by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
A couple weeks ago we were all captivated by the return of Tiger Woods to professional golf as he walked the greens and fairways at Augusta during the Masters Tournament. I’m not a golfer but as a sports fan it was great to see the energy he created and how the crowds responded.
Many years ago I recall reading a Sports Illustrated article about how Tiger had decided to reinvent his swing. It was around 1997’ish and he was at the top of his game. But he wasn’t satisfied. He knew he could be even better.
Why did Tiger Woods change his swing? The extra rotation in the backswing gave him more speed through the hitting area but crucially, he found there was a better connection between his arms and body. This gave him both power and accuracy. When looking at how Tiger’s swing has changed it is clear that his body outruns his arms.
I thought of this last week when I was on a call with an experienced basketball coach who was coming off years of successful campaigns but had not broken through to the national level with deep runs into the NCAA’s. Our call was a general “inventory” call talking about an array of things that all of us at Tudor Collegiate Strategies have seen lead to recruiting success.
When I asked about how she had been engaging parents she said that she does not interact with parents and her first real introduction to them is typically when they arrive as a family for the campus visit. I explained why we have seen deep interaction with parents at the start of the recruiting process (we’ve written countless articles on the topic!) have great success yet, she was not ready to embrace doing so as a new strategy.
And then a couple days later I had a similar call with a coach about how he had been conducting campus visits and what we know leads to best results when you have a recruit on campus.
That’s when I thought of Tiger Woods. When Tiger was going through this swing transition a good friend of mine who is a very good golfer told me how scary it must have been, dissecting something he had been perfecting for the better part of his life. And once he took it apart, it would be unlikely that he could regain that swing. It was an all or nothing gamble.
Taking on a new challenge, like embracing parents during the recruiting process can be unsettling but if all the signs indicate (that’s where the data approach TCS plays a role) improved results what’s holding you back? It’s likely the fear of either stepping outside your comfort zone and/or fear that the change will become a setback rather than move you forward. When we think about those sports stories that truly inspired us they invariably involved overcoming some kind of fear or taking a chance that paid off.
In terms of what all this means to your recruiting, what are some of the changes you could make that would improve your results? Here are a few ideas:
- Parents – I won’t go too deep here because as I said, we’ve written a ton of articles on the vital role parent engagement plays in your recruiting success. The most common thing holding coaches back is concern that the parents will get overly involved when their child enrolls. You can always define that relationship when they get to your school. But if you don’t win over Mom and Dad you will never get that chance. You’ll see that athlete on an opponent’s roster.
- Campus Visits – I am still amazed by the number of coaches I speak with who continue to turn their recruits over to admissions office tour guides. I am sure most of those tour guides do an amazing job but your recruits are looking at your campus through a different lens than the general student. In addition, the time your athletes could be spending with the recruit during that visit is a great opportunity for them to get to know each other, develop relationships, and get a “safe” feeling about being around your team.
- Delegate Duties – For probably half of my 18 years as an AD I was a total control freak. I didn’t trust others would get things done to my standards and it was just easier to do things myself. And then the department grew. I started making mistakes, missing things and no longer was I doing things up to my standards. So I created a cadre of assistants with various responsibilities. They all grew professionally, the department thrived, and I was able to periodically have a day off! It’s ok!!!! You can share some of the recruiting burden. Your assistants will flourish, you will get more done, and maybe find a little more work/life balance.
- Trust the Data – During Covid, we’ve heard a lot of talk about “trusting the science.” The same is true with your recruiting. Trust the data that TCS collects EVERY year. If you knew that 40% of the time a recruit chooses to attend the FIRST school that contacted them, would that change the way you recruit? If you knew that 91% of recruits tell us that they are relying heavily on their parents to help make their college decision, would you feel differently about reaching out to them even before you introduce yourself to the recruit?
We all have fears about trying something new. But doing so can open new roads, lead to renewed enthusiasm for tasks that have become burdensome, provide improved results and the personal satisfaction that comes from overcoming a fear of new challenges.
Greg Carroll, through TCS, works with coaches in the northeast region of the country, helping them make the changes they need to make in order to have recruiting success. If you have questions about how to do this with your own recruiting strategy, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.