I’m talking about your recruits, Coach.
In over a decade of research, focus groups, and personal recruiting stories, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Your prospects aren’t making logical decisions; they’re making illogical, emotional decisions, and then justifying that decision with just enough facts to justify their choice.
Understanding this simple fact will make recruiting a whole lot easier.
And yet, college coaches make it more complicated:
- The messages coaches sometimes send their teenage recruits goes heavy on the facts and logic, and less on the relational aspect of the decision making process.
- Coaches focus on the process of recruiting, rather than the emotional connections, that a teenager is looking for from a coach.
- The parents are looking for a coach to lead them through the process, and yet most coaches don’t make a connection with the parents of their recruits. Not doing so is one of the prime ways families decide who to visit, and who to cross off their list.
Fixing this is simple, and reformulating your core approach before it’s time to recruit your next class of prospect. But first, you need to define a few things:
What is the big thing that you and your program can offer as something for a recruit to fall in love with? You need something to give a recruit to become emotionally attached to: Your team, your plan for them, what their role on your team will be, joining the fight to win back-to-back championships, or signing-on to help rebuild the program, for a few examples. You need to connect with the heart of your recruit. What are you leading with?
What is the big objection you see as something you’re going to have to overcome? My suggestion is to address it right away as part of what they should love about you. We worked with a football coach several years ago who used to apologize for, and avoid, their old outdated locker room. Then, we came up with research on why his players loved the place, and how they viewed it with a lot of positive emotion. Now, that coach makes his old locker room a center-piece of the story they tell a recruit.
(If you choose to use this approach, defining both the attractions – and the negatives – of your program is essential. It’s one of the most least defined aspects of most coaches’ programs, and it ends up hurting them terribly.)
So, what aspects of their decision making revolve around their “hearts”?…What aspects of their decision to come to a program usually center around the emotional part of the equation? Here’s a Top 5 checklist of what we’ve found to be the most impactful:
- Their emotional connection to your team.
- Their trust in you as their potential future coach.
- The comments and feelings they get around your campus when they visit.
- How you treat their parents during the recruiting process.
- What they hear others (your team, other coaches, students not related to athletics) say about you during their campus visit.
On the other side of the coin, when it comes to the logical side of their decision, here’s what our research shows them relying upon:
- By far, the most important thing for most student-athletes is your plan for them once (if) they come to compete for you.
- In a close second, the scholarship or financial package you and your school are offering.
- The plan for them on your team that you outline for them.
- How well your college lines-up with their pre-defined vision of what college is supposed to be like (things like location, size, type of area, etc). Note: You might observe that this category is really more of a ‘feeling’, but we’ve observed that the majority of your prospects – and their parents – see this as something that’s logical.
- What your college can give them academically, specifically centered around their major (and proving that you’re better than their alternatives).
Now the important part (the thing that most coaches miss):
You have to do both.
You see, with this generation of recruits, we find that they will first “fall in love” with a team, a coach and a school. There’s an emotional connection that needs to happen first in their hearts. Once that happens, however, we find that there’s a definitive point where they lurch back in the other direction…almost realizing that it’s not smart to make a final decision based solely on how they feel about things. They will then search for the logical reasons why they should trust their heart; they’ll look to justify their emotional connection with a coach/team/school by coming up with solid, logical reasons why it’s a smart choice, validating why their emotional reasoning. They decide with their heart, and then justify with their head.
Most coaches do one, but not the other. They assume that by being more logical, and providing more “stuff” than other colleges, they’ll get the prospect. Or, others will assume that by stealing their recruits’ hearts and creating only an emotional appeal, they will win the competition for their talents.
The truth is, if the goal is consistent, high-impact recruiting, both categories have to be addressed. The more consistently you do it, and the earlier in the recruiting process that you start, the better chance you have of establishing yourself as one of the top choices in the mind of your recruit.
Start here: Define each of those points within both categories for your program, and then prove to yourself that you are showing your prospects how you address each point. For any program, that should be a priority within the overall task of creating your program’s story.
They decide with their heart, and then justify with their head. That’s the case with virtually all of your prospects, so make it a priority for you and your program.
These are the same kind of advanced skills that we teach coaches who go through our popular Tudor University online recruiting training and certification. If you’re a client, the course is free. If you aren’t, click here to start the training process today.