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Pokemon Go – Why You should care, and how to use itMonday, July 18th, 2016

neal_headshot_dantudorby Neal Cook, Front Rush

By now, you’ve probably heard the word ‘Pokemon Go’ hundreds of times. You may have even seen some people – more than normal – walking around staring at their phones. Odds are they are trying to catch digital Pokemon. So what is Pokemon Go and why is it taking the world by storm? To understand Pokemon Go, you must first understand the origins.

Pokemon was originally a concept from a video game designer named Satoshi Tajiri. Tajiri had a childhood obsession with insect collecting and a passion for video games. Hence, the original Pokemon game (pokemon is a combination of the words pocket and monsters).

If you were a kid in the 90’s, chances are you had a Gameboy and played Pokemon non-stop. The game, coupled with a hit TV show, made Pokemon a cult-phenomenon. But that was 20 years ago.

Flash forward to the present. Pokemon Go was released on July 5th. It’s a free, augmented reality, mobile game that can be downloaded on most iPhone and Android devices.  Augmented reality blends the real world with technology. The game uses your phone’s GPS sensors to track where you are and uses Google Maps as your game board. You can’t play this game sitting in your house. You need to get out and move. As you walk around in real-life, Pokemon will appear and you can catch them with your digital Pokeballs (sounds kinda lame, but it’s actually really cool).  Depending on your location, you’ll notice different Pokemon. Fire-type Pokemon appear close to gas stations, grass-type Pokemon appear in parks, water-type Pokemon appear when you are by water. Chances are your school has some unique Pokemon that your recruits and team would love to catch.

Why should you care about all this? Because it’s huge. Really huge. As of Monday, July 11th, the game was seeing about 21 million daily active users (in a span of a week). In terms of daily users, it is the biggest mobile game in U.S. history. While it’s hot, it’s most likely playing a role in the lives of the student-athletes you engage with.

Screenshot_20160715-142135

How can you use your knowledge of Pokemon Go with your recruits and team?

#1 Check to see if your school is a PokeStop or Gym.

A PokeStop is a predetermined landmark that you can interact with and gather items (pokeballs, potions). Odds are, you’ll have a few these on your campus. Gyms, on the other hand, allow you to battle your Pokemon against other real people. Both draw users of the game to their locations (small businesses are actually using Pokemon Go to bring customers to their businesses).

#2 Catch Pokemon with your recruits

Recruits and parents are coming on campus to learn about your university and program. That comes first, but doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun along the way. Maybe take a detour to your local Pokestop/Gym on campus and catch a few Pokemon. Doesn’t have to be for long. But this would be a great icebreaker and show the recruit you are pretty cool and in-the-know.

#3 Tell your recruits which Pokemon you caught

Next time you send an email to your recruits, let them know how many Pokemon you’ve caught or which Pokemon has the strongest CP (combat power). Recruits will get a kick out of it. Maybe it’ll even spark a larger conversation about your program.

#4 Have fun with your team

Most of your team is already playing. After practice or a meeting, lighten the mood by having a Pokemon walk with your team. Sure, some might be “too cool’ to participate, but it’ll be a great team-bonding experience.

Pokemon Go is a global and cultural phenomenon that may or may not be here to stay. Familiarize yourself with how it’s being used within your world. Get creative in how you could use it to engage with your team, recruits, and even your University as a whole.

Gotta catch ‘em all!

 

Digital Angel or Digital Devil?Monday, April 25th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

There comes a time when I need to face the truth.

In this instance, there are three truths, digital truths, that I’m trying to process:

  1. Digital Truth #1: Digital is impacting coaches
  2. Digital Truth #2: Coaches adopt digital at different speeds
  3. Digital Truth #3: Screen sizes keep getting smaller

Here is what has me scratching my head … there is a positive impact (Digital Angel) and a negative impact (Digital Devil) to each of these truths. And I’m trying to understand how this will work.

Truth #1: Digital is impacting coaches

In a recent survey of sport coaches, over 35% of them told me they were significantly concerned about the impact digital was having on their coaching.

04-24-16 - impact of digital on coaches

 

Yikes — all those coaches worried about data flying around, media that’s called social, and powerful phones in people’s pockets.

Are their concerns valid?

At the other end of the survey results, 31% of coaches told me that they were NOT worried about the impact of digital. AT ALL.

Are they ignoring reality?

Who is right? On my end, I see the Angel and the Devil:

  • Digital Angel: One day I was pumped about the value of sharing a race video I just recorded, through social media, to team members.
  • Digital Devil: The next day I spent hours trying to sort out a “social media dust up” between team members. At the end of the day I was ready to condemn all things electronic.
  • Digital Angel: A huge percentage of coaches report the impact of digital on their recruiting is positive (>70%)
  • Digital Devil: Everyday there is another story about a coach who runs into trouble due to digital, like this one.

See, there’s an Digital Angel and a Digital Devil sitting there. On a shoulder. Whisper confusing things.

Truth #2: Coaches adopt digital at different speeds

Almost half of coaches in my survey (44.1%) told me as soon as they know about a new digital thing they want to try it.

04-24-16 - coaches adopt digital

That’s crazy stuff. What are these coaches looking for? A recruiting advantage? Easing of workload? Distraction?

Yet, the other half yawned when new digital popped up. They said they don’t care about the new stuff..

So, half of coaches are early adopters (that’s me, actually I’m a super-early adopter), and the other half are late (if ever) adopters.

Angel and Devil again.

Truth #3: Screen size is getting smaller

Thanks to Moore’s Law, digital gadgets are shrinking and so is their cost. And this is leading to smaller screen sizes.

desktop => laptop => tablet => smartphone => smartwatch

I have a theory. Here’s the first part: “smaller screen size means devices are becoming more mobile.” It is so easy to stick the smartphone in your pocket or slip the smartwatch on your wrist and take the screen with you — everywhere.

Here’s the second part: “smaller screens lead to greater human contact which leads to greater use.” And, of course there is an Angel/Devil aspect here.

  • Digital Angel: quick communication is at arms length
  • Digital Devil: distracted coaching becomes a reality (how many times do you check during practices?)
  • Digital Angel: everyone has a smartphone
  • Digital Devil: a smartphone in plain view, even if off, changes conversations

The list goes on.

So What?

Does any of this matter?

Growing up, rock-n-roll was just becoming popular. The adults around me were split between how great it was, and it being a sign of our society’s demise. Angel/Devil.

Digital is part of our coaching world. There are smart/safe ways to use it. I doubt if we will see a lessening of it’s popularity. Knowing there is both a Digital Angel and Digital Devil might be helpful as I (and you) keep moving ahead.

Will A Robot Take Your Coaching Job?Sunday, March 27th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

You’re not going to like this, but I have to ask you a question. You’ll probably think it’s the stupidest question you’ve gotten today. Or this week. Or maybe this decade.

Regardless, I’m going to ask …

Will a robot take your coaching job?

Will you be replaced by a machine?

There’s a new reality brewing

You, we, me are way too valuable to be replaced by a machine. We bring too much to the role of a coach.

How could we possibly be replaced by a robot?

Heads up — it’s happening already.

  • Yesterday, I took my pulse during practice by placing two fingers on my carotid artery, Coach would count to 10, then I would multiply by 6.
  • Today, I all have to do is look at my Fitbit and read the display.
  • Yesterday, to fine-tune a player’s moves to the basket, Coach would stand, watch and then instruct.
  • Today, video cameras are turned on, and players can watch their mistakes in all shades of slow motion. Where, when and how they want to watch it. (Each NBA team has six cameras in the ceiling.)
  • Yesterday, the intensity of my workout was at best an estimation.
  • Today, an app tracks my steps, stairs and heart rate and tells me to work harder or rewards me when I exceed my goals.

03-26-16 - Fitbit image

Are those robots? Close.

robot can be defined as a mechanical or virtual artificial agent, electro-mechanical in nature, which is guided by a computer program or electronic circuitry.

I think it’s scary how close we are to robot-coaches.

Human powered?

Why do humans even need to be involved in the coaching process?

Is it because we know more than machines and computers. Actually, we don’t.

Is it because we can communicate better. Actually, we can’t.

Is it because a machine could never drive better than us? Actually, they can.

Or is it because we learn as we go — and machines don’t. Actually, they do. As evidenced by an artificial intelligence named Giraffe, which taught itself to play chess and attained an International Master status in just 72 hours.

Taught. It. Self.

Knowledge, communication and learning are NOT just human strengths. Machines can do them, and if they aren’t doing them better than us TODAY, they will TOMORROW.

Our advantages

So what does a human-coach actually do better than a robot-coach? Humans blow away robots in at least two areas — areas critical to coaching: empathy and relationships.

Empathy — We can read people’s facial expressions. We can tell by the look in their eyes or their voice intonation how they’re feeling and what’s going on. We can grasp what they are emoting.

But, how long until robots can do that?

For instance, the computer I’m typing on has facial recognition. How difficult will it be to connect that recognition with an emotional data base? Then, when I sit down at my computer, it knows how I feel. “Need a few minutes of Twitter, Mike, to see what your friends are doing? It’ll pick you up.

Stay tuned on this, because I think it’s happening now.

Relationship — A critical factor in coaching is the ability to build positive relationships. A robot could never do that. Right?

Well — what’s your relationship with your smart phone?

Even if you don’t do any of those, I bet you know someone who does.

A prediction

I’m lousy at predicting the future. But there are voices to listen to.

Scott Santens wrote Robots Will Take Your Job, published in the Boston Globe. In the article Santens writes about the jobs already being replaced by robots (hint — it’s not just on the assembly line).

And he throws this bomb shell on the reader, “Nothing humans do as a job is safe anymore. From making hamburgers to anesthesiology, machines will be able to successfully perform such tasks and at lower costs than humans.

Evidence suggests Santens is right.

So?

To keep our coaching jobs, we need to be valuable.

So, what makes YOU more valuable to your athletes/team/organization than a robot?

I’d love to hear …

How To Coach Sports and Deal With Digital OverwhelmMonday, March 14th, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

“Technology is a great slave but a terrible master.” – Tim Ferriss

My first experience with my cell phone was awful. I finally threw it away.

It was a dumb phone. I liked it for the camera. Hated the phone part — because people would call me. I’d have to stop what I was doing to answer the phone.

That makes sense, right? I got a cell phone because I wanted a camera in my pocket, and I get miffed because the phone works. The camera was my slave, the phone turned out to be my master.

And that summaries what a coach told me in my recent digital impact survey:

“I’m a coach and I every time I turn around there is one more new digital product, or change that I have to get used to. I don’t have the time to keep pace with all of this new stuff.”

Slave or Master

I don’t know your coaching-workflow, but I bet the you use several digital tools. Something like:

  • Smartphone in your pocket
  • Computer on your desk
  • Tablet in your bag
  • Apps galore

Is that how you roll? If so, what’s your relationship with them? Who is the master? Who is the slave?

We think it’s the athletes who are slaves to their phones, not raising their eyes to look up, always swimming in the Facebook pool.

But coaches are not immune to being enslaved by digital. It can be so overwhelming. Like old school me who could figure out the camera, but done-in by the phone.

Money or Helpful?

Few tech-companies make digital products because they are good FOR you. They make them to make money FROM you. When a money stream dries up, out comes:

  1. a new product
  2. a new update
  3. a new platform

I’m not a Luddite. I like digital toys, but …

not when they bring work to me … outside of work
not when my free time … gets invaded
not when I’m forced to upgrade … that which already works well
not when they don’t work … such as exposing my personal data

And especially not when I spend more time learning and massaging a tool that should have saved me time.

Action That Can Help

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, what can you do? I’ve had those feelings, and here’s what I did. Maybe one will work for you:

  1. Be the Master. You are the master of your digital. If you aren’t, YOU’VE given digital permission to be your Master. All things digital should be your tools. If you are feeling forced to be enslaved to digital (“My boss says I have to have my phone on and next to me 24 hours a day”) you need a better job. Seriously better.
  2. 80-20 it. You’ve been hearing about the Pareto Principle recently, unless you’re living under a goal post. Basically, in this case, it says a large percentage of your overwhelm is caused by a small percentage of your digital tools. So, is there one or two tools that are the culprits? Can you become the Master of them?
  3. Ask yourself, “Why do I need this digital tool?” I am NOT on Facebook, because it isn’t helpful to me. I could easily be enslaved to it, but since it is not a helpful tool for what I do, I’m not there. Look at any digital tool you use, and ask yourself, “Why do I need this?”
  4. Will simpler work better? What is the simplest tool you can use to get your job done? For example, I love to write using the fantastic program Ulysses. It is a helpful tool, however sometimes it is too complex for my writing. So then I use the very basic Notes program that comes installed on all my Apple devices. (I’m writing this on it now) and DayOne. They are basic, but meet my needs. In-and-out and I’m done. Is there a simpler digital tool you could be using?
  5. Look to automation. Are there tools, or part of a tool, that can automate some of your workflow?

Digital overwhelm is a fact for many. Keeping up with the new stuff can be a challenge. A constant stream of products designed for better connection, deeper engagement, greater productivity often means burden on the limited time we have.

Keep in mind who is the Master.

Are Your Athletes Glued To Their Smartphones?Monday, February 22nd, 2016

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Do they hear only half (or less) of what you say?

Is it hard for them to concentrate during practice?

Are you wondering why they don’t respond to your emails?

If so, then when I say “attention is your new battlefront” you understand.

Right now, it’s tough getting and keeping your athlete’s attention. 

But you have to, because if you don’t you won’t stand a chance of surviving as a coach.

Why?

Because a coach must guide, must nurture, and must protect — and that won’t happen if your athletes are zoned-out and ignoring you.

Curse You, Smartphones

It’s easy to blame smartphones for your athlete’s brains being somewhere else. But do that and you miss the big picture — and a few important reasons your words fall on deaf ears.

Here’s what I mean.

First, your athletes are a skeptical lot. If they are between 12 & 34-years old then you are coaching Millennials. A trait of Millennials is they are skeptical. They ask things like:

  • Why should I believe you?
  • What’s in it for me?
  • How can you help me?
  • Can I trust you?

You might not hear those questions but they are asked. And if you aren’t answering them to their liking, then why SHOULD they pay attention to you?

Second, a tidal wave of information is hitting your athletes square in the face — everyday. It’s almost impossible for them to hide from the incoming stream of messages/information/requests — making it hard for the athletes to concentrate. So, why SHOULD your words stand out? Is listening to your message more important, more engaging, more entertaining, more helpful then all the rest?

Third, the Millennials (yes, back to them) want to know what is going on. They want information — scratch that — they demand it. And they don’t like not getting it. Which means, if they feel that they are only getting half the story, they WILL stop listening.

Fourth, now to smartphones. At your athlete’s fingertips is that constant stream we just talked about. And it’s there all the time.

Most athletes don’t have filters or times limits on their phones. So they are the ones who have been put in charge of monitoring their own smartphone use. And you are a witness to how well that’s working.

As my dad used to say, “The kids have been given the keys to the candy shop.

Finally, social media is this generation’s Cheers. It’s the place they go because everyone knows their name. So when the real word gets uncomfortable, boring, or stressful social media offers an engaging haven. Can’t blame them, I guess.

It’s almost like a perfect storm between their generation, smartphones and the appeal of social media. What’s a coach to do?

I’m glad you asked.

Your Attention Strategy

Here’s the centerpiece of any attention strategy — athletes GIVE you their attention. You can’t grab it or steal it. Screaming and berating won’t work. They have to give it to you, and to get them to give it I offer a few suggestions that might work:

A. Set up a distraction free zone. Have them put their phones away, off and out of sight.

B. Don’t  be tempted to meet them half way.Just turn your phones off and put them down,” is not enough. It has been shown that a smartphone in plain site, even turned off, is a distraction. Not just to the owner but to those who can see it. “Phones off and out-of-sight,” is a good mantra.

C. Matter more. With their phones away, explain to them what you are trying to achieve, and why. They want to know the why. “Because I said so,” just annoys them, and their attention is gone. “Because we will be working on you getting better, that’s what’s in it for you,” goes much further.

D. Tell the athlete’s “support-people” what you are trying to do, and what you are noticing. Those people could be a youngster’s parents or a college student’s friend. Maybe they can help.

E. Be the example. Turn your own phone off, and put it away. “Ah, but I use it for video, and pictures.” Get a digital camera or use a GoPro Hero. See B, and phone away.

F. Set the expectations. Expect your athletes to follow your lead, and help them to do it.

G. Be Engaging. When you talk to them, make your content so engaging that they cannot resist giving you their attention.

I. Have them write. In a meeting or class session, have the athletes write notes on paper. The act of writing deepens engagement and snags attention.

J. Reward them. Rewards like self-satisfaction and a sense of purpose grabs and holds people’s attention. Identify the rewards that most appeal to your athletes and use them to get their attention.

K. Use Your Reputation.  If you’re trying to capture the attention of people who don’t know you, tell them about your expertise. Robert Cialdini calls this “directed deference.” His book, Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, is a must read.

L. Use Mystery. We love stories, and our brains are fine-tuned to remember incomplete stories and tasks. We also dislike uncertainty. Using stories at a base level grabs people’s attention.

M. Be brief. Respect them by getting right to the point. Don’t waste their time.

N. Use images. Words are only one-half of the way our brain is designed to process the World. Images are the other half. Simple images can grab and hold attention, and are a great way to promote long term memories. I wrote about that here, on Copyblogger.com.

O. Love boredom. This sounds strange, but if an athlete says, “I’m bored,” tell him that’s good. Solitude and boredom are a respite from our crazy world, and are times when we do some of our most creative thinking. Personally, I believe boredom can be very productive, giving the brain an opportunity to free-style think. Boredom isn’t a bad thing. Your athletes should know that.

— — —

You, and everyone else in the world, are vying for your athlete’s attention. You’ve got to:

  • out-think
  • out-promote
  • out-engage

those others. It’s a battle you need to win. I’d love to hear how you are fighting it.

– Mike

The New Technology Tool Some Basketball Coaches Can’t Live WithoutMonday, March 23rd, 2015

Larita Wilcher knows a problem when she see’s it. Years of experience as a college basketball recruiting coordinator does that to a person.

So when she ran across an issue she and her fellow coaches kept having to overcome, she set out to solve it.

“I used many scouting services and databases, but none gave the recruiter a platform to host schedules in a way that would allow them to manipulate the data”, says Wilcher.  “I also realized there was no central location that provided the schedules of those prospects that I needed, which meant that each year planning how we would efficiently use our recruiting days and coordinate it with the staff was a time consuming process.  Even when I had administrators and managers to help with compiling the schedules it became a static outdated piece once it was put into a spreadsheet.”

So after years of research and work, Wilcher launched Recruit Scheduling Solutions.

“It’s a solution for college coaches who value their time and efforts in recruiting”, says Wilcher.  “We assist them by providing a tool and service that keeps them organized and efficient managers of their time.  Our service of providing the playing schedules of their top prospects and the software to manage the information is the most innovative and interactive approach to recruiting, and it provides that data to them in one central online location.”

And high level coaches agree.

“RSS makes tracking and staying relevant with our recruits a snap”, says Louisville basketball coach Stephanie Norman.  In my opinion, it’s a must have in a college coach’s software library.”

Xavier coach Bryce McKey adds, “This service and tool has greatly helped our staff stay organized and has saved us countless hours of prep time.”

The service is affordable, as well.  Especially when coaches consider the time and wasted energy in tracking multiple recruits.  Annual subscriptions start at just $1,500 per year, making it one of the most cost-effective tools available for college coaches.

For a more detailed overview of what the service provides coaches, click here.

Think About Adding The GoPro To Your Coaching ToolboxMonday, July 21st, 2014

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

We are seeing more and more coaches using a GoPro for their existing team. If you are not familiar with the GoPro, it’s the camera  strapped to an athlete’s arm, head, board, stick, etc. and made famous by extreme sport athletes (surfers, snowboarders, etc) so  you can see the action from their perspective. Just google GoPro videos and you will be blown away. Many savvy coaches are using these low priced cameras to grab footage of their team and  analyze the plays later. We’ve seen coaches put the camera on their player’s helmets (especially goalies) to see what’s going on from the athlete’s view. We’ve seen coaches hang GoPro’s from basketball nets to get a full court view of the action and we’ve see coaches set up stills to look at an athlete’s mechanics (think swings, throws, shots, and dives). The return is limitless and really up to the creativity of the coach.

Here’s what makes this all possible. The GoPro is small, light-weight, resilient, and waterproof. You can truly beat the heck out of them and they will keep on performing. The video quality is extremely high, it can take up to 4k video which is higher than your current tv can handle.  You can also interact with it from your mobile device,  there is an app where you can start and stop recording your GoPro even though it is 30 feet in the air or on a player’s helmet.

The price for a GoPro HERO3+, which is their latest and greatest, is $399.99. However, you still need to purchase memory cards (a 64 GB will be like 50 bucks) and accessories, like mounts, which can be another 30 bucks upward. So to get started, you’ll need a $500 budget, BUT in our opinion and in the opinion of the coaches we have chatted with, it is well worth it. The long term benefits are enormous. We are even playing around with a device that will move the GoPro to follow a particular athlete as they are on the field.

Check out the  HERO3+ GoPro for yourself here and good luck!

 Speaking of time saving tools, Front Rush is the best of the best.  If you’re a serious recruiter, this is one tool you don’t want to be without.  Click here for the low-down on this incredible resource used by thousands of coaches around the country.

 

Make Sure Recruits Are Getting Your EmailsSunday, June 22nd, 2014

by Sean Devlin, FrontRush

When bulk emailing recruits through your recruiting software, bulk email provider, etc. we always recommend using your school email address. Logically it makes sense because if a recruit gets an email from a yahoo, aol, or gmail, address, it loses its pizazz and impact when compared to the sacred .edu or school address assigned to most coaches. Before this was a recommendation, but now it is a requirement. You see…recently yahoo/aol (and others following suit) decided to change their sending policy. If a 3rd party email provider (like your recruiting software) sends email on your behalf using your yahoo/aol account, those emails are automatically blocked/bounced. They won’t even show up in spam. They just don’t make it. They are flat out rejected.

For some this is a real issue. We see many coaches sending bulk emails for summer camps using their non-school address and many non-full-time coaches using non-school addresses (deliberate attempt to use non many times). But if you do that now, there is an excellent chance of failure. So what do we recommend?

Well, if you use godaddy or a similar service…for a couple bucks a month…you can buy a domain like StateUniversitySoccer.com and get the corresponding email account to go with it (coachsmith@StateUniversitySoccer.com). This way, you can send emails safely AND have the brand to go with it AND not break your budget.

Speaking of time saving tools, Front Rush is the best of the best.  If you’re a serious recruiter, this is one tool you don’t want to be without.  Click here for the low-down on this incredible resource used by thousands of coaches around the country.

 

Why Coaches Are Calling This Technology a Recruiting “Game Changer”Saturday, November 30th, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Imagine being able to watch any video from any recruiting event.

Or, picture being able to send one coach (instead of two) to the event in order to save budget dollars because you know that all of the video will be available afterwords.

Now imagine being able to confirm the athletes you saw on the field or discover new athletes because you can click on any game and watch it in its entirety or rewind at key points.

We normally don’t push our own stuff when advising coaches on Dan Tudor’s blog, but the ability to watch EVERY game and EVERY athlete from an event is game changing when it comes to recruiting at the college level. We send professional video crews to the events and put a camera on every field. As coaches watch athletes, parents watch their children and recruits participate, every second of the action is being recorded so these athletes will be viewable later on by coaches all around the country.

Here’s how it works:

First, coaches download our iPad app at coachpacket.com. Then before the event, coaches can set their schedule on the app or on the website so they don’t have to do it the day of. At the event, the app is available offline so coaches can evaluate and rate athletes, create notes, and follow the schedule accordingly. After the event, the video is made available to all coaches so that they can confirm their initial thoughts, find new athletes and coordinate with other members on staff about recruits. Once the athletes are decided, coaches can transfer that data to their Front Rush account or export it into excel if they use a third-party recruiting tool. The loop is closed.

CoachPacket is being used by events across the country, along with thousands of coaches from Lacrosse to Field Hockey to Tennis to Softball to Baseball, and on and on. They are leveraging the technology to push their respective disciplines forward and take recruiting to an entirely new level. Its making recruiting more effective by increasing the number of athletes that can be seen, to decreasing the amount of money that coaches need to spend to recruit, to making the evaluation process more accurate and more efficient.

Its a game changing technology and we hope that you enjoy it – and use it!

To find out more, or to get the free app, visit www.CoachPacket.com

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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