical, or even downright incorrect.  But that’s what they believe.

Have you made the case to them that it’s worth the “risk” to say no to the program that they’ve dreamed of, and choose you instead?  And if so, how have you done that?  At this time of year, many of your prospects are deciding whether it’s worth the risk to choose you, Coach.  Be vigilant in how you help them do that.

Your recruit may not believe that your “better” is their better.  In fact, as you read the end of this article, I can tell you that in many, many cases that is true for your prospects.  Does it mean you can’t change their mind?  Of course not, but you need to take an aggressive, persistent approach in telling your story to that skeptical recruit and his or her family.  However, you also need to analyze where you are at in your conversation with that prospect, and make the judgement as to whether or not it’s time to move on.  There are times when it’s advisable to stop recruiting a prospect that is never going to belief your better is best.

The bottom line to the points I’m making here?  Adopting this philosophical approach to your recruiting process demands continual action.  Recruit is not a passive activity, and there are no down times.  This is especially true when you’re trying to convince an important recruit that you and your program truly are better than your competition.

Our Total Recruiting Solution program is designed to break through the clutter, and deliver consistent, research-based messages that connect with your prospects.  If you need help down the stretch, and in preparing to effectively recruit your next class, click here.

The Bias Your Prospect Has Against You (and How to Overcome It)Monday, September 29th, 2014

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 9.57.03 PMI have worn K-Swiss tennis shoes for thirty straight years.

I started wearing them as a high school Senior when I was playing tennis, and haven’t looked back.  I usually buy one pair a year, and make the previous year’s pair my beat-up pair of yard work shoes.  They’re comfortable, they’re durable, and I like the way they look.

In other words, the billions of dollars of advertising and branding that Nike, Adidas, and the rest have invested in hasn’t convinced me to switch allegiances.  I have an emotional bias towards K-Swiss tennis shoes, and I don’t see it ending any time soon.

Why is that?  Because despite my increasing risk of becoming a fashion outcast (a label which is applicable beyond just my choice of footwear, admittedly) no other shoe maker has made the emotional case for why I should switch.  And since I already think I know everything there is to know about tennis shoes that are “right” for me, I tune out their advertising message.  I know what I want, it’s a smart decision, and that’s that.  And, whenever I see something that’s positive or favorable about K-Swiss, it further cements my belief that I made the right choice.

Which is where you come in, Coach:

The exact same reason I don’t seriously consider switching tennis shoe brands may be the reason many of your recruits don’t seriously consider you and your program. It’s a principle called confirmation bias, and it’s an increasing area of study for our group here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies as we map out strategies and communication plans for our clients.

Confirmation bias happens when we only pay attention to the data or information that affirms our decision or beliefs. We interpret all new data through the grid of what we’ve already decided. And, one of the most fascinating features of confirmation bias is that it causes us to press our beliefs beyond the level of credibility. Even though evidence may overwhelmingly contradict our position, we hold tenaciously to our preferred belief. In my case, it may be irrational love for K-Swiss tennis shoes.  For you as a coach, it could be affecting your recruit’s ability to look logically at the opportunity you’re offering your recruits:

  • They don’t want to consider you as a Division II program, because they’ve decided that schools in your category aren’t solid academically and would mean “settling” athletically. And every time their club coach tells them that “they can do better than a D2 offer”, it confirms that notion.
  • Your prospect doesn’t want to visit campus because they aren’t used to snow and cold winters, so of course they’d be unhappy playing for you.  And every time they see snow forecasted for your region of the country, it confirms that notion.
  • The parents of your prospect are suspect of the fact that you’re so young, and automatically assume that you will have trouble leading a program in a serious way. And, when the more experienced coach in your conference makes reference to your age or coaching experience in a negative way, it confirms that notion.

Sound familiar? Right now, confirmation bias – and the negative effects it carries – is creating more hurdles for you in the recruiting process.  It’s a powerful psychological aspect of our decision making, albeit illogical.  As a recent New York Times article on the topic outlines, confirmation bias is a “tendency to look for information that supports the way we feel about something.”

So, what are you doing to combat that, Coach?  And, what’s the best way to compete against this line of thinking on the part of your prospects and their increasingly influential parents?

First, understand that your prospect has probably already made up his or her mind.  That might be a good thing for you, or it could be the negative that’s preventing them from replying to your initial emails.  Once you agree that most of your recruits come into a conversation with preconceived biases and ideas, I believe it changes the way you construct a recruiting message.

They aren’t looking for logic right away.  They’re looking for an emotional reason to have a conversation with you.  Why doesn’t a recruit respond to you when you send out a logical, factual outline of what your school offers, the successful history of your program, and the outstanding networking opportunities that your graduates enjoy?  Because they’ve already decided that their original choice is the smartest for them.  Just like I’ve decided that K-Swiss is the perfect brand for me – based on nothing more than the fact that I’ve always worn them and I like the way they look and feel – your prospect is basing his or her initial decision on whether to communicate with you or not on simplistic, illogical reasons.  So don’t try to sell them on the logic behind choosing you right away; instead, create an emotional connection with them.

Focus on what makes them happy.  Why have they decided that another division level, another location, or another coach’s experience is right for them?  What are they assuming that gives them as an end result?  You need to make the emotional case that (using the previous examples for the sake of argument) having a younger coach is better, competing at the Division II level affords you more freedom and balance, and that experiencing a different climate is actually a great thing.  Only after those basic ideas are accepted as possibilities can you then move on to the logical argument that you’re the best option for them.

Last, but not least, be consistent.  This strategy doesn’t take place over one or two emails, or in one long phone conversation. It may take weeks to create that emotional connection.  Consistent, long term communication with your prospect using the rule that we talk about in many of the On-Campus Workshops we’ve conducted is key. That research-based rule, which says that most recruits want a message that tells them “here’s why you should come play for me” sent every six to nine days.  They need the consistency, and they need it talked about in a personalized way…that makes it easy to reply back to you and start a conversation.

Understanding this important psychological component of your prospect’s mental make-up is key in developing a comprehensive, effective recruiting message.  Without it, they are probably going to come up with enough illogical reasons on their own to not talk to you, or seriously look at the alternatives available to them.

I’ve got thirty years worth of old K-Swiss tennis shoes that’ll back me up on that.

We’ve put together more outstanding, inexpensive resources for you to become a more knowledgable, strategic recruiter.  Click here to collect our written resources for your personal coaching library, and click here to find out how to become a continual learner through our Premium Member program.

Three New Ways to Persuade Your Next Class of ProspectsMonday, September 1st, 2014

You’ve scouted your recruit.  You’ve made contact with your recruit.

Now, you want to begin selling your recruit on the idea of coming to play for you and your program.

And that involves persuasion.

Persuasion isn’t the act of “tricking” someone, and it doesn’t mean twisting their arm until they just give-up and relent to your way of thinking.  Persuasion is the art of mixing equal parts logic and passion, and becoming impossible to say no to.  You need the carrot and the stick.

If you meet a successful recruiter, you’ll find that they’ve mastered that art.

So, what makes up a great persuasive argument that you can make with your next class of prospects?  Several research-based ingredients that I’ll bet you’ve never stopped to think about before:

People prefer cockiness.  It’s true, both in real life and in recruiting.  When looking to choose a coach to play for, our research clearly shows that athletes and their parents are desperately looking for a confident leader who can articulate a plan for not only for his or her program, but for their recruit as well.

Some of you reading this might object to the idea of being “cocky”.  I understand.  How about “insanely confident”?  And I’m talking about whether or not your record would back you up on it.  Recruits, in the middle of making this stressful decision, are looking for someone who they feel is confident about where their program is heading.  Stop saying “I think”, or “I believe” when you’re trying to make your case.  Replace it with “We will” and put some emotion behind it.

Want to do a better job of persuading your next class of prospects?  Put together a plan to demonstrate that you’re the logical choice by flashing your cocky side a little bit.

Figure out whether you need to talk faster or slower.    Did you know that it’s better to talk faster if your recruit is likely to disagree with you, or have doubts about your program?  That’s because it gives them less time to formulate their own counter-opinions, and make it more likely that they accept your “insanely confident” conversation points as truth  And, it also makes it less likely that their mind will wander and stop paying attention.

Are you talking to a recruit that is likely to agree with you, or is excited about you and your program?  You guessed it: Slow your rate of speech down.  (Want proof?  Here’s an insane amount of research that backs up the points we’re making here, Coach)

Being persuasive involves giving off the right “feel” to your recruit, and how they take in what you’re saying counts a lot as they evaluate you and your program.

Share the positives and the negatives.  Coaches that talk only about the positives associated with their school and their program are missing the boat.  This generation of kids (and their parents) are looking for coaches that are demonstrating honesty in the recruiting process.  As we’ve said in the past, it’s good to show your cracks to your prospects.

What many coaches miss as they put together a strategy for trying to persuade their recruits is the idea that kids and their parents are coming into the conversation with you only looking for the most exciting, most positive views of your program.  On the contrary: Many prospects are assuming that you are trying to hide something. Don’t lend credence to that notion by not revealing what you need to improve upon, or one or two things that are big improvement goals for you as their potential coach.

Selling involves persuasion, and persuasion is an art form that most coaches don’t put much energy into perfecting.  Before you begin speaking in-depth with your recruits, take these three proven persuasion-boosters and implement them into your conversation with this next class of recruits.

Need help with developing a persuasive story to tell your recruits?  The team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies will help you take a research-based approach to answer that question, and work alongside you and your staff throughout the year to make sure your recruiting class is second to none. Click here to find out how we do it (or email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com to talk with him about it)

The Power Of InfluenceThursday, May 15th, 2014

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

For better or for worse, a lot of recruiting is influence. I like to believe it is more the former, which is why I’d like to share some things we have learned about influence (as you can imagine, a lot of technology creation is influence) and how they can be related to the recruiting game. This is a short list, a teaser if you will, but very impactful to say the least.

“It’s Your Choice”
This by far is my favorite. People like to feel empowered and hate to be told what to do. Simply saying “It’s your choice” after giving an option can dramatically increase the probability the person will act in the direction you intend. A basic example would be “You can eat this sandwich or not…it’s your choice” vs “Eat this sandwich”. The former being the optimal way to deliver the option vs the latter, which puts the recipient on the defensive.

Apologize Before Asking
If you apologize for situations outside of your control prior to asking a question, you are more likely to come across as trustworthy. An interesting study was done where an actor asked 65 strangers if he could borrow their phone. Prior to asking, he apologized for the rain (it was raining that day) and 47% of people asked offered up their device…compared to 9% when he didn’t.

Use Social Influence
This is ingrained in product people and should be second nature to you too. People are influenced by their peers, much more than you may think. Have you ever gone to a website and seen case studies, a client list, logos, etc? Even with Front Rush, when we speak with potential customers, we will bring up some of our clients in that potential customer’s conference or clients that the potential customer competes against or will compete against or has worked with, etc. This makes the potential customer feel like they need to invest in our product as well.

Hopefully these can help you get off the ground, but please use your new influential super powers for good and we’ll be happy to share more.

Sean Devlin is the lead technical architect of the popular contact management database, Front Rush.  Yes, they can help you produce branded, graphic-rich email templates to use with your prospects.  But that’s just the tip of the giant Front Rush iceberg!  Visit Front Rush online for a complete rundown of their awesomeness, and find out why they are the #1 choice of college coaches around the country.




How Geno Made Pressure FunMonday, April 14th, 2014

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?

How To Handle The NaysayersFriday, March 14th, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday

This post is based on a recent jam session by Jonathan Fields.

When you coach, you WILL attract naysayers:

That’s a stupid idea 

– Your team is too small 

                                                                 – You don’t have enough experience 

                                                                – You can’t win

You know these people. They are trying to bring you down. They have an opinion that you can’t achieve what you’re trying to do, and they let you know all-about-it.

Some naysayers are vocal. Some are quiet. Regardless of the intensity of their voice, they are there. Lurking.

So, are their words worth listening to? That’s something I deal with frequently as a coach, and I bet you do too.

I’d like to discuss a few words about their opinion, and then share a simple tool to help you determine whether their opinion is worthy of your attention.


It’s helpful to know what the opinion of the naysayer is based upon. Is it based on facts? If so, then maybe you should listen. There MIGHT be wisdom in the words.

Based on jealousy? Has the naysayer failed at what you are trying to accomplish? If you were to be successful, does the other person stand to lose something (money, status, press)? In case of a fan, you win, he losses. That fan’s words are probably dripping with jealousy. Ignore jealousy-based naysayer-words. They ARE destructive and not helpful at all.

How about this basis for a naysayer’s voice — fear. I can still hear mom saying, “You’re too uncoordinated to go out for football. You’ll get hurt.” She was speaking from that very strong, very parently-voice of protection. She was really saying, “I’m afraid you’ll get hurt.” (BTW, thank you Mom, you were right.) Fear-based naysayer-words might be worthy of your attention. Maybe, but certainly not always.


The naysayer, who is he or she? A family member, or close friend? A mentor? Someone working in athletics, coaching your same sport? Some bored bozo in a chat room?

It makes a difference who the is  person, in terms of the worthiness of their opinion. President Theodore Roosevelt weighed in on this, when he said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood …

– from Goodreads.com


As promised, here’s my simple tool that helps me quickly figure if I should listen to a naysayer. I award the point in the brackets if the naysayer fits the description. The higher the point total, the stronger I listen to the opinion:

  • [1 point] If the naysayer works in my field
  • [1 point ] If the voice is based on fear
  • [2 points] If the voice is based on facts
  • [1 point] If the voice is from a family member or close friend
  • [minus 1 point] If the voice is based on jealousy

Add up your total. The greater the number, the more I listen. In essence, I have a short list of people whose opinions I listen to, and I tune out the rest. And you?

How do you handle the sayers of “nay?”

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.

Reading Their Hand Signals in the Big Game of RecruitingMonday, February 10th, 2014

The headline you can take away from the Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos was how Seattle’s defense managed to shut-down the Broncos high flying offense, leading to one of the biggest championship routs in the history of the big game.

It wasn’t through brute force.  And it wasn’t from stopping a last-minute drive at the end of the game for a lucky win.

No, the big news was that the Seattle defense was able to crack the code of Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning’s vaunted hand signals – the same secret code that lead Denver to the becoming one of the best offensive powers during the 2013 NFL regular season.  Here’s what Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman said after the game:

“All we did was play situational football,” Sherman said after the game. “We knew what route concepts they liked on different downs, so we jumped all the routes. Then we figured out the hand signals for a few of the route audibles in the first half. Me and my he other guys in the secondary… we’re not just three All-Pro players. We’re three All-Pro minds. Now, if Peyton had thrown in some double moves, if he had gone out of character, we could’ve been exposed.”

So, what does all this have to do with recruiting your next college prospect?  Simple:

I want you to start stealing their hand signals.

They give them all the time, and yet sometimes coaches miss them.  I want to outline a few of the big signals you should be looking for, and de-code them for you so that you can get a better idea of how these recruits (and their parents…and their coaches) try to give you a head-fake in the big game of recruiting:

  • Your prospect doesn’t return your phone call.  They’re either busy, or find you boring and too time consuming.  The solution?  Text them.  It’s been consistently replacing phone calls as the top personalized way to have a conversation with a prospect.  (Not because you like it that way, Coach, but because they like it that way).  They’re silence is signaling that they either want a new way to communicate with you, or they’re ready for something more significant in terms of what you’re talking to them about.
  • Your prospect puts your call on speaker phone.  Finally got them on the phone, and they put you on speaker?  Get out of that call as soon as possible.  They’re bored, and not listening to you with 100% focus.  Give them one or two specific things you want them to do next, and end the call.  Why?  Well, let me ask you a question: Why do you put people on speaker phone?  So you can do other things while kind of paying attention to whoever is on the line.
  • Your prospect just told you they need a little more time to think about your offer.  They’ve decided that you’re clearly not their number one choice and just don’t know how to tell you that, or they have interest in your program but they’re trying to see if something better comes along – whether that’s a better athletic option, or more money.  They’re signaling that it’s time for you to make a strong case for why you should be a serious contender for their services, and that you’d better either set a fair deadline or get them to confirm that they probably aren’t going to be choosing to compete for you or your program.  Either way, it’s time to get them to define why they need a little more time. 
  • Your prospect gives you a verbal commitment.  After you tell them thats great, and that you’re excited about that news, ask them when they’re going to announce it on Twitter.  That’s this generation’s real letter of intent.  Whether you’re a big-time D1 program, a small private college, or someone in between, if they aren’t willing to announce their decision on Twitter they’re signaling that they’re still keeping their options open.  Trust me on this one, Coach.
  • Your prospect calls you and ask you questions without you prompting them to do so.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.
  • Your prospect emails you back after you send them a message.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.
  • Your prospect gives you updates on what they just turned into admissions, or what they just heard from financial aid, or what they just did in the last game that they played.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but chances are you’re dealing with a prospect or two that are signaling what’s really going on behind the scenes.  Your job as a coach is to read what they’re signaling, interpret it, and then act on it.  It’s a crucial part of the job if you’re aiming to be a high-level, successful college recruiter.

No go out there and play the big game in recruiting the way we all know you can.

Want more innovative approaches that will help you become a dominant recruiter?  You need to be at the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this June.  It’s the greatest weekend on earth for serious recruiters who want to make sure they use the latest techniques and approaches with this next class of recruits.  Get all of the details here.

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