For all the challenges college coaches face when it comes to recruiting – overcoming parents’ cries of how far from home your campus is, or why that losing season was just a fluke, or the fact that your dorms don’t include 42-inch flatscreen televisions like the other college they just visited – there is another gathering storm on the horizon.
And mark my words, it’s going to become a challenge for a lot of college recruiters.
I’m talking about an idea that is now becoming a mainstream discussion among parents, students and the media: Is a traditional four-year college worth it?
If you look at many of the recent news articles on the state of college graduate unemployment, it’s causing the discussion among parents as to the merit of the expense and sacrifice involved with a college education.
Don’t want to go to campus, or spend four years learning the skills for a high paying job? No problem. Get involved in a MOOC. (Don’t know what a MOOC is, Coach? Don’t worry, you will.)
Online colleges? They’re cheaper and more popular than ever before. In fact, right now your traditional four-year college is scrambling to figure out a way to host more online classes in that expanding market at the possible expense of your campus population.
What if an athlete just wanted to skip college altogether? Not too long ago, that young student would be relegating themselves to a life of minimum wage jobs and a limited employment market. Today, that’s not necessarily the case. Not going to college is now an option that is becoming widely accepted as a perfectly fine life option.
And you thought that losing season was a tough sell!
Now, to be fair, it’s not time to panic. And I’m not suggesting that these challenges are about to replace the traditional arguments that you face now as a college coach. However, you are seeing the beginning stages of these arguments against certain college choices already – for students and student-athletes alike:
- “Unless you can cover the full cost of college, my son just can’t play for you” (That was raised as an objection to one of our clients just a few weeks ago).
- “He can get his two year degree at the local junior college, and if he doesn’t get drafted to play baseball after two years, we’ve just decided he’ll start working right after that.”
- “He may just opt to study electronics in the navy instead of college if he doesn’t get a full ride somewhere.”
Unless you’re well entrenched at a Division I program that offers full-ride offers, these are conversations and objections you’re going to start facing, if you haven’t already. So if you’re that coach that is starting to get more and more questions about money, paying for college, or easily forgoing the opportunity to compete for you for something less than a full-ride offer of some kind, here are some important questions to start considering:
- Why is your college better than what they could get somewhere else? When I say “somewhere else”, that means everything from a competing institution to an alternate life course. Can you make the case that what you offer at your college is far and away superior to those other options? Be ready with those answers. They’re important now, and they’re going to become even more important in the not too distant future.
- How are connecting what you’re going to give them at your school, or in your program, with them personally? It shocks me to see how frequently coaches fail to emphasize how each aspect of their program – academics, athletics, campus life, post-college opportunities – relate specifically to that individual prospect. Moving forward, proving that you are a preferred option is going to come down to how they see themselves connected with your campus, your program, your players and you as their coach.
- Can you sell the idea that you are $3,000 more expensive than the competition – and that it’s a good thing? Left on it’s own, the argument that the cheapest college should be the obvious choice is going to win. It’s the default answer for parents across the country, and will continue to be so in the future as other options present themselves. Being able to sell the idea that your net cost – whether it’s $3,000, or $6,000 or $15,000 – is higher than a competitor and that it’s worth the investment to be at your school because it’s a higher cost (and why) is going to be a recruiting skill that will separate great recruiters from mediocre recruiters.
- Are you starting early and telling a compelling story? An effective, long term approach to recruits is the most effective way to sway recruiting results. Recruiting strategy, and the different methods of communication available to coaches, is going to have to be a part of an effective overall story-telling campaign. You, coach, are telling stories that connect with recruits. You’re either doing it very well, or very poorly, but make not mistake: You are telling your prospects stories.
The four questions we’ve listed aren’t exhaustive, of course. You may have other issues specific to your school or your program that you’ll find yourself dealing with soon (or already are). Taking time to start thinking about how you will approach some of these big picture issues is only going to help you and your recruiting efforts in the not too distant future.
Need specific ideas for your athletic department? We’d love to conduct an On-Campus Workshop at your school. We conduct specific focus group research on campus, present a dynamic interactive discussion of effective recruiting strategies, and answer specific questions from your coaches on how to address the upcoming challenges faced by college coaches. Click here for more information, and to download our overview.