It’s no secret that the current high school and club coaches are holding more and more power over the recruiting process, especially since so many college coaches are being forced to keep up with their competition by going through those prep and club coaches to arrange conversations with younger and younger athletes.
The result? Saavy college coaches are realizing they need to systematically recruit the coaches of their prospects.
Of course, that’s a much more difficult challenge: Recruiting a prospect and his or her parents has a pay-off for them, in that they will receive scholarship money or at least the opportunity to have sports be a part of their college experience. Their coaches, on the other hand, are (at their best) feeling a sense of needing to protect and shield their young athletes from college recruiters, or (at their worst) bent on guiding their young athletes towards the program that will bring the most notoriety and prestige to the high school or club program that they play for currently.
No matter their motives, they are now a major player in the battle for the best recruits. And, how you “sell” them on your program is going to be an increasingly important piece in the overall recruiting puzzle – and how successful you are at it.
With that in mind, we compiled data from our On-Campus Workshop focus groups and our other research and came up with a list of the most successful ways to effectively recruit the coaches of your current high school and club prospects. I don’t see it as being critical that you are doing each one of these things as a normal part of your recruiting process, necessarily, but a mixture of several of these proven strategies would be recommended as you approach coaches moving forward. (Note: If you are a client, make sure to contact us for specific strategies based on your program’s specific focus group research before you contact high school or club coaches)
- According to our polling, 65% of club coaches have a negative view of college coaches during the recruiting process. Why? Primarily because the college coaches are only in contact with them while recruiting their athletes. Develop an ongoing plan for contact with those coaches, even if you aren’t seriously recruiting those athletes.
- Just as it is important to prospects and parents, consistent contact (once every few weeks) that takes time to sell them on your program and college is key. They want to be convinced why you are the best option for their athletes, and will respect you for putting forth the effort. Few college coaches do it.
- They want to be treated as peers in the sport that you and they coach. How are you proving to them that you respect them and view them as a coaching equal?
- I know you’re asking them for where you and your program stand with a recruit in their program, but how much are you asking them what kind of program they as their coach feel is the right fit? If you can get an answer to that second question, you’ll probably also get your answer to the first question.
- Do you ask them for their coaching advice? You should. Do you ask them about practice or training ideas? You should. Those let them know that you see them as equals. (Plus you will probably come away with some great new ideas!)
- I hear college coaches complain a lot about high school and club coaches that will offer up prospects from their team who are not quite the caliber of athlete you need to be successful at your level. They would love it if you gave them a detailed list of exactly what you look for and the athletic standards by position that you have established, along with an explanation of why. If you don’t, they will default to evaluating their talent for you based on their pre-defined view of your division level or college.
- Send them holiday cards throughout the year. Obvious? Yes. Do you do it?
- Ask them for their evaluation of the prospect, and what specifically they would recommend doing once they got to your campus. Make them a partner in this transition from high school to college.
- Ask them about the next two classes below the one that you are recruiting. With the increased contact periods now allowed by the NCAA, you need to start earlier than ever before if you want to keep up with your competition.
- High school and club coaches value your presence. I wish it wasn’t so, but you need to be at their facility viewing their talent on a regular basis (your prospects want that also, by the way)
- High school and club coaches want to be updated on where you are at in the recruiting process in the same way you want an update on where your prospect is at in the recruiting process. That can be part of your regular communication with them. According to them, it show professionalism and honesty on your part.
- Compliment those coaches in front of your prospects and (especially) their parents.
- Invite the high school or club coach to visit campus with the prospect when they come. They’ll probably decline, but it will win points.
- Offer to speak with their team or give a short talk about playing in college while you are there watching them. Make sure you link your talk and the reason you are there scouting with the fact that they have a great coach who you have a lot of respect for.
- If distance isn’t a factor, invite the team to watch you compete. If possible, take them behind the scenes into your program and make it a truly personal game day experience for not only the specific kids you are recruiting, but the entire group and the coach. Again, tie the invitation to the fact that they have a great coach.
It’s hardly rocket science, but these fifteen specific actions are what we have seen to be the best at creating powerful connections with a growing influential group of gate-keepers in the recruiting process. Failing to actively and strategically approach them in the right manner will make the already difficult task of recruiting even more challenging.