by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
My family could easily fill up a legal pad if they were to list the things I do that drive them a little crazy. I’ll admit to having my fair sure of OCD tendencies as well as a few “quirks.”
One of those quirks is the desire to visit every college campus we pass when we’re traveling. It’s been a thing with me for as long as I can remember, going back to when I was in high school just starting to think about where I wanted to go to college. It’s probably fitting that I spent the past 20 years on college campuses with 18 as an athletic director (retired in 2019) and two working as a representative for Tudor Collegiate Strategies.
During that time I’ve really honed in on looking for things that on the surface I believe reflect the health of an athletic department. I think it really started when my two children were considering colleges and we would visit one of the schools they were considering. Admittedly, there is absolutely no science to this but rather a feeling I get from walking around, watching the interaction between people in a department, and simply being observant.
I was working with a department last week and I told the story of my daughter on one of her college visits and upon getting in the car, well within 12 minutes, she informed us that school was off her list. Among the reasons why was her perception that “nobody there looked happy and no one seemed to speak to each other.” Whether that was a reality or just her perception, it became HER reality.
When I told this story to the staff I was working with, one coach suggested that, in some spaces of their campus, he felt this was true and maybe there was value in having more summer visits when fewer people were around. Or maybe keep things to Saturday mornings when virtually every campus looks like an abandoned shopping mall. My response was “Well, that’s one alternative!”
That said, in terms of best practices, summer visits or visits over college breaks are always very tricky and in general we encourage coaches to avoid them whenever possible. The goal is for your recruits and their families to see your campus alive and active. But that brings us back to the original problem of what to do if you sense your campus vibe isn’t “vibrant.”
Admittedly, you cannot control the job satisfaction of faculty or staff across your entire campus. But, I would encourage every coach and athletic administrator to consider ways to foster good vibrations emanating from the athletic department. And it’s easy to do and starts with building on one small task at a time. Here are just a few ideas that popped into my head:
- One of the things I always look for is what athletic staff are wearing. Are they wearing apparel that reflect the school logo or their team or are they dressed casually, maybe a golf shirt or vacation destination t-shirt. I am telling you this is important. Wearing something that denotes your school sends an INSTANT message to those visiting about how you feel about your school. It’s just like your players putting on their game day uniform. Every day is game day when recruits (both yours and those of your coaching peers) are on campus.
- I was visiting one athletic department a couple years ago and at the entrance to the athletic center was a white board that read “Today’s is a great day to be a (name of mascot). Leave a note telling us why!!!” The white board was filled with good news notes from athletic staff and athletes about passing a test, going home that weekend, winning a game, earning a starting spot, scoring a goal, getting medically released, etc. Each day, athletes were invited to share good news about what was going on in their life. Talk about something having an instant impact to a recruit and their family visiting campus! Not only does that reflect the importance of sharing good news, it is terrific mental health practice. We all benefit from good news!
- As coaches and athletic administrators we always talk about the necessity to come together, work together and how success requires an all in attitude. Does your department reflect that? Would your custodial staff, your field staff, your admissions department, dining, residence life, student activities, etc. say the athletic department is “fine” or would they say “our athletes and coaches are awesome” based upon their interactions with you. There’s no reason why you can’t start fostering a positive attitude across your department right now if you’re not already doing so. Help a custodian empty the trash from your office, see if the field staff could use some help from your team, have your team take on a campus clean up day, have your athletes volunteer during an upcoming open house (that’s a huuuge win for you!). The opportunities are endless and one good deed leads to another. And before you know it, your department “vibe” is no longer a liability but maybe your biggest asset!
Body language speaks volumes about how we feel about our school, our peers, our student athletes. If you’re not “feeling it” that’s totally fixable and starts by making others around you feel good about themselves and what they do. It’ll also make you feel better about yourself as well!
Need help creating good vibes with your prospects and their families? Greg Carroll and the staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help! You can email Greg with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.