Last week my wife and I traveled to North Carolina to see her 97 year old Mom. It was the first time she’d seen her since we went into Covid shutdown a year ago.
Somewhere in North Carolina, after we left the interstate and were traveling rural roads a catastrophic event occurred. My phone died and I lost access to “google maps”. I was literally in the middle of nowhere and completely clueless about what my next move was going to be. Besides feeling stupid and inept, I was unsettled because I had no idea where I was or where I was going. (this is not me in the picture – but it could have been!)
That’s exactly how your recruits feel when you aren’t communicating with them (and their families) consistently. We’ve been talking a lot at Tudor Collegiate Strategies for much of the last year about the different fears your recruits are carrying with them:
- Fear about the cost of attendance and the rising costs of higher education
- Fear about the quality of the education they’re paying for. Will it be in person? Will they be sent home? Can I learn in an online / hybrid environment?
- Will my family be ok if I attend my dream school four states away or on the other side of the country?
- Is it safe for me to be so far away from home? Maybe I should go to a community college, work part-time, and stay close to home?
- Am I good enough to play in college?
- Can I balance the demands of college classes and college athletics?
- Will I make friends?
- Will I get homesick?
- Is the cost of the college I want to attend worth it. What’s the ROI?
I’m sure you’ve seen and heard most of these before. They’re not new but the weight of them is greater on your recruits than they’ve ever before. Tudor Collegiate Strategies’ Covid Study from last summer (2020 National Student-Athlete Coronavirus & Recruiting Study (dantudor.com) found 6 out of 10 recruits indicated some levels of stress and anxiety over many of the points above.
The recruiter who diffuses these different fears most effectively is going to be the coach who wins the commitment. And that’s where your being their GPS comes into play.
A GPS is only useful if you have a starting point and a final destination. In this case, your starting point is finding out what fears your recruits might have about choosing your program. It’s unlikely they’re going to come out and simply say “Coach, I’m really fearful that if I attend your school I’m not going to make any friends.” By getting to know them, however, and by talking to their parents you will be able to identify what those fears are. Once you know those fears you can then build the stories you tell about your program so they diffuse those fears.
Here’s an example:
Coach: “You are so busy! We love recruits who are involved with things at school other than just their sport. Between your student leadership activities and service groups plus your sport how do you fit in time to get your school work done?”
Recruit: “I don’t know if I’m doing it all that well and I think I should be doing better. It sort of worries me that I’ll be able to balance college classes and still maintain my eligibility.”
Coach: “That’s a common fear among our freshmen especially. One of our team phrases is “You’re Never Alone”. We really believe and practice that. There’s always someone there to help keep you on track socially, athletically, and academically. When you get here we’ll assign you a big brother/sister who is in the same academic program as you and took the same classes you will be taking last year. They’ll be able to guide you through the year and keep you on track. Greg is a good example (Coach, here you tell Greg’s story about academic worry and subsequent academic success).
This same strategy can be applied for all those different concerns your recruits might have. But you have to initiate the conversation about fears your recruits might be holding on to.
Telling personal stories about your current or former athletes is a great way to alleviate fears among your recruits. Here’s a short list of things NOT TO DO:
- Never trivialize your recruits’ concerns. Don’t ever say “Oh you got nothing to worry about there. That rarely happens here!” Demonstrate empathy. Say, “I understand your concern about that. Let me tell you why we’re different at ABC University.”
- Be a great listener. We often know we’re listening but we often fail to demonstrate that to the other person (just ask my wife!). The acronym E.A.R.S. is my reminder about good listening skills. The “E” represents encouraging the person to talk by asking questions. The “A” represents acknowledging that you’re listening by demonstrating good body language (ie. eye contact). The “R” stands for restating. After they express the fear, restate it in a different way to demonstrate your understanding. And the “S” is a reminder to save that information so you can tell the story about how YOUR program speaks to that specific fear.
- Never mislead a recruit about a specific shortcoming that might be causing them fear. If your school has had a situation (maybe a case of hazing) or some legitimate shortcoming be completely honest and transparent about it. By speaking honestly about some shortcoming that may be causing some fear you are actually earning their trust.
As a recruiter you have a variety of jobs including identification, messaging, and monitoring the prospects path to your program. All this entails being their GPS at each spot along that trail.
If you need help telling the stories about your program that will eliminate your recruits’ fears we can help with that at Tudor Collegiate Strategies. Our team of experts can guide you each step of the way, creating effective messaging strategies and closing techniques, for you and your coaching staff…just like we do for hundreds of other staffs around the country. For more information, email Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.