by Paul Nemetz-Carlson, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
As the calendar rolls from 2021 to ’22 and the games continue, we’ve all appreciated the return to the somewhat normal grind of college athletics – the opportunity to coach, recruit, and find joy in the greatest “get to” job in the world. We’re ready to face the new year with optimism and determined to better ourselves with a series of resolutions and commitments.
Over the past year I’ve been offering a “Recruiting Tip of the Day” every morning on my Twitter account (@PNC_777) to encourage coaches and staffs to think about recruiting differently. These 20 short tips from the past few months – sorted by topic – are part of the effort to help create conversations in your office to highlight what you do well and how to improve what you don’t. Looking to make some New Year’s resolutions? I hope you’re inspired by a few of these ideas. And that the continued encouragement helps you keep them.
- Recruiting shouldn’t be measured by a series of tasks – questionnaire, visits, application, acceptance. But by how you move your prospect emotionally through the process – excited to learn more, engaged with your story, elated to commit.
- Recruits are less complicated decision makers than you think. While coaches pile on logical reasons why their opportunity makes sense, recruits are just looking for a program that responds to their emails, their parents say they can afford, and one where they FEEL valued.
- Your recruiting story has to be more than “Here’s what we have, do you want it?” Everybody has stuff – often a similar version of the same stuff – so the goal is actually to tell your recruit how you use it differently. And why that matters.
- College athletic experiences are different in all sports, at all levels. The best recruiters focus on what their experience actually is and why it’s perfect for their recruits. They don’t spend time comparing it to other sports, other teams.
- For many, recruiting is laying out all the “Things We Got” – i.e. facilities, technology, majors etc. – and saying, “Do you want them?” But the best recruiters connect with prospects by explaining the benefits and why that individual needs them.
- Coaches who want recruiting to be easier either need to hire a dynamic staff of proven recruiters or be prepared to coach lesser athletes.
- Go to your website, look at your roster, your schedule, your bio. Make a list of 10 questions you’d have if you saw them for the first time. This will be similar to a lot of your recruits and parents. A great recruiting plan will answer them.
- Many coaches think social media and its carefully crafted presentation of their program’s experience is the best way to recruit. But, nothing is more effective than relationship-building phone calls and texts personalized for an audience of one.
THE POWER OF ASSOCIATION
- When you’re asking “Do we need to do X like those other programs are doing?” The answer should be – A) If we want to be seen as “Like” them, then yes you do. B) If you don’t want to be associated with them, keep forging your own unique path.
- Your football team doesn’t need to be good for you to recruit at a high level. But the reason it helps when they are is that your association tells your recruits that we take our sports seriously here. And your experience will be valued too.
- The current state of your program isn’t the only thing that gets recruits excited in the beginning. It’s often that you’re “like” another place, and that keeps them moving forward. That association – with desirable things – is a good start.
- Parents and recruits make a lot of assumptions just looking at your roster. So if you’re recruiting someone who doesn’t match – hometowns, height, number at their position, graduating seniors – explain why they’re different early in the process.
BEING SEEN AS AN EQUAL
- When you start the recruiting process – for many coaches the goal should be to get your recruits to see you as an equal to the schools you aspire to compete with. Overcoming the perception gap allows for a real comparison between like things.
- When you’re chasing another team in your league, find ways to get your prospect to agree that you are equal. It doesn’t have to be performance, maybe it’s staff make-up, family atmosphere, class size. Being equal makes you a realistic option.
- If you don’t ask about – or know – your recruit’s other options, it’s awfully hard to tell the story of why you’re the same that opens them up to why you’re BETTER. Acknowledgment of your competitor’s similarities and ability to explain contrast are essential recruiting skills.
- In the information age, every recruit is going to know more about you before the first conversation than ever before. While you don’t get to start with a clean slate, you should know what they’ll find and how your recruiting story will reframe you as an equal to the best.
- Identification isn’t just who you like. Many coaches are running in circles. It’s also who has a reason to like you – the extra piece that makes sense for them to answer your call, to think about visiting. Is it how they play? Where they play?
- We all live in the same thought bubbles. The other coaches in your game follow the same social accounts, they have the same appreciation for talent, they have the same understanding of how recruiting works. To get ahead, try something different.
- It’s important to know your school’s best academic programs. However, if you’re only targeting prospects who’ve expressed interest in those majors you’re limiting your access to talent. It’s rare that 16-year olds have it all figured out.
- There are a lot of mistakes in talent evaluation. But if you want more good surprises than bad ones, you need to know what you like, what you value, and what you can’t fix. The best recruiters know it and can articulate it.
The end of the year allows time for reflection. I’ve been blessed to work with and talk to a lot of coaches – problem solving, educating, but also learning. My hope is to continue to find new ways to share it with all of you. For those of you that have engaged with me, shared my articles, and that I’ve been able to work with on a daily basis, thank you.
The end of the year also creates an opportunity for growth. It’s a chance to set goals, reimagine strategy, and develop new habits. As you and your staff discuss new ways to capture emotion and breakthrough with this generation of recruits, I hope there are some ideas here to inspire you.
Finally, I remind you all that recruiting – and being a good recruiter – is a work in progress. Recruiting may happen in cycles of seasons and classes, but you can’t be good at it if it’s not an everyday thing. Be consistent, be enthusiastic, and be prepared to adapt your message to meet the current moment and the current needs of your prospects. Share who you are and who you hope to become. Enjoy the ride.
Happy New Year!
Be Distinct. Be Different.
Paul Nemetz-Carlson works with college coaches through Tudor Collegiate Strategies to help them improve their recruiting communication and strategy. Curious what that looks like or have questions for Paul? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.