When I get back to the gym on January 2nd, I know what I’ll be facing:
Resolutions. In the form of newly registered gym members, anxious to make this year different from last year.
They’ll have their new workout clothes on, wearing the latest exercise tech, and wander around tentatively with that deer in the headlights look.
Hey, we’ve all been there, right? We all have a first time to start something new, and I wish them all well. But you and I both know that by mid-February, most of them will have disappeared. What happened in those 45 days between January 1st and mid-February? Simple: They made a resolution, and not a game plan.
Resolutions are personal declarations, game plans are…well, plans. There’s a system and strategy involved with planning. As the saying goes, you should plan your work, and work your plan. Declarations and resolutions don’t have the same power. Many, are downright ridiculous.
So how does this apply to your recruiting?
Let me ask you, what is your recruiting game plan for the coming year? If your answer sounds something like “recruit better prospects”, or “go scout more tournaments”, that isn’t a recruiting game plan. Those are imprecise, unmeasurable wishes.
A recruiting game plan is a schedule of actions, designed for a specific outcome.
For example, you might be a Division I program that is in the process of building your program, and are in need to that game-changing prospect to commit to you. When we start working with our new clients who voice a goal like that one, the first question we want answered is ‘how many top tier prospects are they going to recruit to make that happen’? It’s important, because the reality is those coaches are going to lose more top prospects than they get. So, if that’s the case, how many top prospects do we need to recruit to get us that one big signee? And once we determine that, how many total prospects are we going to have to watch before we find enough top prospects to talk to? And once we determine that, how many tournaments will that staff need to to go to in order to find the required number of total prospects to draw from? Is there the budget available to attend that many tournaments? Will the entire staff go? And once we’re talking to those top prospects, will the staff have the courage to set fair but firm deadlines for making a decision so we can ensure the coaches are controlling the decision making process?
The answers to those questions are the plan. “Go scout more tournaments” is a wish. There’s a difference.
So, with that in mind, here are my four areas of the recruiting process I’d pick to have you and your staff focus on refining as a new year begins, in order to turn a recruiting resolution into reality:
- Work backwards to develop your plan. For example, you know you need to sign six new recruits for the upcoming class you’re working on, and you signed three in the previous class. How many prospects did you have to start with to get to that? Let’s say you started with 50 you communicated with, resulting in 10 campus visits, netting three incoming recruits. This year, working in reverse using historical data, you would probably need to communicate with 100 to get 20 visits, which would net 6 commitments. That’s just reality. It may not be fun to double your efforts in the beginning, but if I want double the results at the end, I’m going to assume that’s what I will need to do as a coach who wants to plan my work, work my plan, and achieve my objective.
- Be ready to say no sooner. This requires measuring whether your athlete is moving towards making a visit or committing, or moving away from it. Please understand, Coach: In the mind of the athlete and his or her family, recruiting is never static. They are always either trending towards you, or trending away from you. Look for actions – and set up tests – to determine where their mindset is. That’s not asking them, “So, are we still in your Top 5?” because we all know what the ‘correct’ answer is for them: “Yes, Coach.” Ask them instead, “So what would you want to see happen as a next step in the process with us?” That’ll tell you way more, and enable you to shed disinterested recruits who just don’t have the heart to tell you “no” sooner, making it more realistic to move through larger pools of prospects sooner in an effort to focus your time and energy on the recruits who you have the best chance of winning.
- Develop your deadline strategy. It’s becoming more and more important for a coaching staff to have a set philosophy when it comes to how, when and why deadlines factor into the way you manage your prospect database. The link I listed earlier should be an excellent resource, and I’d also recommend reading this article on the topic with the corresponding links in it. All of your preparation and planning in the beginning means nothing if you aren’t in control of the process at the end.
- Analyze ruthlessly. Recruiting effectively happens when you, as a head coach or staff, analyze your results ruthlessly. No feelings spared, no titles or position excluded. As a staff, you need to all be on the same page when it comes to who’s doing what, what goals aren’t being met, and where improvements can be made. This should be done on a monthly basis, or more often if the time of year warrants it. Successful recruiting isn’t a fun, carefree side activity; it’s a full time, pedal-to-the-metal priority that is going to determine who you get to coach over the next four years. And as I’ve mentioned many times before to athletic staffs attending one of our on-campus recruiting workshops, isn’t it amazing how much better of a coach you are when you’re surrounded by great athletes? Establish that standard for yourself and your program.
Great coaches who are leading programs which seem to always win don’t achieve that by accident. It’s planned. If you’re feeling you could be doing a better job of molding the results you’re aiming for instead of drifting with the shifting sands of random outcomes, start with these four principles. They work, Coach.
Want help establishing these principles in your program? We work with programs one-on-one around the country to establish goals, and the plan to achieve them. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time to talk about what that might look like for you and your program this coming year.