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:
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 We worked with a football coach several years ago who used to apologize for, and avoid, their old outdated locker room.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:
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:
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.
And make no mistake, every time you recruit an athlete, you’re making an argument:
Here’s the problem many coaches – and people in the professional world – make: They “argue” with their recruits, and their recruits’ parents, from their coach’s word view.
You have deadlines to meet, applications to turn in, schedules to keep, classes to sign. One of the main teaching points we make in our on-campus recruiting workshops is that many coaches get so wrapped up in the procedure that their school uses to recruit and accept an incoming student-athlete that they forget one important aspect of the recruiting and decision-making process:
Your prospect doesn’t usually care about your process.
Coaches will often times argue from their point of view, rather than empathetically from the prospect’s point of view.
Author and marketing guru Seth Godin says, “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.”
I couldn’t agree more.
So, here’s a simple three step plan for you to revamp pretty much any argument, recruiting pitch, or conversation with your prospect:
Define what you want to tell them from your point of view. Before you can react with empathy, you need to narrow down exactly what it is that you want to tell your prospect. Be specific.
Reverse sides; how is your prospect going to hear your argument? Think worst case scenario here: What is the least positive way they would hear what you’re telling them?
Re-craft your argument that takes your prospect’s worldview into account. Any argument, recruiting message, or sales pitch you’re hoping to make needs to focus on “what’s in it for them”. Nothing to do with your priorities, deadlines or process…everything to do with their perspective, hopes, dreams and fears.
Marketers know the rule.
So do politicians, drug manufacturers, and companies that sell gold.
We, the buying public, will make a buying decision based on the fear of something bad happening before we’ll decide to do something based on the possibility of a good outcome.
How often? Studies suggest it’s as high as six out of seven times.
We are prone to expect the worst, and plan our actions accordingly. And if we do it as adult consumers when we’re out shopping for an insurance policy, doesn’t it make sense that your prospects would be inclined to make their decisions the same way?
And yet, the majority of coaches feel the need to only focus on the positive. Tell the recruit what they want to hear, how great they’ll be as a part of their team, and how wonderful your college is.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for that. A big place. Heck, when we create messaging plans and recruiting strategies for our clients much of them revolve around the positive reasons a recruit would want to choose their programs, and college. You may do the same thing with your messaging, as well…there’s a place for it, and a compelling story is needed for this generation of recruits in order to feel good about making a decision.
I’m not suggesting you give that up. Not at all.
But if you want to take a more serious, more realistic approach to recruiting, you’d better start planning for your prospect’s “fear factor”.
This generation, more than any recent generation that has been studied, is ‘scared’ of making the wrong decision.
So, what specifically do you need to be aware of when you’re taking a prospect through the decision-making process? It’s not an exhaustive list, but here are five things we’ve seen trending around the country when it comes to things that your prospects are fearful of as you do your best to choose you and your program:
Your job as a recruiter is to make sure you are exactly sure, throughout the process, that their questions are getting answered and their fears are being calmed. If you don’t, expect the process to drag on longer than you want it to…or even end with a less than desirable outcome.
Learning the finer points of advanced recruiting is easy. Attend the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference! It’s a weekend full of learning, and incredible networking with fellow coaches from all over the country. Click here to reserve your seat to this investment in your coaching career!
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!
by Mandy Green, Coaching Productivity Strategies
As College coaches, we write a lot. We write to juniors and seniors we are recruiting or have already committed, we write to parents, or we are writing to youth coaches who have players we want.
If you just sit down and try to come up with a brilliant message that will get opened, read, and returned, you may find yourself wasting a lot of time staring at a blank screen as you try to figure out what to write.
Also, if you don’t have a lot of experience writing recruiting messages or are not a very good writer, it can feel incredibly time-consuming. But more importantly, if you don’t have a strategy or workflow, I have found it takes even longer. So what I want to do today is to share what I learned from Michael Hyatt, author of “Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.”
Michal Hyatt uses a 10 step process to write his blog posts quicker. I highly encourage you to try when you have to send out your next batch of recruiting emails. I know that it will help to speed up the recruiting writing process.
Now, these 10 steps may work great for you. If not, hopefully at least I have you thinking about how you could tweak this to find a formula or process that would work for you. I think the important thing is that if you can define a process for yourself, no matter what that is, and then spend the next several weeks optimizing that so you know exactly what the steps are, it’ll be much faster for you to get in the groove and be productive with writing.
My hope in giving you this process as well is that it will take a little bit of the stress out of writing recruiting letters for you, because it can be very stressful. And when we get stressed about it, we actually end up procrastinating or putting it off, and then those consistent recruiting messages we are supposed to be sending never happen.
So no matter what kind of writer you are, come up with a system. It doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the system from time to time. I do. But at least you have a track to get you started and a way to get your recruiting messages out that works for you 90% of the time.
Hope you have a productive rest of the week!
P.S. – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you do to make time for recruiting? Email me at email@example.com. If you want more tips about how to save time with recruiting, go to my website at www.mandygreencps.com.
P.P.S. If you have found this article helpful, please share it with your staff or other work colleagues! Studying time and energy management over these last 4 years and applying it to my coaching and recruiting has been a game changer for me. I am committed to helping coaches get more important work done in less time so more time can be spent with family and friends. Thanks!
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:
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.
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.
by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com
How’s your coaching? Having an amazing experience?
If so, then — bravo. Stop reading and get back to what you were doing.
For the rest of us, who at one time or another feel our coaching experience can be better, I offer a few suggestions.
Great homes are built on solid foundations. Same with great coaching experiences. There lies something rock-solid underneath it.
Y’see, coaching can be rewarding, but those rewards don’t come easy. Many coaches I work with have big hearts, big desires, and big energy. But often they haven’t taken the foundational steps so the rewards are accessible. They miss out — needlessly.
Up for an experiment?
In 7 steps anyone can build a solid foundation for their coaching experience. An experience that rocks. Rewards. Rejuvenates.
If you’re game, here are those 7 steps.
I love asking new coaches “Why do you coach?” The answers range from “giving back,” to “unfinished business,” to “I was bored.” That is, when they have answers. Many have never considered WHY.
Here’s the deal: The statement of “why you coach” will be the foundation of your coaching. Everything you do as a coach — your decisions, your actions, your visions will derive from this one statement.
Start building: Steal 5 minutes of quiet time from your day, and answer this question, “What are NOT reasons why I coach?” Write as many answers as you can — as quick as you can.
Over the next six days, add to the list. On the 7th day, look at your list, and you’ll see some solid trends (such as: “I am NOT coaching to hurt people“, or, “I don’t coach to make a million!”).
Then finish this statement: The reason why I coach is … . It may not feel perfect, and it will likely change over time — that’s to be expected. Don’t be surprised by the power of what you come up with.
I’ve seen coaching philosophies which are pages long. Word after word after word on how they are going to create an amazing experience and blah, blah, blah.
Here’s the deal: Short, memorable, remarkable words will impact and engage. Long, forgettable, average words will snore and bore. Both you and them.
For example, here’s my coaching philosophy: Guide, protect, nurture. That’s it. Simple, memorable, and it’s open to interpretation, and is flexible.
Start building: Can you describe your coaching philosophy in 3 words? Yes you can. Then commit them to note cards, and carry them around with you at all times.
Coaching has a sneaky way of stealing expectations. If you’re not careful your expectations will become those of others. Last week a fellow coach commented on how she loves teaching the details of her sport. But everyone around her only seemed focus on winning and had little patience for learning. Needless to say, her experience wasn’t what she wanted.
Here’s the deal: You have three flavors of expectations to focus on. All three will impact your experience: (1) your expectations, (2) your athlete’s expectations, and (3) your boss’s expectations. Knowing each will make a world of difference.
Start building: If you don’t know your boss’s or athlete’s expectations — you must find out. This is a foundational step you have to take.
Schedule a meeting with the boss, or send an email, and ask, “What are the organization’s expectations of my coach and the program?” Then at your next practice, have your athletes answer those same questions on note cards.
The most important part of this entire step is the answer to this question, “What are you own expectations.” Ask yourself these three questions:
As before, write them down, and have them someplace you’ll see them every day. Paper or digital doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you.
A pre-meeting can make or break an experience. For instance, you have a great practice planned. Everything is scheduled, equipment in place, weather is beautiful. But if you don’t do this one thing, chances are strong your practice will be a bust. That foundational thing is a pre-meeting. It’s a critical step many coaches miss.
Here’s the deal: People, especially athletes, love to know what the heck is going on. Gathering the team before practice for a quick meeting (might be only 60 seconds long) and telling them what the plan is, greatly increases your chance of success.
This works on a larger scale too. Before the season starts, have a pre-meeting with athletes, parents, support staff. Tell them why you coach, what your philosophy is, your expectations. (Also a great time to get a behavior commitment, see next step.)
Start building: Before your next event, practice, contest, have a pre-meeting. Leave the strategies and tactics for later — this meeting is about the overview of the event, especially the expectations.
Every person emits a behavior. It’s impossible not to. So does every team.
Here’s the deal: The tricky part, Coach, is you want the right behavior to be emitted. Bad behavior will destroy your experience, but good behavior can build something amazing.
Start building: First, set the standard for the behavior you expect. Second, get a commitment from the athlete/team that they will emit that behavior. Third (and super critical), respond accordingly and appropriately if the behavior is not what is expected.
For instance, if you expect athletes to be at practice on time, and Jack has committed to being there on time, you need to act if his behavior is not what he committed to. He’s late, and their needs to be action on your part.
If you ignore establishing a behavior expectations, getting a commitment to it, and then acting if it doesn’t happen, you are setting yourself up for a bad experience
Coaching is a 24-7 gig. Doesn’t matter what sport you coach, where you coach it, and how old the athletes are. You’re their coach every minute of every day. That is where I see so many coaches make mistakes — we don’t have the energy of brain space to be coaching 24-7.
Here’s the deal: Good fences make good neighbors, and good boundaries make a good coaching experience. You have to find separation from the athlete/team/sport or you WILL get worn down, you WILL burnout, the quality of your experience WILL being to lessen. (Those are not optional — they WILL happen.)
Start Building: Be available only during certain times, and block off “your time.” Personally, my athletes don’t expect to reach me after 7 pm, and not prior to 6am, on days when in season. Out of season, its usually only during office hours.
Yet I know coaches who have their cell phones on all the time, even while they sleep — responding to calls, texts, emails in the middle of the night. Why?
Now emergencies are different. They happen, so the athletes can connect with me — but they know an emergency is at the serious-health level, not, “Hey Coach, I know it’s 11pm, but I’m stressed about my lack of playing time.”
I’m a fan of James Altucher. Last year, he and his wife Claudia published The Power Of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness.
And gosh darn it, it can.
Here’s the deal: As a coach, you’ll be asked to do a lot with a little — that’s part of being the person called Coach. You’ll also be asked to do other things. Things that distract or disrupt your WHY, Philosophy, and Expectations. In those cases, you have to say NO!
Start Building: Here’s what you need to do. Each time you are asked to do something, like serving on a committee, helping Jack Bozo move, or break a rule — stop. Go to your note cards. Read your WHY, Philosophy, Expectation.
Then make a decision.
If the decision should be yes, well then, yes it is. But if the decision goes against those three foundational parts of your coaching — say no. Or NO!
You are at risk whenever you work with people, especially coaching. Your organization may have you covered, but are you sure? You need at least $1 million dollars in liability coverage. Ask your organization how much you have.
Here’s the deal: I’m not an insurance specialist, but I’ve been advised that I should have $1 million in extra liability coverage, because I coach.
Start Building: Contact your insurance agent, or one that you’ve been referred to, and find the price (mine is about $230 per year.) You might also check with your sports governing body. They might offer special insurance for coaches.
The bottom line is that you cannot not have an experience. You’re going to have one — why not make it amazing.
Listed above are 8 foundational actions you need to take. Each will help you turn your coaching into that amazing experience. But reading about them is not enough. You need to take action and the more action you take, the better experience you’ll enjoy.
As always, thanks for being here. I would love to know what action you take on this information. Drop me an email and tell me what worked, or didn’t work. It’s the way we all improve.
Video calls used to be an intriguing option for college coaches to consider when they wanted to stand out from the crowd and go the extra mile to impress one of their better recruits.
Today, video calls using technology platforms like Skype, Google and FaceTime are becoming a go-to method for connecting more effectively with most of a college coach’s recruiting list.
But that can be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, the technology available to a coach today makes it so easy and seamless to connect with a prospect quickly and easily through video gives them the ability to add an extra dimension (sight) to the typical recruiting phone call.
On the other hand, many coaches struggle to make an effective call, meaning that they don’t treat it like the live television show that it is. And, you’re the star. If you appear to be uncomfortable, boring, or unsure of yourself, those traits are only magnified when you’re on a prospect’s computer screen.
Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my short lived television sports career taught me more than a few iron-clad rules to follow when you’re in front of a camera (most of which I promptly broke, which is why it was a short lived television career. But if you want to know what a younger, fresher Dan Tudor looked like close to 25 years ago, here’s a clip someone unearthed and placed on YouTube).
The point is, the rules for appearing on video haven’t changed. So if you’re a coach that is determined to make video calls a part of your regular contact with prospects, I’d recommend you follow these seven tips to make sure you’re looking better than your competition:
Video calls aren’t rocket science, but there are some rules to follow for appearing calm, confident and engaging on video. If you don’t follow those rules, you could wind up being called the worst sportscaster ever.
Or, even worse: You could ruin your chances to land the recruit you really need.