Over the past year I’ve been sharing my “Recruiting Tip of the Day” on my Twitter account, @PNC_777, hoping that providing recruiting advice – in short form – would help coaches understand the process, their prospects, and that by creating better decision makers, they’d get better results. And every few months, I’ve compiled an edited list of 20 impactful tips, arranged by topic. This is my fourth edition.
As I put together this list, I couldn’t stop thinking about something I recently presented. I told a group of coaches “don’t let your performance story get in the way of your aspirational story.” Recruiting at its core is storytelling – a story about the future, an imagined one, a better one. The best storytellers understand the elements of a good story, their audience, and how to deliver it. They deliver it consistently – in many different forms – to show contrast, to create an emotional connection, and to prove they are not only good enough, but that they are better than their recruits’ other options. Even in this environment – perhaps, especially in this environment – they remain focused on who they want to be and how they plan to get there.
Hope some of these tips spark the conversations to get your program to that better place. Enjoy.
- When you don’t consistently contact your recruits (ideally every 6-9 days) you provide them with an opportunity to wonder – Do they really want me? How important am I to their recruiting plan? Where do I fit? Uncertainty can be a dealbreaker.
- It’s not enough to just give your prospects the information. You have to also explain why it’s unique to your program and why that info should matter to them. Making the connections for them provides vital clarity on why they should choose you.
- Balancing the need to feed egos and calm fears is one of the hardest things for coaches to manage. Build trust by providing clarity on the role that individual will play and create openings for them to share how they feel about it.
- Too many coaches are spending time trying to create a recruiting message that pleases everyone and checks every box. Spend more time finding out what boxes actually matter to your recruits and tell the most compelling story about those things.
The Most Engagement:
- You and your recruits have a different perspective on how the process works. The best coaches effectively explain how their unique process for selecting players and guiding them works. And then convince recruits that’s how everyone should do it.
- If you’re letting your prospects wait to see how the process plays out, what other offers may be out there, or if they can get an opportunity at a “higher” level – your unspoken message is that you’re not a destination, but a reasonable back-up.
- Telling a recruit they have an offer and spot in your program is different than asking them to commit. Without asking them if they’re feeling ready to commit, they’re left wondering how the next steps work and how to approach them.
- It’s better to ask your recruits if they’re feeling ready to commit too early and have them say “Not Yet” than wait too long and have them say they’ve chosen another program.
- You have many of the same challenges as your competitors. If you want recruits to think differently about you, do what others won’t. Acknowledge them, talk about how you see them, and redefine how recruits should consider them in their decision.
- A lot of coaches don’t ask about recruits’ other opportunities. But if you want to be able to provide contrast and explain why you are better you need to know the other schools, the timelines, and what excites them about your competitors.
- When you just like everyone else, recruits are searching for a reason to pick you. If they can’t find it, it becomes easier to go with the other guy. Don’t make them search. Show value in what you do differently, what you do better.
- To get better athletes, assume they start the process thinking you AREN’T good enough for them. Provide consistent reasons to consider you, have them agree you have similarities with the best teams, and show contrast, explaining why you’re better.
The Pandemic Effect
- In a year where you don’t have a performance story, spend more time on your aspirational recruiting story. Tell recruits who you’re going to be, the role they will play, and provide personalized reasons for why they would want to be a part of it.
- Don’t let things that have traditionally been part of the process – evaluation, visits, camps – become excuses for not recruiting. Keep moving with a new emphasis on storytelling, building trust and emotional connections to replace those feelings.
- This is a good time to add prospects because without the “next showcase” to prove their worth and the fear of lost opportunities, prospects are currently ready to say yes like never before. Ask them to commit.
- The pandemic has changed the calculus of prospect decisions. What used to favor relationships continues to shift toward value, cost, and graduate outcomes. Figure out a way to get those in your story because being nice just might not be enough.
It’s Not a Straight Line And There Are Many Ways To Do It
- Many programs stop recruiting players if they don’t respond to their 1st contact. It’s a mistake. The best players start the process wondering if you are worth their time. Keep showing up consistently to provide a reason to start listening.
- How you manage and prepare for Plan B is often more important than Plan A in turning your recruiting goals into a recruiting class.
- Success regularly comes from consistent messages over long periods of time. But a key difference maker is being decisive when it’s required – like being contacted by fast moving prospects, i.e. transfers or once committed prospects looking again.
- There’s a balance between performance and potential. The best recruiters find the balance that works for the current state of their program and their vision of the future.
The best advice is always the advice you’re willing to take. The advice you can apply to your program, advice that solves a problem, advice that creates a better future. I share all of this knowing teams across the country all face different challenges, have different resources, and different futures. And that while not every thing fits, I sincerely hope there’s some advice in these daily tips you might just take. Advice that makes you think, make an adjustment, and makes everything go a little smoother.
Thanks for letting me continue to be a part of your professional journeys and your daily efforts to tell the story of who you’re going to be.
Be Distinct. Be Different
Paul Nemetz-Carlson is a former college coach and operations director, and is part of the team of advisors at Tudor Collegiate Strategies who works daily to help coordinate the right recruiting messaging strategy for our clients. To email Paul, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.