Dan Tudor

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What May Be Delaying Your Prospect’s DecisionMonday, October 17th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 10.56.26 PMMore often than coaches realize, the thing that is grinding your prospect’s decision process down to a snail’s pace isn’t a “thing” at all.

It’s probably a person.

At an increasing rate, the individual recruiting scenarios we track and help manage for our clients that end up grinding to a halt late in the process are the result of a coach – club, high school, or private coach – advising their athlete (your recruit) to wait. Either for a potential “better” offer, or because the coach isn’t convinced that you are “the right fit” for their prospect.

If you don’t take control of that situation from the start, it’s likely that you’ll be plagued by the problem throughout the process.

And most coaches don’t.

You’ll know that you are in the middle of that kind of developing situation when one of these warning signs appears as you are in the middle your recruiting relationship:

  • You’ve had regular contact with your prospect, and it abruptly stops. Or, your normal mode of contact back and forth (by phone, text, etc.) becomes something less personal and less interactive (email, messages sent through the coach).
  • The parents of your recruit suddenly become the surrogate for communicating with you, mentioning that their son’s/daughter’s coach wants them to “slow the process down” or “take a look at all of our options”.
  • The coach, once someone who would keep you updated on the process and what was going on with the family, suddenly becomes vague about what is happening behind the scenes.

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but they are some of the telltale signs.

What prompts a coach to suddenly become involved in the recruiting process, sometimes in a negative way? Usually, it comes back to a realization by the coach that their rising young athlete is developing into an athlete that may warrant expanded attention from a variety of colleges. Sometimes, the coach has the best interest of the player at heart; they want them to have the maximum number of opportunities to take this next step in their sports career. Much of the time, your recruit’s coach sees an opportunity to bring added publicity and recognition to his or her program by having the highest level school(s) possible show interest and go through the recruiting process with their rising star. In other words, they see that there is something in it for them if they can parlay that recruit’s experience into a rising reputation for their club or high school program.

I’m not going to fault a club or high school coach for looking out for their own interests. That being said, I definitely don’t think you – as that athlete’s potential college coach – should refrain from looking out for your program’s best interests, nor do I think that you should give-up control of the decision making process to that other coach’s timeline.

The simple solution is, of course, to maintain regular contact with the family and coach as best as possible as the prospect goes through their more expanded search process.

The more complex – and more effective – long term solution to the issue comes back to a familiar theme: Recruiting the coach of your recruit through consistent messaging. The good news is that it doesn’t require quite the intensity as we would normally recommend in your communication with high school prospects: Our research and focus group studies with club and high school coaches shows that a recruiting message every 21-28 days is more than sufficient for the vast majority of coaches. And, unlike your recruits, coaches are really looking for one key thing: To be treated like a peer as you update them on the recruiting process with their athlete.

In other words, you need to justify why your program is a smart choice, while building up your personal connection with that coach through keeping them updated on what you are talking about with their athlete. Sell your program, and bring that coach into your inner circle when it comes to the recruiting process. Simple as that. And yet, even after reading this, the majority of college coaches won’t do much to improve the way they approach club and high school coaches they are in contact with. Even though it’s the only way we’ve discovered to bring a self-centered coach into your inner circle.

The number one complaint we hear club and high school coaches make about you, a college coach, is that when they have an athlete who is talented, college recruiters swoop in and want to be friends, and want their help in the process, only to disappear or go around them to get the athlete’s interest. It’s important that you remedy that feeling, Coach. If you don’t, and assuming your recruits’ reliance on their current coaches for advice and direction continues to deepen, you can expect the recruiting process to stumble in the years to come because of what club and high school coaches are doing to your efforts behind the scenes.

Want more insider advice and training when it comes to how to intelligently recruit your next class of prospects? Join other coaches around the country who are going through our Tudor University program. It’s online learning on your terms, and it gives you a clear foundation for recruiting excellence. It’s a small investment in your career, Coach. Click here for all the details.

Hosting Group Recruiting Visit Days the Right WayMonday, October 3rd, 2016

Full disclosure:

The vast majority of the time, I will tell a coach I am against group visit recruiting days.

I’ve seen more go wrong with them than I have seen go right. Honestly, more disaster stories have originated from large campus recruiting visit days than most other parts of the recruiting visits that we’ve analyzed:

  • Recruits go to campus expecting to receive personal attention, and instead come away with a feeling like they’ve just been lost in a crowd in a big group recruiting visit.
  • Recruits go to campus thinking they are coming to a program that wants their individual talents, and leave a big group visit feeling like they are just one of a large number of recruits.
  • Recruits come to campus wanting to be around other top-tier prospects, and instead see a large group of what they would define as mediocre fellow prospects.
  • Recruits come to campus excited about visiting and finding out about your program, but instead get matched with a visiting prospect who is negative about your program and school – and immediately poison the mindset of the recruits you worked so hard to get to come visit your college.

That’s not a complete list, but if any of it sounds remotely familiar to what you’ve seen happen with any of your visits, you get the idea: When you introduce a large group of prospects to each other in a new setting, the potential for disaster is there. Not always…and sometimes, you can get a solid commitment from a student-athlete prospects when you’re staging group visits. But the risk is always present on group recruiting visits.

And that’s why I am generally against recommending group recruiting visit days for your program.

All that being said, there are times when you need to stage large recruiting visits. So, let’s talk about how to make the best of what can often be a challenging situation, Coach. There are a few key components of a group visit that can put the odds of impressing your important recruits in your favor.

Before the group visit, define why you want them there. Them, specifically. Why are you bringing them there, and what should be understand about how they fit into the larger group they’re going to see on campus? Be as specific as possible, and focus on how they should see themselves in a large group setting.

Schedule time for your top kids (and their parents) away from the group. One of the key pieces of advice that upper-tier athletes and their parents give us is how they are looking for one-on-one time with the head coach of the program they are visiting. Make sure you schedule private time with them, and when you talk to them make sure you outline why they are different than the other recruits who are visiting that day. It’s critical that your top recruits understand their place in your recruiting class.

Define the group setting to everyone. If they’re wondering where they stand with you as they look around at everyone else on the visit, tell them that one of the reasons you want them there as a group is to give them a chance to get to know their potential future teammates. You have to define the group visit dynamic to them, and make it positive.

Try to get them alone with some of your Freshmen. As much time as possible. One of the most powerful aspects of the visit for your recruits is getting a good idea as to whether they are wanted by your current team. No matter what else has to be shortened or canceled as a part of the visit, do it. Time alone with your current team is vital if you’re looking to make an impression with recruits.

Define this group visit as the first of two. Tell your recruits, as a group, “All of you are getting a good picture of what it’s like here in a big way, but this should be the first of two visits you’ll plan on taking here. We want you back for a one-on-one visit with us, and I’d love it to be before <date>.” Or, something like that. The point is, make sure they understand that you want them back for a second visit…soon. The goal is to get them back on campus for a more personalized experience.

Those are the essentials, Coach. You’ll notice that each of the five core components are all geared towards them, their feelings, and their motivations. Follow them, and you’ll begin to even the odds for a good experience from your group recruiting visit experience.

Campus visits, and conducting them effectively, are one of the make or break moments in the recruiting process. Want to put over a decade of research and strategic thinking to work for you and your program? Become a client. We help hundreds of coaches all over the country with their messaging, organization, campus visit planning, and more. Click here for a quick rundown of everything we give college recruiters.

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.

Why Recruiters Need to Look at Their Sliced Bread DifferentlyMonday, January 18th, 2016

As we’ve started this new year, I’m observing an interesting paradox:

I’m honored to get to work one-on-one with a selection of scrappy, never-say-die, highly intelligent coaches who are taking the approach that they can beat anybody – any coach, any program – for some of the top-tier recruits that they really want. These recruiters are telling interesting stories, making strong selling points, and guiding their prospects through the recruiting process in a logical, timeline-centered manner.

I’m also hearing from another group of coaches who have decided to make this year the year that they finally figure out what they could be doing better as the new year starts, and have reached out over the phone to talk. I love doing that, as it gives me a really firm idea about what is front and center in the mind of the coach who realizes that something different needs to be done, but doesn’t yet quite know how to make those changes. They’re struggling.

So, how can two groups of intelligent, experienced college coaches get vastly different results when it comes to the same activity?

It’s all about how the bread is sliced.

Actually, let me rephrase that: It’s about how you tell the story of how you slice your bread.

I’ll point to marketing expert and author Seth Godin who expands on this concept, using the story of the actual inventor of sliced bread, Otto Rohwedder:

“Otto Rohwedder thought he had invented the greatest thing because he invented sliced bread. He thought that if he got a patent on sliced bread, he’d be rich. What Otto forgot was to ask a very important two-word question: Who cares? No one knew about sliced bread. No one cared. It wasn’t until Wonder Bread came around and marketed it that sliced bread took off. It wasn’t the bread that won, it was the packaging and distribution.

Ideas that spread, win. What we’ve been living through is the greatest culture of spreading ideas that there’s ever been. At one level, that’s great because it’s easier to spread your ideas than ever before. At another, it’s harder because we keep raising the bar.”

College coaches who are engaged in serious recruiting are very much in the business of spreading ideas – about you, your program, and why that recruit should compete for you and not for your competition.

Here’s the problem: I am hearing a lot of coaches focus on the fact that they have “sliced bread”, and now how they slice their bread.

One coach I talked to recently, for example, was baffled that their new turf field, a facility that they had worked several years to fundraise for, didn’t seem to make a difference to this most recent class of recruits even though several kids and their parents had been citing that as one of the biggest reasons they would choose a competitor.

It wasn’t unreasonable for this coach to look at that problem and move quickly to solve it:

  1. Our facility needs new turf
  2. The kids I really want seem to say that’s why they’re not coming here
  3. If I get new turf, the best recruits will finally choose me

If you’re a hammer, sometimes all you see are nails, right Coach?

When we dug a little deeper into his situation, he and I realized that all of the upper-tier prospects he was losing were opting to go to programs that were in a better Division I conference…the teams weren’t necessarily performing better, but the conferences could all be considered “better” than the one that he coached in.

In short, I told him I felt strongly – based on over a decade of dissecting these types of scenarios with the coaches we work with as clients – that his recruits were using his facility as the excuse why they weren’t coming to play for him. In reality, I’m guessing that his recruits were telling them their own story about why another conference would be a better decision for them rather than “settling” for a lesser conference (and I’m sure the recruits’ parents weren’t doing anything to change that opinion).

Back to ol’ Otto Rohwedder for a moment: This coach was slicing his bread better, but his recruits weren’t examining the slices, per se. They were buying into the story, or the marketing, of a competitor’s bread.

Godin observes that Otto’s sliced bread invention, which he invented thinking that he would become rich with a patent on the process, really didn’t take off until Wonder Bread marketed and packaged the bread in a way that connected with our parents and grandparents’ concept of what would cause them to buy store bought, sliced bread.

What I’m telling you, Coach, is this: If you’re having issues with getting the recruits you really want, I doubt it’s because you are slicing your bread incorrectly. It’s probably because you are failing to tell a compelling story, with a mix of logic and passion, done over an extended period of time.

Back to that first group of coaches I told you about at the start of the article: How else could a rag tag group of yet-to-be-winners who are coaching in ordinary conferences and inheriting mediocre records starting to win over better programs? And in two cases, where their lower division teams beat a program in a higher division level? It’s the story.

If I’ve described you, or your recruiting results, here are three next steps to take if you’re interested in changing the flow of your recruiting conversations with prospects:

  1. Identify the potentially negative aspects of your program’s story. Facility? Cost of attendance? Your record? List everything possible that a recruit might give you as a reason for saying no to you, whether that objection ends up being real or invented. Be honest with yourself and come face-to-face with whatever negatives might be used against you.
  2. Write out the phrasing you usually come up with to defend against possible negative perceptions about those aspects. If one of your recruits, or their parents, list it as a negative, how do you explain it to them? And even if they don’t bring it up, how are you bringing it up in the recruiting conversation with your prospect? Write out the verbiage that you would normally use in those situations, especially if it involves listing an excuse or reason you aren’t successful in those areas.
  3. Re-package your sliced bread. Tell a different story about the same negative aspects that you can’t control. Your facility isn’t as good as you’d like it to be? Don’t talk about that; talk about how the recruit is going to get better on that field or court, and that choosing a college based on the facility is the wrong way to choose where you get an education. Is your college the most expensive your recruit typically looks at? Explain to them the cost difference between you and College B is worth it in the long run, and why. Whatever the story, say it confidently, and repeat it over a long period of time.

I realize that in an article like this it’s easy to over-simplify a solution to a complex problem, and I have little doubt that I’m guilty of that here. That being said, this three step procedure is exactly what we do when designing a strategic approach to recruiting a higher caliber of recruit that a client is probably seeking. And, we’ve seen it work way more often than it doesn’t.

Your circumstances are unlikely to change much at your campus, Coach. Your only real option is to change the story that you’re telling your recruits, and do it sooner rather than later.

Again, it’s not the fact that you slice your bread. It’s how you package it and tell the story to your consumers.

Just ask Otto Rohwedder.

If you want to take this concept to the next level, you need to have your Athletic Director bring us to campus to do in-depth research with your current student-athletes on why they chose your campus, and then teach you and your fellow coaches to tell your story in a more strategic, compelling way. For more than a decade, we’ve helped college athletic departments around the country with this personalized, information-packed session. Click here for all the details.

Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Effective Recruiting as an OutsiderMonday, August 31st, 2015

Politics offers some fascinating lessons for observant college coaches looking for lessons from the real world on how to effectively recruit their prospects.

After all, what is Presidential campaigning if not recruiting a few million votes from your fellow countrymen and women?

The similarities between recruiting and high-level political campaigns are numerous.

The Presidential primary campaigns of 2016, in fact, provide some fascinating examples of how to break through the clutter of the typical campaign white-noise, and what makes candidates rise – and fall – in this new era of message marketing and creating an identity that stands out from the rest of the pack.

Which brings us to the two most curious “recruiters” in this particular campaign cycle: Billionaire businessman Donald Trump on the Republican side, and self-describted socialist Senator Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. At this writing at the start of September 2016, Trump is at the top of a crowded Republican primary field, and Sanders is steadily rising against the favored former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Which candidate you might favor – or despise – is irrelevant to the conversation we’re going to have today. To glean the lessons I want to focus on, you’ll need to suspend whatever partisan politics you might otherwise cling to and just study their methodologies, as well as some sea-changes in our society when it comes to how we perceive politics, candidates, party politics and the outsiders who are challenging the status quo.

If you can do that, I think you’ll come away with some fascinating lessons that you can apply to your recruiting efforts.

To start, lets focus on the question that is perplexing political pundits and much of the media:

How exactly are two outsiders doing so well against established, better funded, party-supported candidates? And what lessons do their candidacies offer college coaches?  Here are my four non-political-expert opinions and observations:

We’re at a time in our society when we are looking for something new. Politically, I don’t know if we know exactly what that is, given the political spectrum extremes of these two non-traditional candidates. There’s an element of frustration with the existing political powers that be, and these two candidates are taking advantage of it so far in these primaries.  The lesson for coaches?  I think it revolves around the concept of figuring out how you, and your program, can offer a recruit something different from the typical program and school. One thing we hear from high school student-athletes in the research we conducted is that they crave a reason to choose a school based on the unique selling proposition it offers them.  What story are you telling your recruits that differentiates you from the competition?

They aren’t afraid to be their own person.  In an age of carefully crafted, focus group tested, sound bite measured talking points, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders break the rules. Sanders is frumpy and passionately plain spoken, and it’s attracting the attention of the political left. Why?  Because his message and personality stand out.  Trump is uber-confident and dismissively insulting to rivals and other opposition, and it’s attracting the attention of the political right. Why?  Because his message and personality stand out. The lesson for coaches? Don’t be afraid to passionately and confidently state your case as to why your program should be the obvious choice to your prospects, even if it’s not perfectly crafted…even if it might cause a certain percentage of your to turn away…even if it causes people to stare. Plenty of the best recruiters around the country have made a name for themselves in the recruiting world by being larger than life and unique; give yourself permission to develop your own unique brand as you aim to take on the traditional powers you recruit against.

It’s important to state your case quickly, and memorably.  In our work with our clients, we accurately point out that telling a compelling story over a long period of time is the key to winning over the best recruits on a consistent basis. The same could be said about candidates who run an effective, long term campaign. But if you’re an outsider, you’d better stand out quickly as you begin to make your case. Why? Because as we often point out in our popular On-Campus Workshops for athletic departments, this generation of recruits (and their parents) are scared of making what they could perceive as the “wrong” decision; in other words, it would be safer to opt for the less risky choice in a college program given the choice in a vacuum of mediocre messaging. All things being equal, the school that’s close to home, has a history of success, or is a little less money might all be considered the “safe” decision unless you make the case quickly that your prospect, and his or her parents, should look at their choices differently.  That’s what both Trump and Sanders did effectively at the start of their campaigns: They got the attention of their audience quickly, made some unique and memorable (if not controversial) propositions, and drew the attention away from their better funded, more “safe” competition. The lesson for coaches?  As you get ready to reach out to a new group of recruits, give them a quick and memorable reason to justify continued conversations with you. (Note: If you’re a client, we’ve created a list of some ideas on how to creatively and effectively initially reach out to your new prospects. Just click here).

They don’t care what people think about them. Sounds counter-intuitive for a politician, doesn’t it?  Yet these two candidates are completely comfortable with who they are, what they stand for, and don’t apologize for anything.  You don’t like them? Vote for someone else. They aren’t going to re-calibrate themselves just for the sake of gaining a few percentage points in next week’s polls. The vitally important lesson for college coaches?  Own who you are. Embrace it.  Your school costs $53,000 a year and you don’t offer athletic scholarships? Embrace it. You play in a facility older than Hickory High School’s gym in the movie Hoosiers?  Embrace it. You’re 60 miles from the nearest mall, and a fun night out on the town for your team centers around going to a Subway sandwich place down the street from campus?  Embrace it. If you’re ashamed or apologetic about who you are and what you’re all about, your marketing-saavy recruit will pick up on it.  Truth is, they are more interested in how you view your school and what you offer than their first glance opinions. Are you willing to make the case to them that what they see should be what they want to get? Trump and Sanders have no problem with it, and so far it’s working out o.k. for them.

Recruiting a high caliber group of student-athletes is a daunting task, made more challenging given how competitive the landscape is with your competition.

As you develop your next recruiting strategy, take these four lessons to heart and figure out creative ways to implement the lessons into your approach. The person you may end up surprising just might be your long-standing championship competitor down the road who chose not to implement strategies that fit the times we now live in.

Want more in-depth training and lessons on how to develop a creative and effective recruiting approach? Join coaches from around the country at Tudor University, our online training and certification program for college recruiters. It’s inexpensive and easy to complete on your schedule, and will stay with you during your lifetime of college coaching. Click here for all the details.

Political Debates and Your Prospect’s VoteMonday, August 10th, 2015

As the 2015 Presidential primary season started heating up, one of the largest – and, to date, most watched – candidate debates took place.  It featured 16 men and women running for the Republican nomination.

And while I don’t want to parse the political messages that each candidate brought to the table, I do want to make this case to you today:

What each candidate was trying to do effectively is the same thing that each college coach is trying to do in winning the “vote” of his or her prospect.

Think about it…in this debate, you had sixteen different messages from sixteen different candidates who were desperate to make an impact with a potential voter, and with a limited time to get that voter’s attention so that he or she might be interested enough to take the next step with them.

Sound familiar, Coach?

There are lessons to be learned by savvy college recruiters from political campaigns. But instead of breaking down a candidate’s message and creating some kind of cheesy “who won and who lost” list based on their performance, I wanted to ask you some important questions.  Questions that you can ask yourself now as you develop your next recruiting campaign for your prospects, and questions to keep in mind the next time you hear political candidates making their pitch as to why they should receive your next vote:

What are you going to say in the first ten seconds you have your recruit’s attention that will make you stand out from the other fifteen coaches you’re competing against?

That’s the foundation of everything else you’ll build a message on. Have you defined it? As a client, we help you craft that message loud and clear. But if you’re crafting it on your own, ask yourself: “What am I telling my prospect that nobody else is?” If the answer is ‘nothing’, then it’s time to re-think your core initial message.

Is it about your message or about the feeling you’re creating?

I can make a case that modern politics is more about the art of the candidate making his or her voting block feel a certain way about them as a potential leader, rather than logically convincing them of the merits of their proposals.

I think I can also make an effective case that the art of recruiting could be defined that way, as well.

When you’re assessing politicians, don’t you want to feel good about the person you’re supporting? Likable candidates usually do pretty well.  So, in the message you’re creating for your recruiting campaign, how are you creating the right feeling about you, your program, your school and what you have to offer?

In a debate (and in recruiting), are you going to be the “attacker”, or the “safe alternative”?

Watch almost any debate and it’s clear that some candidates have a master plan to attack, attack, attack. They want to establish themselves as the lead dog in that political fight right from the start.

Others will make very obvious efforts to establish themselves as the “safe alternative”. They want to be the logical choice that a voter can feel good about once the “attacker” flames out or makes a mistake that puts their candidacy in trouble.

There are merits in both approaches.  The question I have for you is, “Have you defined which strategy you are embracing?” Because not having a pre-defined strategy and a clear plan on how to execute it could leave potential voters looking at you as a wishy-washy, undefined option that lacks passion and excitement.  And, you certainly won’t be talked about much afterwards.

Voters like to break down candidates into “winners” and “losers”. Your prospects, and their parents, are the same way.

If you Google a winners for this particular debate you’ll find no less than 2.3 million results. We like to score campaigns, debates and individual candidates into two tidy little categories that help us keep things organized.

So do your recruits.

They begin to define you, according to our research, within the first 5-7 minutes of contact with you (that includes your letters, email and direct messaging efforts). So, why are they probably classifying you as a “winner” when it comes to your message? What are the potential ways they might define you as a “loser”?  Make sure you know how to answer that question, Coach.

So as you build out a revised recruiting message, Coach, make sure you follow the political lessons offered during election cycles.

Your goal is incredibly similar to a politician’s goal: Tell an engaging story that gets us to believe that “voting” for you and your program is the smart thing to do.


Want an excellent way to learn the finer points of advanced recruiting techniques? Enroll in Tudor University, our online certification and training program for college coaches. Our annual registration passes are an affordable investment in your college coaching career, and will teach you the communication, marketing and sales skills necessary to be a successful recruiter. Click here to learn more.


7 Sly Skills Of Wicked Good CoachesMonday, May 18th, 2015

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Have you been trying to improve your coaching, but it’s not working well?

Do you know the simple skills that can make a big difference?

I’ve not been in many Cracker Barrel restaurants, but I will remember this one.

We were traveling to Boston and stopped to grab a bite. Sitting in the booth behind us was a family of four. Mom and Dad were talking to their daughter about her lacrosse experience.

Mom: “Your coach, she’s a wicked good coach. I like her.
Daughter: “Aw Mom, she’s good but not w-i-c-k-e-d good!
Mom: “Yeah she is, she is wicked good. I know wicked and she is it!”

That conversation rolled on for a few minutes.

Finally, I had to ask. I spun around, “Excuse me, folks, when you say “wicked”, like in “wicked good coach” what does the “wicked” mean.

Yes, it was awkward. Yes, it was weird. But if you know me, you know it’s what I do.

Being Wicked

Growing up in Boston, I used “wicked” all the time. It was our sentence enhancer. Slap “wicked” before something, and whatever it was became special.

This: that was a wicked slice
Means: a mighty fine piece of pizza

This: he’s got a wicked beetha
Means: that person’s car is a piece of junk

This: that bubbler is wicked ice
Means: the water fountain water is darn cold

Y’see, wicked means extra-ordinary. So what is a wicked good coach?

I guess that depends … but my definition is this: a coach who excels in all aspects of her or his job. Not just good, and more than special. Better than outstanding.

If we can agree on that, then the important part of this entire article is how do you get to be a wicked good coach?

Sly Skills

What I’ve learned, from hanging around coaches for the past 50 years, is that wicked good coaches use a certain set of skills most other coaches don’t. I call them “sly” skills because the skills are so simple, so subtle, that many coaches either dismiss them as trivial or ignore them altogether.

But not the wicked good coaches — they use these skills just beneath the surface of their day-to-day coaching to great affect. Following are the skills I’m on about.

Sly Skill #1: Instigating

The status quo is the one thing most difficult for coaches to overcome, especially the status quo in athlete’s minds:

I’ve never been able to run that speed for a mile
We always lose to them
I can’t make foul shots

Wicked good coaches are instigators. They determine the status quo, and then cause small rebellions to bring it down.

Maybe you can’t run that speed for a mile, yet, but I bet you could for 30 yards!
Maybe they’ll beat us in the final score, but let’s pick a stat we will beat them in!
Don’t worry about foul shots now, let’s see how well you can shoot from low post!

Sly Skill #2: Listening

The Universe sends us messages. Weekly. Daily. Hourly. Unfortunately, we are usually too busy/distracted to listen.

The athlete who comes to you with a complaint, has a message for you. As does the athlete struggling in practice, and your superstar, your family member, your sig-other.

Wicked good coaches listen to those messages, and they know which messages to ignore or to file, and which are important.

Sly Skill #3: Empathizing

Understanding what another person is feeling is a skill some are born with. Others have to develop it. Some never get it.

Being empathic to others can change your coaching game. I worked with a truly empathic coach and I heard one of her athletes say, “It’s like she reads my mind—she knows exactly what I’m thinking.”

Sly Skill #4: Assuming Nothing

I’ve noticed teachers (and coaches) assume everyone “knows” much more than they “know.” This is especially true with jargon. I am so guilty of this.

But wicked good coaches don’t make those assumption. They slyly explain what we often assume everyone knows.

Sly Skill #5: Asking

Getting what you want is so much easier when you ask for it. Wicked good coaches ask their athletes what is holding them back, then use that information to help. Asking, when combined with listening, can make you appear to be a genius.

Sly Skill #6: Ideating

Wicked good coaches are idea machines. It’s a sly skill and consists of producing ideas each day. Claudia Altucher, in her book Become An Idea Machine, notes that she cranks out a list of 10 ideas every day. According to Altucher, and I agree, the first 3 – 4 ideas are easy. The rest get harder, but that’s where the gold is.

Sly Skill #7: Gratitude

Coaches need help. Lots of help. Wicked good coaches thank that help. A lot. They bring gratitude into their daily routine, and truly mean it when they say it.

Actions You Can (and should) Take

Ben Franklin was a wise man. Part of his wisdom was focusing on one of his specific skill each day, to improve it. I try to do the same with each of these sly skills. It’s not easy, but few things worth doing are.

What if you tried that for a month? Take one sly skill and make it a focus of your day. For instance, every Tuesday invest in listening to the messages you are sent. Wednesday you focus on using your empathy skills. And so forth. Give it a month.

I’m also going to suggest 3 books as resources. I’ve read each, use them, and wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t believe in them:

1: Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are The Currency Of The 21st Century – Claudia Altucher
2: The Freaks Shall Inherit The Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits and World Dominators – Chris Brogan
3: InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives – Joe Ehrmann

That’s A Wrap

There are a lot of ways to be a wicked good coach. These are just a few of them — others certainly exist. Working on these 7 could go a long way towards making a significant difference in your coaching.

It’s been a long week, as we train to compete at the NCAA championships, work through finals exams, and balance family life. Other than that, can I request a share of this week’s issue? Thank you!

How College Coaches Can Profit From Watching “The Profit”Monday, October 27th, 2014

Most college coaches who have spent time in the private sector would agree that being successful in recruiting is a lot like being successful in business.

If you run your business the right way, profits will follow.  If you run an organized recruiting effort, you’ll get good recruits consistently, year after year.

Many businesses, like many coaching staffs, don’t organize themselves to operate profitably.  The results are dire: They struggle financially, jeopardize their personal relationships because of the stress, and often have to close their doors.  While the end results for a college coach may look a little different, the symptoms are identical: Struggling bottom-line results, increased stress, and losing out on the recruits you really want.

This is where a reality T.V. show might just be the answer you’re looking for – whether you’re a business owner, or a college recruiter.

The show I’m referring to is the CNBC hit, “The Profit”.  It features Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of Camping World, as a business success “prophet” who goes into a struggling business, invests his own money (much of the time in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) to take a controlling interest in the operation, and turn it around through a set of principles that he has developed, and uses in his own operation at Camping World.

It’s that set of principles that college coaches can learn from, as well as measure against the way they currently operate their coaching office and recruiting efforts.  On the surface, Lemonis’ principles seem to be very simple: People, Process and Product.  In every business he invests in, those three things have to be present in order to realize success.

And that’s where college coaches can take a page from his winning strategy to turn around their recruiting results.

As I take you through each of the principles laid out by this successful entrepreneur, ask yourself, “Is our coaching staff, and our recruiting approach, generating the kind of recruiting “profits” that are building our program’s brand and separating us from the competition?”

Your People

Do you have the right coaches on staff to be as successful as possible, and are you communicating with them to make sure that they have what they need to get the job done?

Notice this set of principles doesn’t start-off with “stuff”. I didn’t ask how new your stadium is, or what your budget was, or the year you won your last conference title.  Frankly, those types of things become more of a hinderance than a help when it comes to what a coach talks about, or how they tell their story to a recruit.

What’s important is having the right people in place, not only from purely a coaching perspective, but also when it comes to communication ability, sales ability, and other traits that typically make-up successful coaches at the highest levels.  Do you have those people on your staff?  Are you one of them?  And if you aren’t, are you taking steps towards educating yourself and making yourself the best recruiter you can be?

If you don’t have the best people around you, and if you aren’t the most competent recruiter you can be, it’s going to be impossible to succeed over the long haul.  That’s true in business, and it’s true in college athletics.

Your Process

If you looked at the way you’ve laid out your recruiting process, could you say that it reflected these traits?

  • You have an agreed upon plan of attack when it comes to the geography you and your staff will be recruiting, as well as who is best to recruit those areas.
  • When you scout prospects, everyone is using the same measurement metrics that reflect the criteria for a top prospect as outlined by the head coach.
  • Are you giving your recruits a consistent, compelling message that tells the story of your program and answers the question, “why they should want to compete for you?”
  • Are you setting-up fair but firm deadlines that put you in control of the process?
  • Is your staff evaluating how a previous recruiting year went, and what can be done to change and improve the results for the next year?

The process you put in place is critical to your success as a recruiter.  Without a good process, all the talented people in the world won’t matter.

Your Product

In one sense, you might say that this is an area where you, as a college coach, have no control when it comes to the quality of “the product” you can give a recruit.  You can’t control the type of facilities you have, what they look like, the location of your college, whether it’s blazing hot in the Summer or icy cold in the winter…all of that is out of your hands.

But let’s choose to focus on the parts of your product that you do have control over:

  • The coordinated effort with your team to wow a recruit you bring to campus, making them feel like your team wanted them the most, and are the easiest to get to know.
  • How you interact with the parents of your recruit, and what you do with the separate from their son or daughter during that recruiting visit.
  • The tone of your voice on phone calls, and how you personalize a recruiting letter.
  • Using the largest and most influential public relations resource that you have at your fingertips to engage with your recruits, showing them what your program’s personality is all about.

Coach, don’t get sucked into the false assumption that it’s only the size and quality of your facility that sways recruits into choosing one college program over another.  That’s false.  You can counteract any shortcoming when it comes to something like facilities, location or your team’s recent performance by nailing those four important parts of your overall product.

I’m not suggesting that any coaching staff or athletic department can be turned around magically overnight with just a few simple tweaks.  However, these three areas are a good foundational starting point when it comes to figuring out what to focus on when you’re looking to include you program’s recruiting performance.

And the best part? There won’t be any reality T.V. cameras following you around while you do it!

Why Recruiting Rep #10 is ALWAYS the Most ImportantSunday, March 16th, 2014

Rep #10 of any workout is the toughest rep.

Those are my pasty, skinny legs on repetition number ten at the gym this past week.  If my legs were the definition of college recruiting, I’d be out of a job.  I’m in the process of trying to undo years of sitting in front of a computer screen, flying across the country, as well as marginal eating habits.

Especially when you’re not on your game, rep #10 is the most challenging.

Many college coaches find themselves facing rep #10 as they read this today:  Their recruiting list is in shambles…they’re out of ideas on what to say to their prospect next…they don’t know what questions to ask…and, more for than a few, their jobs are on the line because of years of lackluster recruiting results.

Recruiting quality prospects is the most difficult part of your job as a college coach.  Period.  It’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s selling your program to teenage recruits and their parents.

And the toughest part of that process is “Rep #10″…what you do at the end of the recruiting process.  That, and that alone, usually determines how strong (i.e., not skinny, not pasty) your results are.  I once heard a great definition of the important of the last few reps of any workout, which said it was a lot like pumping up a bicycle tire: The first twenty pumps don’t make the bike ready to ride, the last three pumps do.  At the end of the process, college coaches need to focus on those final pumps.  Or, rep #10.

With that in mind, let me give you a quick checklist of three tough-to-do, but high impact, “rep #10” type duties that coaches can focus on at the end of the recruiting process:

Have the parents of your prospects define where you stand in their eyes.  It’s a hard “rep” because many coaches still don’t put a heavy emphasis on developing an ongoing conversation with parents.  If that’ you, put on the heavy weights and pound out this really important recruiting “rep”.  Often, you’ll get different answers – and more honest answers – than you will from your recruit.  And, honesty is really important at this stage of the game…you should want to know exactly where you stand as a recruiter.

Don’t assume that your recruit knows everything they need to know about your campus and your program.  Your prospect has been to campus, you’ve watched them compete in person a few times, you’ve talked with their coach, and you sent them the big, long letter packed full of information right at the beginning of the process.  What more could they want?  Most of the time, plenty.  As they go through the process, our research shows that they absorb very few actual details about your program if you aren’t consistently, creatively telling them a compelling story about why they should commit to you.  So, as you sit back and wonder what in the world you can tell your recruit that they don’t already know, try emphasizing the basics.  And, tie it back to why they should view your essentials as a smart reason to pick your program.  Most coaches won’t follow through with this recommendation, so it’s an easy way to gain some extra recruiting muscle in the later parts of the cycle.

Tell them you want them, and ask them if they want to commit.  Don’t think they need to hear it again?  Wrong.  They do…now more than ever, actually.  Haven’t verbalized those words yet?  Do it now.  I’m listing this as an official Rep #10 task because it’s hard to do, and some coaches find it awkward to do.  That’ why it often goes unsaid, and coaches just “assume” that their recruit know a coach wants them, and that they can commit anytime they want.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  For many other coaches, it’s just too scary: They view it as pressuring their prospect, or sounding too “desperate”.  Slap on the extra weights, and max out with this vital Rep #10 recruiting task.  Ask for the sale, Coach!

A word of warning:

Make sure you aren’t this guy when it comes to recruiting.  He’s got all the big brand clothes on, and he’s actually made it to the gym.  But every day, we see him sitting and texting while he does an off-and-on workout on the bike.  He’s not breaking much of a sweat, and it’s safe to say he’s not going to be at risk of pulling a muscle.

Recruiting at a high level is tough work.  It’s demanding.  It requires consistency, and a high degree of “pain tolerance”…unreturned phone calls, deceitful parents, uninterested teens, less than desirable facilities to show them when they come for their visit…contrary to what you might think, it’s not easy anywhere.  We work with more than a few extremely successful programs in many different sports and a lot of different levels, and I can tell you that when the office doors close, they have the same struggles and concerns that most mediocre teams’ coaches have when they assess their recruiting needs.

What separates a successful recruiter and coach from someone who ultimately fails at this important part of their job as a college coach is effort on rep #10.  Look for ways you can creatively and aggressively maximize your connection with a recruit and his or her family during the crucial final weeks of the recruiting process.

Want a great weekend of creative techniques, late-breaking research, and amazing speakers who reveal their secrets of successful recruiting?  Join us this June at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference!  It’s a one-of-kind gathering of recruiting minds and coaches from around the country.  Don’t miss it, Coach…click here for all the details.

Six Strategies for Constructing Winning Recruiting MessagesMonday, October 21st, 2013

I’ve made the case for years that coaches are actually professional sales people – who also happen to get to coach.

I’m going to add another job responsibility to your title:  Expert recruiting message writer.

It’s not an option any longer.  If you don’t create great messages, you risk not only losing the attention of your recruit…you risk not having the opportunity to start a relationship with them at all.

To help with that, I wanted to outline a couple of the strategies that we use when we’re helping our clients create their campaigns.  Here are six winning message construction strategies that you and your staff can (and should) try the next time you’re struggling to come up with a great recruiting message.  They work for us, and I’m confident they’ll work for you:


STRATEGY #1:  Compartmentalization

Writing a fantastic recruiting letter, email – or even a social media message – is a process that consists of many steps, hundreds of actions, and thousands of tiny decisions:

Thinking about who your prospect is and why he needs your product…

Coming up with your attention-getting strategy – your theme, headline, and lead idea…

Researching what your school offers, what your competitors’ strengths are, and their recruiting strategies…

Organizing your attack – determining the order in which you’ll guide your prospect through your reasons why he or she should commit to your program…

Pouring the appropriate research, notes, and ideas into each section of your recruiting plan outline…

Writing your first draft…

Buffing and meticulously detailing each succeeding draft until you know that you couldn’t improve it even if someone held a gun to your head – and that any change you consider at this point will actually weaken the copy…

And, finally, sticking a fork in it, because it’s done.

Now, if you have any shred of common sense, you’re going to feel overwhelmed when you contemplate all the steps you have to complete in order to perfect the project at hand. And that’s okay. It just means you’re in touch with reality.

But you’re going to have to get past “overwhelmed” and on to work. And the only way I know to do that is to mentally chop the job into little, tiny, manageable pieces. So you tell yourself something like this: “I do NOT have to write a recruiting campaign today. All I have to do is the research. Or part of the research.”

Thinking about the work this way does more than just relieve your anxiety about producing recruiting letters and emails. It blows all that procrastination you’re usually guilty of at the beginning of a recruiting project right out of the water, and gets you moving forward towards creating a good recruiting message.

STRATEGY #2:  Getting into a good flow

Ever have a day when you sit down to work and the next thing you know it’s time for dinner… you have to force yourself to stop… and when you reflect on your day as a college coach, you’re amazed by the quantity – and, more important, the quality – of what you accomplished?

That is the “good flow” that I’m talking about.

The fact is, good flow equals better recruits. Because the more flow you experience during planning and writing your recruiting campaign, the faster the project goes and the better your end product is.

But good flow doesn’t “just happen.” Flow is kind of like hummingbirds: They show up naturally if you just create an environment that attracts them. For me, that means a quiet work area and a good night’s sleep. The right background music. No interruptions. No distractions. A trenta Starbucks unsweetened iced tea.  And every tool I need to do that day’s job readily at hand.

That’s just me. You’ll have to figure out what works for you.

STRATEGY #3: Constantly visualizing success

Yes, I know. What could possibly be more cheesy than dusting off the decades-old concept of “positive thinking”?

Thing is, like all laws that survive the test of time, positive thinking works.  Good coaches know this, deep down.

What personally drives me is the phone call I’ll get from a wowed coach client when he sees our recruiting plan we’ve created for them for the first time… the call telling us he had too many recruits reply back to their recruiting email campaign…and, of course, the high fives we do here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies when a coach gets the athlete they really, really want.

Whatever your motivation, try keeping it in mind as you write.  Make that the thing that drives you and commits you to doing your best.

STRATEGY #4:  “Know thyself”

Feelings are more intense than thoughts.

So, they can have a way of blanking your mind and freezing you like a biker who just spotted a grizzly in his headlights. That’s why you have to understand how negative emotions affect your work as a college recruiter.

For example, you may feel overwhelmed at the beginning of a project to come up with new recruiting messages. Discouraged when a solution doesn’t come fast enough. And then your inferiority complex kicks into overdrive when you see how you think your competition is doing it a lot better than you and your coaching staff is.

It helped me when I realized that 99.9 percent of all negative emotions are probably not caused by objective truth. And, therefore, the vast majority of all bad feelings don’t deserve my attention.

So when I experience a negative emotion while I’m working, I pause for a moment and ask myself, “What thought zipped through my mind just before I got bummed out?” After recognizing how ridiculously wrong that thought was, I can almost instantly dismiss the negative emotion and dive back into the work.

Try it. It works, Coach.

STRATEGY #5:  Forget about the rules!

Not the NCAA’s rules.  Writing rules.

You’ve learned too many letter-writing rules. And, frankly, they’re getting in the way. If you’ve had us to your college for one of our On-Campus Workshops, you know what I think of many of the letters that go out to your recruits (they need major re-working, in many cases).

So instead of worrying about the rules you learned in high school and college, focus on your prospect and be a sales professional in print. Think, “If I were in a room with my best prospect and needed to get his attention, engage him, present the reasons why he should come to play for me and my program – what would I say to him?” Then let the conversation flow naturally out of your fingers to the keyboard and into your document, as if you were talking to them one-on-one.  Less formal, more conversational.  That’s the key.

There’ll be plenty of time in later drafts to think about which rules you broke or didn’t follow. The first draft is about speed.

STRATEGY #6:  Do some bedtime reading

Let your last action each day at the office – or even literally before you fall asleep – be to read what you wrote to a recruit that day. File it away in your subconscious mind. And go to work the minute you wake up in the morning so the connections your brain made overnight find their way onto the page.  Try it once…you’ll see how well it works.

One, or all, of these strategies will help you spark a creative approach.  It’s absolutely necessary with this generation of prospects…and for the success of your next recruiting campaign.

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