If you’ve somehow managed to tear yourself away from tuning-up the fax machine and making sure it’s loaded with paper, and you’re reading this article, I want to warn you about something as you prepare for signing-day frenzy…
There are a couple of disturbing trends that a lot of coaches – as well as our staff – are noticing this year. Maybe its just a blip on the recruiting radar, but it’s worth talking about. And, worth preparing for.
DISTURBING TREND #1 – Your Prospects (and Their Parents) are Playing Hardball
Whether its about scholarship money or playing time, today’s prospects are not afraid to play the role of the lead negotiator. This is due in large part to the seat at the table that your prospects have given their parents in the process.
Moms and dads know how to negotiate better than kids, and they all know it. So, prospects – both male and female – are using parents to help them with the evaluation process, as well as sifting through the details of the offer you are floating to them.
DISTURBING TREND #2 - Your Prospects Aren’t Afraid to De-Commit
Is it a "character" thing? No. They’re realizing that the process that allows coaches to (rightfully) jump from job to job also allows them as prospects to (rightfully) change their mind. And more than ever, they are doing just that.
DISTURBING TREND #3 – Your Prospects Are Making Decisions a LOT Differently Than in Years Past
It isn’t just about how big your stadium is, where you finished in the conference standings, and how often you played on ESPN. Not anymore.
Our research shows that recruits in all sports – from D1 football to D3 women’s squash – are looking for other things that are more important to their generation of recruits: Things like friendship from their future teammates, honesty from the coaches who recruit them, and a general gut "feeling" of what place seems right to them.
So, what can you do about reversing these trends in your program the next time around? Here are our recommendations:
- Don’t make it all about the money. I know, the total tuition package is the deciding factor for most recruits. But what I don’t like to see is a coach get caught-up "bidding" against another school for a prospect. They give $1000 more, and you up your offer by another $1500…and so on, back and forth. When you do that, everything that they should value about you and your program takes a back seat to who ends up being the highest bidder. And often times, when you are the highest bidder, they still don’t choose you.
- Never assume that the commitment is real. It’s great that they tell you that you’re their number one choice, and that they are giving you a verbal commitment. But don’t believe it. Take the attitude that verbal commitments aren’t real. Recruit them just as hard as you did before (maybe even harder, since verbal commitments tend to bring out the competitive spirit in your rivals as they come after your recruit even harder than they did before they gave you a verbal commitment). I think we’re reaching the point in college recruiting where a verbal commitment is going to count as much as them agreeing to a campus visit: It will be a good indicator of their overall interest, but by no means a guarantee that they are coming there.
- Especially at the end of the recruiting process, focus on your unique recruiting offerings. What sets you apart from other schools? What do you as a coach bring to the table that other coaches don’t? How does your school approach education and the student-athlete differently than others? These things are just some of the list of "difference maker" traits that we have found work great down the stretch with our coach clients who use us to help them formulate a consistent recruiting strategy. At the end of the process, we find that prospects are looking at all of their favorite schools in the same way…they like something about each of them, and generally like each of the coaches they are dealing with. It’s during this time that a smart coach will begin to remind them of the small differences in their program versus the others that he or she may be considering.
I really should have ammended the title of this article to state that these are disturbing trends for coaches that won’t adapt to the new decision-making standards of this generation of athlete. For those that do, future signing days will be cause for celebration.
Need more tips to help you formulate a better strategy? We have developed two recruiting guides especially designed for college coaches who want to recruit more effectively. They’re easy to read, offer concrete strategies to implement for your program, and use the latest recruiting techniques that we have seen work across the country. For more information, click here.