As things gradually begin to return to normal in athletic departments around the country more and hiring freezes are being lifted and we’re seeing searches resumed and coaching positions being filled. Just this past week I spoke with four new head coaches within departments who are current clients of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.
As I began each of those conversations to discuss how they were going to move forward with their recruiting goals a sort of checklist emerged. While my comments were focussed on the new (or newer…) head coaches and recently appointed assistant coaches the following points are just as essential for any coaching staff, even the more senior staff who have not kept pace with changes within various departments at their institutions.
- The first thing I always suggested to new coaches I hired as an athletic director was to schedule a campus tour with the admissions department. Even though they received a tour of campus when they interviewed I felt it was absolutely essential they take an admissions tour. Doing so offers another perspective of the campus and it’s always valuable to hear what other campus stakeholders are saying about your program, your department. Often you will be surprised. At one point at my former school, I hired a new coach who took a campus tour who subsequently let me know that when the tour guide showed the group an indoor track in our field house she went on about how our track team trained there and how successful the program was. Sadly, we didn’t even have a track team!
- Follow the admissions tour with a request to meet the liaison from admissions to the athletic department or whoever carries that voice from admissions to athletics. This is a necessity to get all the specifics about the admissions process, schedule training on admissions software you will be using, etc. Plus, it’s the opportunity to correct any of the mis-information that came out during your campus tour! I know first hand that sometimes relationships between athletics and admissions can be strained. Experience has taught me, however, a healthy relationship between the two is critical. If there is a wall between you and your admissions office it just makes your job more difficult.
- Get out of your office! Having watched how coaches prospered and how coaches failed having been an AD the one common variable that I saw with coaches who I ultimately let go was that they never engaged with the campus or our department for that matter. You need to know people and people need to know you. You need to build relationships across campus. Even veteran coaches need to spend time with department chairs/deans, area directors, etc. to find out what’s going on in their departments. One trend we are seeing at TCS is recruits and their families relying more and more on the coach as the primary point of contact for EVERYTHING about the school. They expect you to know financial aid, admissions, residence life, academic support, career placement etc. And you really need to be able to speak to each of those areas because if you can’t the coach at the other school they’re considering can and will!
- This is probably obvious but clearly you need to circulate your new contact information to any/all contacts you had previously. Include the link to the sports information announcement from your department. This includes a quick introduction to those the previous coach had been recruiting. For them, a quick introduction with a request to meet in a Zoom type session in the future. They need to meet you quickly when your feet hit the ground.
- Campus relationships are vital but so are off-campus relationships. You need the local pizza shop guy on your side (obvious reasons there!), you need to know what service organizations exist in your community so you can get involved, build relationships with coaches at area high schools to drive your camps and offer to do workshops for those coaching staffs, build relationships with local businesses who may be willing to sponsor a tournament or camp.
- And last but by no means least – you need to build a strategic plan for what it is you wish to accomplish. It’s great to tell your recruits that you plan to take a team trip to Europe every four years but you need to describe the action steps to the recruit and their family so it is real to them and you. Same thing in terms of improving your program’s competitiveness. You have to have specific strategies followed by actionable tactics to show that you really have a plan. Action steps for your recruiting goals need to include tactics for engaging high school/club coaches, building out your program’s brand (ie. “how are you different from other programs and why that difference has value), establish the culture of your locker room, establishing a CONSISTENT presence in social media, building relationships with alumni so they can share their experience both during attendance as well as how their degree brought them professional success. Each of these really needs to include steps you plan to take, when you plan to take those steps, resources necessary and a target completion date. Post this plan in a place where recruits and families see it so you can speak to it AND it reminds you on a daily basis what tasks need to be completed.
This in no means an exhaustive list. There really is no end to the things you could be doing but you have to start with the basics and build off the momentum you gain by taking steps forward.
Greg Carroll is a former college athletic director, and can be reached to answer your questions at email@example.com. To find out how our team of experts advises coaches and their programs through program development, career paths and effective recruiting, click here.