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Eggs, Soap and the Recruiting Myths You Choose to BelieveMonday, September 5th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 8.24.55 PMRemember when eating eggs was going to send you to an early grave? Think again.

And how you’d better be using anti-bacterial soap if you wanted to really, really, really clean your hands? Yeah, not so much.

Those are just two of a long list of things that were once accepted as scientific truth, only to be undone by changing information discovered at a later date.

However, the need to re-think what we’d now define as myths isn’t limited to breakfast foods and clean hands. No, there are plenty of old recruiting myths that are still held as firm truth by many college recruiters around the country. And unlike some of the other things we experience in our daily lives, these tales can really hamper effective recruiting – and, damage the chances for coaches to develop their careers.

Here are a few that I’d recommend you take a second look at, based on our focus group testing with the clients that we serve, and observing recruiting practices that just don’t result in effective results. This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a few that any smart coach should consider changing.

The myth that paper mail isn’t effective as a communication tool. Easily, this is the number one myth that I see coaches clinging to. Partly, I believe, because it gives them permission to eliminate the postage and materials cost from their budgets, and it also saves a lot of time (writing letters, even the printed ones that you used to send to 200 recruits at a time, took a heck of a lot of time, right Coach?)  But it’s exactly because of that second point that they’re so effective now with this generation; so many coaches have abandoned the practice because of their mythical belief that ‘this generation doesn’t read mail’ that the ones that do send it find kids will hold it as tangible proof that a coach is “serious about them.” (One thing I need to clarify: They will respond to well-written, engaging letters. If you are sending them stuff that sounds like traditional, boring, mass-mail messaging, then it doesn’t work).

The myth that small schools can’t get early unofficial visits. Can I talk to you coaches at Division II, Division III and NAIA programs for a moment? One of the things that is killing you right now is that you’re not acting like a D1 program when it comes to asking for visits. More and more prospects not only want to be invited for an unofficial visit, they expect it. And when you don’t extend that offer (usually by early Spring of their Junior year in high school, at the latest) they begin to develop their own campus visit list – and you probably aren’t on it. The myth that kids won’t make unofficial visits to smaller programs doesn’t have a basis in fact. If I’m talking to you right now, re-think your strategy on this one, Coach.

The myth that their high school and club coaches aren’t deeply involved in helping a recruit form an opinion about you. They absolutely are. Actually, I think you know that, right? But here’s the question, Coach: What part of your recruiting plan is actually addressing the type of ongoing, effective contact you have with this influential group? Can you show me – or others on your staff – how you are outlining an effective story to those coaches? I’m not talking about calling them or the times you bump into them at their practices or games…what are you telling them on an ongoing basis that gives them enough information to get them to the point where they think to themselves, “heck, I’d be crazy not to want to send my kids to their program.” Because that’s the standard they demand, especially if you aren’t a program that is going to make them look good when their athlete commits to you.

The myth that you might accidentally pressure them into committing. In other words, “If I ask them what their decision timeline is, or ask them if they feel like they’re ready to commit to your program, I’ll drive them away or force them to commit when they really don’t want to.” Let me ease your fears, Coach: You don’t have that power. You can’t trick a kid into committing to your full ride D1 offer, and you definitely can’t trick a kid into paying $30,000+ to attend your Division III university. Now, if the issue really revolves around your nervousness about putting yourself out there and hearing some truthful feedback from your prospect after you ask it, or if you just haven’t been trained to complete this vital part of the sales process, that’s another story. The good news is that with training, you can overcome that fear and begin to direct recruits through the different stages of the decision-making process (especially at the end, when it counts).

With any procedure you employ in recruiting, you need to ask yourself why you do it the way you do it. And, evaluate if the way you’re doing it is working as well as you want (need?) it to.

Myths, fables and bedtime stories were a fun departure from reality when we were kids. As adults who are now college coaches, they are potential career-killing practices that need to be stopped immediately.

Helping Your Prospects Wake-Up From Their Summer DoldrumsTuesday, August 9th, 2016

Think it’s hard for you to get back into the swing of things heading into a new school year, Coach?

It can be even harder for your prospects.

They’ve been working out or playing in tournaments, and they’re burned out. They’ve been on vacation, and they don’t want to face the reality of going back to school. And even if they are coming back to that reality, the last thing they want to start doing is begin making hard decisions about college and their future. It’s much easier to put all of that off, not think about about it, and see if they can drag out the lazy, care-free days of Summer.

That means it’s your job, as a college coach and as a recruiter, to get them to re-focus on the recruiting process. And preferably, get them to to place the bulk of that focus on you.

So as we begin the time of the year when coaches and their college programs rev-up for another year, I wanted to pass along several key engagement strategies we’ve seen work coming out of the Summer and into a new Fall season:

You MUST talk about something new. For recruits that you’ve been talking to for any amount of time, now is the time to introduce something new into the conversation. Our studies are showing that while continuing to tell a consistent, compelling broader story to your recruits, your personal conversations with prospects should offer something different heading out of Summer. Now is the time when your recruits are looking for new reasons to continue to talk to you one-on-one.

They’re looking for that “next step”. Coming out of Summer, teenage athletes tell us that they often feel a little stuck. They want to look smart in continuing to talk with you, and they want to know what to do next as you continue to recruit them, but they aren’t sure what’s right. That’s why many of you experience what feels like disinterest from your prospects this time of year; the thing is, it’s not that they’re not interested…they just don’t know what should happen next. Never forget that you’ve been through this process before, but they haven’t. Be a guide.

It might be time to set a deadline. Or, at least a timeline that clearly establishes your expectations as to when a decision needs to be made. This is the easiest time of the year to do that, in the sense that it’s a natural calendar break (end of Summer, beginning of Fall and their new school year) which contributes to an overall feeling that new timelines make sense. In other words, when you start a conversation about deadlines or timelines that you want your prospects to pay attention to, doing it during this time period makes sense and ‘feels’ right to your recruits.

Outline your process for them. As an extension of the deadline and timeline conversation, take them inside your decision making process: Detail for them what you’ll be doing in evaluating them and other recruits this Fall, describe the type of prospect that you’re no longer recruiting (and why you stopped recruiting them), and make clear when you see yourself being done with recruiting. Prospects are craving this kind of behind-the-scenes information that help them understand they “why” behind some of your requests during the process.

Give the parents of your recruits a clear to-do list. One of the best ways to determine if your prospect is serious about you heading out of Summer is to find out if their parents are equally serious about you and your program. And the best way to do that is to give those parents a to-do list, and see if they respond. Some ideas: Tell them to help their son or daughter get their application submitted by a certain date, get back to you on a weekend that works for a visit to your campus, establish a regular time for you and they to talk to one another during the Fall, or ask them to email you a list of their questions about you, your college, or the process so that you can help them with answers.

Establish one clear selling point. One of the most difficult hurdles that your prospects face this time of year, as they talk to you and listen to your message (and the messages of your competitors), is trying to figure out how to define you. They need, and want, a one-line definition of you and your program that defines your main selling point. Once that’s established, you can certainly weave that into your program’s ongoing story to your recruits. Without it, you risk sounding like too many of your competitors: Too vanilla, no definition. Heading into this time of year, that can be the beginning of the end.

That last point needs to be emphasized. As recruits head out of Summer and into the Fall, there will come a point (soon) where they will want to start to whittle their choices down to make this whole process more manageable. Unless you give them smart reasons to define you and your program the right way, you allow them to make-up their own definition of you and your program. Do you really want to give that power over to them heading into this Fall?

This is an important time of year in the recruiting process, Coach. Make sure you establish yourself as a player heading into the Fall, and do it with a strategy in mind. If you do it correctly, you’ll be the coach that re-focuses your prospects heading out of the Summer.

Need help in defining your story for recruits? That’s what we do every week, every month and every year for our roster of clients. We do it using the latest research and communication techniques, and it works. If you want to take a different approach to your recruiting this year, contact Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and ask him to explain how the process works, and why it is so effective.

They Decide With Their Heart, Justify With Their HeadMonday, June 13th, 2016

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.

Why College Coaches Need to Search Out the “No”Monday, February 22nd, 2016

No doubt about it, the primary focus of a college recruiter is to get the “yes” from one of their prospects.

When you get a yes, it’s one more piece of the puzzle in place: A piece that either keeps the dynasty rolling, or gets you one step closer to building that winner.

It’s all about the “yes”.

But if you want to get the “yes”, you’re going to have to try to get your prospects to say “no” more often.

Sounds counter-intuitive, right?

I mean, why would a coach even want to approach the concept of “no” into their recruits’ vernacular? A lot of college coaches want to stay 100% positive, 100% of the time. It’s all about selling the benefits, getting them to fall in love with your campus, and repeat back all the ways they love you and can’t wait to come play for you.

But in your gut, you know it’s more complicated than that. You know that the game has changed.

This generation of recruits are more savvy than ever when it comes to how to play the recruiting game, and how to use it’s timeline to their advantage. In addition, this generation seems to have very little apprehension when it comes to not exactly telling coaches like you the whole truth. And that means you wait…and lose other recruits while waiting…and, in many cases, eventually lose that recruit you were waiting on who was never telling you the whole truth.

My recommended solution? Search out the “no”.

Throughout the recruiting process, I firmly believe that you should put your prospect in a position of having to tell you ‘no’ more often. Especially towards the end of the process.

Why? Because I’ve seen more recruiting classes ruined, and more coaching careers stall, due to waiting on recruits and never demanding a “no”.

So, assuming I’ve sold you on the general idea of getting your prospects to say “no”, here are some ideas on where I’ve seen it work when we’ve strategically used it as an effective “secret weapon” with our clients over the past several years:

Early in the process, search out the “no”. One of the classic mistakes we’ve seen coaches at all levels make as the put together their initial list of a recruiting class is that they assume all of them a serious possibilities, and that all of them are going to give you a fair hearing when it comes to what you have to offer.

Sadly, that’s not the case: Many would eliminate you quickly, for example, when it comes to where you are located. You’re either too close to home, or too far from home. And there isn’t anything you can do to change their mind on the topic. You, as a recruiter, should make it your goal to uncover that line of thought as soon as possible. So, as an example of how you “search out the no”, ask a recruit who is far away, “Tell me why it feels smart for you to leave home and go away to school out of state?” In my experience, a recruit who can give you solid answers to this question that demonstrates they’ve thought about it and has come up with good reasons it makes sense for them, then I think that is a type of “yes”. Alternatively, if they give a wishy-washy answer and doesn’t lay some specific thinking as to why the idea makes sense to them, then you might treat that as a real red flag…maybe even a type of “no”.

The philosophy of searching out no’s early on in the process really centers around the idea of finding out who is truly interested in (or at least open to) the idea of playing at your college. Our rough science says four out of every ten would never consider you, but also won’t tell you right away (hey, it’s fun when you show them attention, and maybe they can use you to pressure the other school they really want to go to). My goal, on your behalf, is to narrow your list sooner and not waste time with the 40% that you have no shot at.

That’s just one of the ways you can, and should, use the concept of searching out a “no” early in the process.

In the middle of the process, search out the “no”. As you approach the point where you know you have their interest, but aren’t sure where you stand, I recommend setting a fair but firm deadline. (Actually, I’d recommend that at the beginning of the process, but even getting our clients comfortably with that philosophy is sometimes a challenge, so I’m throwing it in here for your consideration).

I’m not talking about a 24 or 48 hour deadline that some coaches use (yes, those kinds of deadlines do work at times, but they are also the most likely to turn into a de-commit or transfer situation down the road). I’m talking about a fair, long term deadline (or “horizon”, as I like to refer to it) that lets your prospect know early or midway through the process when they need to make a decision, and why.

There are entire days we spend with coaching staffs to outline with strategy in a workshop we’ve developed on this idea, but let me try to give you the highly condensed version here: Set a deadline for making a final decision months in advance; use that deadline reference matter-of-factly as a reference point for making a decision throughout the process, along with telling them why they should choose you on a consistent basis by telling an effective story through your recruiting communication; make sure they get to be on campus and spend time with your team; when the deadline date approaches, ask for their decision (more on that step in a moment).

At each step of the process during the middle of the process, you need to be looking for signals that they are either 1) leaning away from you and towards a competitor, or 2) have decided against you, but have not verbalized that to you. As you go through the meat of your recruiting process, make these two red flags the constant thing you try to uncover.

In working with many, many college coaches and their programs over the years, I firmly believe that this is where the recruiting game is won or lost. More coaching careers, in fact, have been ruined with the false belief that they were a prospect’s top choice, only to find out that they were never really in the running with that recruit. Problem was, the recruit didn’t want a coach to criticize of demean their choice, or they didn’t want to hurt the coach’s feelings, and so they don’t say anything. And, well…you know the rest of the story.

Be vigilant in searching out negative signs throughout the middle of the process. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll find a “no” and then be able to move on to the next process on your list before your competition does.

At the end of the process, search out the “no”.  One of the most curious sociological phenomenons I’ve observed this past decade is the abject terror that many coaches feel towards the end of the recruiting process when it obviously becomes time to ask a recruit to tell them yes or no.

To be clear, I understand why they feel that way; that recruit represents months of work invested into getting them to this point in the process, not to mention the hopes of a stronger future for their program. And yet, at some point, dreams of a stronger recruiting class and reality have to intersect.

There has to be an end point. And, in my strong opinion, most recruiting scenarios demand that that the coach be the one to define that end point. That either means you’ll hear your prospect say “yes”, or “no”.

The general rule that we’ve seen work well for coaches is this: If you’ve communicated with your prospect on a consistent basis for a good amount of time, explained why your program should be their choice, have had them to campus, and have either 1) given them their scholarship offer, or when there is no scholarship money b) told them that you want them on your team and are offering them a spot on your roster, then it’s reasonable for you to ask them for their decision. More bluntly, you can demand that they tell you yes, or no.

First the good news: A good number of your recruits, at the end of the process, will tell you “yes”. The truth is, this generation – and their parents – need you to ask them for action that they can react to (i.e., you ask them for their answer, and only then will they tell you their answer). I could give you literally hundreds of examples where this simple process has resulted in a favorable decision for the coach.

Now the bad news: They might tell you “no”. But since it’s towards the end of the their recruiting process, is that necessarily a bad thing? A “no” means that you are approaching this critical point of the process realistically, and accurately.

If you doubt whether or not your prospect is indeed ready to make a decision at the end, and tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ask yourself and your staff, “What more can we show them or tell them to get them to feel ready to give us their answer?” If the only thing you can come up with is “more time for them to think about our offer”, that’s usually a weak justification. More time rarely works in a program’s favor; once in a great while, it does. But not enough times to justify it as your go-to strategy, in my experience.

You’ve set a fair but firm deadline, you’ve told your story, made your offer, and asked for their commitment. If they still can’t tell you “yes”, then what they are really telling you is “no”. Look for that at the end of the process.

The word “no” can be one of your best allies in the battle for recruits. But you have to manage that word, and incorporate it into your recruiting strategy.

That takes guts. But as the saying goes, “No Guts, No Glory”.

Come to the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer to dive in to this philosophy in greater detail, and learn to put together a better overall recruiting strategy for your program. Click here to reserve your seat, Coach!

Is It Time to Fight Back Against ‘Sport Specialization’?Monday, February 15th, 2016

 

Leslie Huntington is the head softball coach at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. The following are her observations on what she sees as a growing problem in youth sports specialization, as outlined in detail in the article, “Arizona Softball and Baseball Coaches Concerned About Overuse of High School Athletes”:

 

by Leslie Huntington

These are the OPINIONS I’ve formed from being in the profession – not from formal research or literature reviews, but by living this every day:

1. Specialization – remember when kids played a different sport every season? And remember when you got asked, “What’s your favorite sport?” And your answer was, “During volleyball season, VB is my favorite, and during basketball season, that’s my favorite, and during softball season, that’s my favorite.” Every season was “fresh.” So every time you changed to a different sport, it was exciting. YOU KEPT LOVING THE GAME.

What I see happening as a result of specialization:

A. Kids “lose their fire” WAY too early. They participate in “their” sport as many days of the year (or maybe in some cases, more) than a college athlete. (even college athletes are given time off) And when they get to college, they realize they have a chance to quit. They have new found freedom and independence and suddenly they realize there are other things to do that can occupy their time.

B. The wear and tear on the same body parts WILL eventually result in a breakdown. It’s quite simple – OVERUSE. Add to this the potential that they are using inefficient/poor mechanics – that breakdown is going to happen much sooner.

C. Loss of athleticism – a variety of sports and the activities that go with those sports, helps create more athleticism. Different movements (multi-directional), and different body parts developing speed/agility and function, leads to increased athleticism. As part of our dynamic warm up for practice I will occasionally have my players jump rope. Why can I jump rope 10 times better than they can, at over twice their age? I am amused by how puzzled they look when I jump rope. I had a player once who was warming up for practice jumping rope and I grabbed one and started to do a variety of footwork things while jumping – her comment was “Why are you so good at that and what did you do with my coach?” LOL

2. Competition – this article nails this one. As a college coach, I want to see prospective student-athletes COMPETE. At a tournament in the middle of July when I’m watching a kid play 4 pool play games when it’s 100 degrees outside, how much do I get to see them COMPETE? I know some of you will say “Well they should compete ALL the time,” and I agree. But let’s be real here. Not gonna happen.

In this same category we can discuss young kids playing multiple games in a day and the potential for injury. Not to mention the mental and emotional toll this type of schedule takes. Again, some will say, this is teaching them to be mentally tough. To that I would say I disagree. Kids aren’t born mentally tough – they can have a level of “toughness” but they have to be TAUGHT mental toughness. And you don’t teach a kid how to be mentally tough by yelling at them to “get tougher!”

3. Exposure – So why do kids do all this specialization? Why have they decided that camps are a waste of time and money and they need to travel across the country every weekend to “compete?” It’s for “exposure.”

It seems to me that they are all seeking the opportunity to play at the next level.

I get it – if you don’t go to that tournament you might miss out on that college coach seeing you play. I’m in the same boat – if I don’t go to that showcase, and all my competitors are there, I might miss out on that key recruit.

But when you attend these “exposure” events, be realistic with what age group college coaches are recruiting. How can I recruit an 8th grader when I don’t even know who she’ll be replacing on my team???

To think that a softball player who is my nephew’s age is making a decision on where to attend college is nothing short of ridiculous. My nephew’s biggest dilemma on a daily basis is which Star Wars movie to watch. I can’t IMAGINE him making a college decision right now and if he did, I’d have a major discussion with him and his parents.

In all honesty, and I say this with no ill-will toward any colleagues, but I really hope these early verbals start to bite coaches in the rear. The real people who have the ability to do something about this craziness are the college coaches (and I include myself in that lot – hence the diatribe here). And once one of the “big names” gets bit, things will start to change.

Bottom line – I want kids who are excited to play softball. Kids who have played multiple sports – because I believe those are the kids who will continue to love and have passion for the game. I want kids who are going to compete every day – because after this phase of their life is over, they are going to have to compete every day OFF the softball field. I want kids who find joy in playing the game, because if you can’t find joy in playing the game, it’s really time to hang up your cleats. You’re not going to make any team better, and you’re going to be miserable.

So I guess the real question for all of us is ……. “Why?”

We want to thank Coach Leslie Huntington for permission to reprint this from her original Facebook post. You can comment and connect with Coach Huntington at @BlugoldCoachH on Twitter, or by email at huntinla@uwec.edu

The Cost of Your ProgramMonday, February 1st, 2016

Here’s the deal:

If your recruit, and his or her parents, aren’t buying into your program, it’s not because the price tag is too much. That’s one of the great lies that college coaches have bought into far too long.

The reason they aren’t buying into your program is because they don’t believe what you’ve told them. They don’t care about competing for you enough. And, they don’t love you and your team enough.

That’s the cold, hard, truth.

I feel compelled to lay it on the line like that because of the different ways coaches are telling me they are struggling with “cost”:

  • The net cost of attending your school versus your competitor’s school.
  • The ‘cost’ of choosing your Division III program over a Division II program, even if the net cost of that Division III is less than the Division II…there’s a mental ‘cost’, according to our research, in the minds of many recruits who have the mindset that they need to choose the higher division level program simply because it’s a higher division level.
  • The ‘cost’ of waiting to play for your program instead of playing right away at the other program that’s recruiting them.

Cost is more than money. It’s the idea that your recruit (or the recruit’s parents, or your recruit’s club coach) has to give up something in exchange for going to your program.

Your job, as a serious college recruiter, is to balance that cost with truthful, consistent, compelling stories. You need to prove that you care more about them, and have a plan for them once they commit to your campus. And, you’d better make sure you allow them room to fall in love with the young men or women on your team, and let them develop close-knit relationships with them.

So the magic question is, obviously, “what’s the best way to do that?”

It depends on the individual prospect, of course, but here are some important general guidelines that I think it’s smart to consider as you prove that your ‘cost’ is worth it, in my experience of advising and working one-on-one with college coaches:

  • Talk about money, and the potential cost of your college, sooner rather than later in the recruiting process. One of the most costly mistakes I’ve seen coaches make is delaying speaking with parents and athletes about either the overall cost of the school, the potential scholarship that would be offered, and the types of grants and financial aid that are available to offset the cost of school. The first step in justifying the cost of your program is to talk about the actual dollars and cents involved with attending.
  • If money isn’t the issue, search out the other ‘costs’ they’re tallying. Is there a cost to going to your school instead of staying closer to home? Begin talking about it. Is there a risk you’re asking them to take by choosing your program in the midst of rebuilding, or a program that’s going to ask them to wait two years for playing time? Begin talking about it. Starting that conversation, and getting agreement from your prospect to listen to you over an extended period of time, is critical.
  • Get them to believe. Begin offsetting the cost of your college by giving them something to believe in. I can’t tell you what those things are in an article like this, but it involves more than just listing the following:
    • How many wins you had last year.
    • The great conference that they’ll play in.
    • How many degree options your school offers.
  • Demonstrating a consistent, transparent, passionate conversation with them that tells them why they should choose your program is how you get them to believe. That takes time, and a long-view or recruiting. Most coaches don’t have the discipline or creativity to do that, but if you don’t, our research is clearly showing that this generation of prospects needs this type of messaging from you in order to justify the ‘cost’ of your college. I wish there were an easier, quicker way to get that job done, but in being a part of literally thousands of individual recruiting battles with the coaches we work with, I can tell you that this is how you win consistently.
  • They need to connect with you and your team. This generation of recruits desperately seek a personal connection with you and your team. If there’s one area where we see recruits and their parents justifying the higher ‘cost’ of your program, and making you their number one choice, it’s in this area. When they visit campus, the focus should be connecting with prospects on a personal basis, and not just showing them your ‘stuff’.

The cold, hard, truth is that the ‘cost’ of your program is the thing that is on the mind of your recruit, and his or her family, right now. They’re trying to figure out how to justify it.

What are you actively doing, today, to help them?

A great way to dig deep into topics like this with a few hundred fellow college recruiters? Attend the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer! It’s an amazing line-up of experts and coaches who are set to share their successes, and pull back the curtain on the secrets that have put them on top of their game. You MUST be there! Click here for all the details.

The Little Things That Go A Long WayMonday, January 18th, 2016

by Mandy Green, Coaching Productivity Strategies

Recently I was asked by a few coaches to give them my top 10 coaching management books.  Number one on my list was a book called “Winning” by Clive Woodward.  

I had the privilege to be a part of an amazing lecture about team management around 10 years ago.  In this lecture, the speaker told us about the book Winning! The book is about the process coach Clive Woodward went through in turning a struggling England National Rugby team into an International Rugby powerhouse.

In an effort to take his team from good to great, Woodward set out to create a unique and incredibly special experience for the players coming into his program.  His ultimate aim was to make the environment so good that once the players had experienced it, they never wanted to be left out of it. 

Woodward created this experience and environment by focusing on the little things he called Critical Non-Essentials (CNE’s).  CNE’s are all of the little things or details that make your program what it is.  Not just any kind of detail, but the development of things that would and could set your program apart from everybody else.   

These CNE’s that he focused on included: the locker room (seating, equipment, lockers, extras, decorations, laundry); dress code (home games, away games); sports information (web, game, media guides, TV, radio, other); practice (before, warm-up, training, cool-down); equipment (practice gear, game gear, logo’s, colors, misc); game day environment; medical/rehab/recovery; nutrition; fitness/strength and conditioning.

So, how does this apply to recruiting?

What do you do to set yourself apart in the eyes of your recruits if your main competitors have the same quality of players, the same resources, and the same standard of coaching?  To be even better and set yourself apart from your rivals you have to do everything in your power to improve the Critical Non-Essentials of your program.

In my usual weekly readings, I learned that Pete Carroll, when he was the coach of the USC football program, sat down with his staff and captains at the end of every season and analyzed EVERY aspect of the program, from their practice tee-shirts to their game day routines.  They would sit down and he would ask “How can we make this better?”  He did all of this in an effort to create the most productive and special experience for his players.  His players knew that Coach Carroll was willing to go the extra mile for them and it not only showed in how hard they played for him, but in the quality of recruits he kept signing year after year.  

With all of the other things that need to get done in a day, I find with most coaches these little details are what get put on the back burner and never fixed.  The time spent doing this will not only create a more loyal team, it can and will be something you can use as a selling point that will separate you from the rest of the pack.  

Here is what I recommend: buy the book if you have a chance because there are a lot of really great ideas about team management in there.  Just a warning, it is a pretty long book and is mostly about Rugby (a sport I don’t think I will ever understand).  It will be well worth your time to read through it though.  

Next, take the time to examine every aspect of the players’ experience within your program (critical non essentials) and discuss it thoroughly with your team.  Don’t just do this exercise with your coaching staff!  

This is a great exercise to get your team involved with.  Empower your team to give you feedback on how they would like things to be.  You have the ultimate veto power, but let them come up with ideas on what could make each aspect of what they experience within the program everyday a little better.  

If you want more from the players, you first have to give them good reasons why they would want to put in the extra effort.  You do that by making the critical non essentials better.  If you make your program attractive, prestigious and exclusive enough, not only will the players give everything they have within them and more, it could be something that sets your program apart from the rest in the eyes of your recruits.  

The soccer team I was coaching before I read the book was 9-6-3 that fall season.  I was then introduced to Clive Woodward’s ways that next winter.  I applied every piece of information I read in that book in the off-season with the team and went from 9-6-3 to 17-3-1 the next season.  It took A LOT of time and effort to implement these ideas, but the results we got were amazing.   Not only was the team excited and committed to the direction the program was headed, and with the experience they were having, the recruits we brought in during that time were pretty impressed as well.  I signed my top 6 recruits that fall!   

Take the time to do this coach with your staff and team.  It will take some work and patience, but you will reap the benefits from this simple exercise for years to come.  

Mandy Green has been a College Soccer Coach for more than 17 years and is the founder of Coaching Productivity Strategies, where she helps coaches develop and discipline their time management. Mandy teaches practical and immediately usable ideas, methods, strategies, and techniques that will help you achieve more, work less, and win more daily work and recruiting battles. When you learn and apply these powerful, practical techniques, you will dramatically improve the quality of your life in every area. To get more awesome collegiate-specific productivity expertise, go to www.mandygreencps.com and opt-in! 

How to Argue the Correct Way With Your Next RecruitMonday, December 21st, 2015

Because it really seems like an “argument”, doesn’t it?

Where your campus is located is so vastly superior to the two other schools your recruit is looking at, the choice would seem obvious. And so you try to convince them that they should see it your way.

Also, that new U.S. News campus ranking: Your campus just got ranked 49th, while the other school she’s considering came in at a paltry 88th. It’s not even close, so the choice (again) should be obvious.

And the fact that your prospect could start in your program as a Freshman…well, shouldn’t that seal the deal? In your mind it does, right?

Here’s why it’s hard to make that case successfully:

First of all, college coaches we’ve seen attempt it try to do so quickly, at the start of the recruiting process, and condense their argument in one or two long, detail-filled messages. As we’ve talked about before, that’s not the right way to approach this generation of recruit if you want their attention, and gain their trust.

Secondly, you’re essentially bullying them into trying to get them to believe that your point of view is the right one. Your school’s ranking is higher, they could start as a Freshman, and where you’re located is amazing. What’s not to love, right? And so you begin to convince them of how you see the world, and that that your point of view should be their point of view as well.

The problem is, your point of view may not match their point of view.

Marketing author and expert Seth Godin makes the point that “to many people, it feels manipulative or insincere or even morally wrong to momentarily take the other person’s point of view when trying to advance an argument that we already believe in. And that’s one reason why so many people claim to not like engaging in marketing. Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that’s true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny. But marketing is not about merely sharing what you, the marketer believes. It’s about what we, the listener, believe.”

Let’s use the example of your prospect being able to start as a Freshman in your program. You, as an intelligent college coach who has the perspective of a successful playing career under your belt, see this as being a huge selling point to your prospect. Being able to start all four years of school?  Who wouldn’t want that, right?

And yet when we conduct our focus group interviews when beginning work with a new client, or conducting one of our On-Campus Workshops for an athletic department, we find that the majority of athletes you recruit actually are nervous about the idea of starting right away and having the pressure to perform on their shoulders. The ‘safer’ worldview for them? No pressure at the start, get used to the team, and ease into a role where they’ll be able to succeed.  How many times have you seen one of your talented prospects opt not to compete immediately for you, and instead choose a school where they’ll probably have to sit on the bench for a year or two?  For many athletes – even the great ones – that’s the more appealing option.

What I’m saying is that you “convincing” them that your world view is the correct one isn’t going to be easy, especially if you don’t take a patient, consistent approach to the whole thing. They aren’t looking to be convinced, they’re looking to be listened to. It’s true in politics, and it’s true in recruiting.

As Godin observes, “Even when people making an argument know this, they don’t like making an argument that appeals to the other person’s alternative worldview.” Why? It’s harder, it takes more time, and requires a more organized thought pattern. For many coaches, that’s a tough trifecta to overcome.

If you accept this idea to have merit, it may require two key changes in thinking for you and your coaching staff:

  • You will need to commit to developing a long term, consistent approach to telling your story and developing communication that is focused on creating a conversation, rather than relying on the brilliance of your logical argument to sway the minds of your prospect.
  • You will need to ask more questions, and use your recruit’s answers to develop an individual strategy for communicating with that specific recruit.

Let’s go back to the example of the opportunity for a prospect to start for you as a Freshman, rather than sit on the bench for a year or so at another program. Knowing now that she might be tempted to play it safe and choose that other option, you might want to ask her questions that get to the center of her worldview:

“If you play for the other program, you probably wouldn’t be able to play right away. Tell me why you’re thinking this might be o.k. for you?”

“What is it about starting right away for a college program that might seem a little intimidating for you? What worries you or makes you nervous when you picture that in your mind?”

“Walk me through the pros and cons of playing right away for a program.”

Those three sample questions aren’t trying to “sell” a prospect on doing it your way. They are questions designed to find out what your recruit’s view is, so that you can then adapt your argument to fit that view.

(This is also very much the same concept of “collaborating versus negotiating” that we’ve discussed before. It’s always much more effective to come alongside a prospect, instead of sit across a table and negotiate with them over a point of view).

This idea is something that requires a wholesale philosophical change in the way that a recruiting message is structured. That’s why most coaches who read this won’t do it; it’s always going to be more expedient to just sell, sell, sell and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s the challenge for serious college coaches:

Invest the time in creating a smarter, more effective approach, or continuing with an old style of recruiting that requires your recruit to quickly buying what you’re selling.

 

The Customer ISN’T Always Right (and Neither Are Your Recruits)Monday, October 19th, 2015

It was a revolutionary idea back in 1909.

Harry Selfridge, an American entrepreneur who began Selfridge’s Department Store in London at the turn of the century, coined the phrase – and the philosophy – that “the customer is always right.”  It was meant to reassure retail shoppers at the time that they were going to control the shopping experience and that their complaints would be listened to and treated seriously.  It was a revolutionary idea at the time.

But then, in 1914, a counter-philosophy began taking hold. After years of customers taking advantage of the good natured intent of the rule and abusing the kindness of retailers, it was time to re-think the adage.

“If we adopt the policy of admitting whatever claims the customer makes to be proper, and if we always settle them at face value, we shall be subjected to inevitable losses”, wrote Frank Farrington, author of the 1914 book Successful Salesmanship: Is the Customer Always Right?  “If the customer is made perfectly to understand what it means for him to be right, what right on his part is, then he can be depended on to be right if he is honest, and if he is dishonest, a little effort should result in catching him at it.” In short, the customer isn’t always right in the world of retail business.

This has direct application to your recruiting one hundred years later:

Your recruits, and their parents, are dishonest with you at times and are just plain wrong in the way they deal with you during the recruiting process.

The problem that compounds this?  Most college coaches allow it to happen.

Your job as a college coach, as I emphasize in the recruiting training workshops we have done for college athletic departments for more than a decade, is to control the sales process. Somebody has to do it…either you, or your recruit and his or her parents. Since we work for all of you, I vote for you!

That means that there are going to be several times during the recruiting process that you are going to have to identify your prospects as being wrong about something, and require a change in their thinking.

Here are some of the top ways your recruits are going to be wrong during the recruiting process, and what you should do to re-direct their thinking if you want to successfully manage their recruiting process:

Your recruit will easily give in to common misconceptions about your school or program. This will happen earlier rather than later in the process, and if it isn’t corrected and called-out as “wrong” then you will have let it become fact, and it will rule the rest of your recruiting conversation with that athlete and his or her family. Note the root cause of this problem: You. We can’t blame the athlete, who is using limited information and has never gone through the process before, for trying to come to some initial definitions (positive or negative) about you and your program. That’s to be expected, especially if you haven’t won a national championship lately, aren’t in a great location, cost too much, don’t have a successful program history, can’t brag about your extensive resume…you get the picture.

The person that can be blamed is you, since you and you alone are the voice that can correct those common misconceptions quickly and effectively. Most coaches, however, don’t do that. They give in to definition that their prospect has wrongly created, and begin the recruiting process with two strikes against them.

Don’t do it. Correct their perception of your program, and re-define it for them boldly and in as much detail as possible.  And, do it as early as possible. Once we decide something is true, we don’t like being proven wrong and seldom change our mind. Don’t let that happen with your recruit.

Your recruit will tell you they need more time. More time to look at other schools. More time to think about your offer. More time to come back for another visit. In general, “more time” is the same as telling you “I don’t want to make a final decision.”  Even recruits that we interview for our clients as a part of our ongoing strategic work in developing their recruiting message tell us that much of the time they knew they were going to commit to that program, but just didn’t want to make it official…or they were scared to end the recruiting process…or they felt like if they waited another bigger, ‘better’ program would come calling.

For the majority of your prospects, it’s imperative that you set a fair but firm deadline. It’s wrong for your recruits to think that they can control the process and make you wait. It’s your job as a coach to give them the direction that they need to understand your timeline for making a decision.

(Note: This is not a universal rule, certainly. There are situations where you will strategically want to give your prospect more time, and where waiting puts you in a better position to get that athlete. However, in the majority of cases, college coaches don’t direct their recruits strongly enough, resulting in the recruit and his or her family dictating when they will give you a decision. And as I’m sure you’ll agree, most of the time that isn’t to your benefit).

Your recruit lists objections as to why your school or program isn’t going to be right for them.  Sometimes, they’re right. Much of the time, they’re wrong. (And most of the time, the reason they’re wrong is because you haven’t corrected them about the common misconceptions about your school or program, as we talked about a few paragraphs earlier).

Objections are not bad. They are needed in the recruiting process! Tell me about the last top-tier recruit you had who didn’t have any questions, objections, hesitations, or arguments with you about your school. When was the last time that happened? Almost never.

You need to address each objection, and correct it. When your prospect objects to something you have presented, or in the way that they view your college, it’s because they want to know why they should think differently. Read that again, Coach. When your prospect throws out a reason that they aren’t sure your program is going to be right for them, most of the time they want you to give them a counter-opinion as to why they are wrong. You need to do that, Coach. (Here is a quick video primer on the steps to do that).

Do you get the idea, Coach? It’s your job to set the standards, manage the timeline, and correct false assumptions. In short, you need to tell your recruit – your “customer” – when he or she (or the parents, or their coach) is wrong.

If you don’t, nobody will. And if nobody does, the inmates will continue to run the asylum.

Learn more of these kinds of advanced recruiting philosophies and techniques by enrolling in Tudor University, our online training and certification class for college recruiters. It’s an effective way to gain the edge on your recruiting competition! Click here to get started.

How College Coaches Control The Future Of SpecializationSunday, October 11th, 2015

wayneby Wayne Mazzoni, Pitching Coach, Sacred Heart University

I hope all college coaches reading this agree with this statement: The specialization of young athletes is an epidemic we must take part in changing.

To do this, let’s look at the facts and trends. Over the past 15 years there has been a strong movement by people/coaches to make a living from their sport. These are generally well meaning people who enjoy coaching young people, but in an effort to make a living doing what they do, try to get their pool of kids to pay for their coaching services not only in their primary season, but in as many off-seasons as possible. Some of these coaches give priority attention and playing time to their best customers and thus creating an environment where others feel they need to do the same to keep up. In addition, often times these coaches tell their players and parents that not only is playing their sport for two, three, sometimes four seasons is the only way to develop to play in college, but that this is what college coaches want!

So we are left with young athletes and their parents not knowing any better any who think the only way to develop, and in fact keep up, is to narrow their focus on what they spend their time doing. But this is completely contrary to the way we were all raised. It is also completely contrary to raising a healthy, physically and emotionally balanced child. Worse yet, it also seems to put a focus on the future and making that sport seem like an “investment”. It is not an investment. It is a fun, competitive way for children to grow as people. If an 8 year old is hitting baseballs all winter so his parents get rewarded with his recruiting or a scholarship down the road, then we have completely lost our minds. Plenty of other things for a kid to do in the winter. Wrestle, play basketball, ski, walk in the woods with his dog, you name it. If he loves baseball he can find the time to hit or play a day or two a week during the winter and still be involved in other things.

I am not telling anyone how to live, trust me. I am still figuring out live like everyone else. But I do know when I hear a nine year old only play soccer all year round, give up family time, friend time, to devote to this one sport, this one endeavor, I feel like I’m living on Mars. I just don’t get it.

This concept seems to continue in high school. Kids who either would like to play two or three sports start getting the message that to be really good you have to spend time on just one sport. Most of us know better. We know that the more sports you play, the more skills you build, that will help you be a better overall athlete and better in your primary sport.

As college coaches, I think it is our duty to let all people we come in contact with, whether it be at coaches clinics, speeches, during recruiting, or even around the office, it is important we let everyone know how we feel. Recently helping coach my son’s 6th grade football team I saw the older brother of one of our players. Big kid, great shape. He was a very good high school football player. But when I asked him how the season was going, he said he gave up football (as a hs junior) to play fall lacrosse. He said he was getting attention from the lacrosse coach at my school (Sacred Heart University). So I said to the kid, “Do you think Coach Basti would rather you play lax or football this fall?” The kid replied that obviously the coach would want him to be playing lacrosse. Having had this conversation with many of my fellow coaches, across many sports, I went on to tell the kid that I was 100% sure that coach would prefer him to play football and told him all the reasons why. He was floored and said he would give it a second thought.

When I ask the players on my college baseball team if they have any regrets about their sports experience, to a man, they always tell me they wish they had not given up playing another sport when they were in high school. They realized later that this is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and you don’t get to even play high school basketball again when you get older.

While I am a big public school proponent, this is one of the things I love about private/prep schools. Many of them in New England require athletes to play three sports, thus making them well rounded as people, teammates, and athletes. Often times you hear about a kid who did something he never did before and loved it. We have a freshman pitcher on my team now who went to Canterbury School and had to pick up diving to meet this requirement. He said he went into it pretty skeptical but came out loving the whole experience.

Let’s do our part to let all our recruits, friends, family, and community know that believe kids should play multiple sports. If not formally on their school teams, then pick up a golf club, tennis raquet, or even bike or skate board and do something athletic outside of what they plan on doing their four years in college. Specialization will come soon enough, why rush it?

Wayne Mazzoni is the pitching coach at Sacred Heart University and writes his blog at www.CoachMazz.com

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