Every July 4th, we take time to celebrate our country’s declaration of independence from English rule nearly two and a half centuries ago.
Today, if you’re taking time to read this in the midst of avoiding BBQ disasters and fireworks mishaps, I want you to do the same for your coaching career. How? By ridding yourself of the heavy chains of three very common (and very dangerous) recruiting burdens.
The unique thing about these burdens I want you to fight to shed is that they are largely self-induced wounds in your ongoing battle for recruits. They are things that many coaches allow to happen during the recruiting process, slowly but consistently, until it overwhelms you and your best laid plans. The Boston Tea Party didn’t just happen all of a sudden; it was years in the making. Even afterwards, it took another three years and a lot of contentious arguing for our Declaration of Independence to be ratified by the states, setting us on a course for self-governance and a future we were in control of as a people.
I’m hoping I’m able to convince you to do the same thing today: Eliminate these three dangerous habits from your recruiting plan. And, in hopefully under three years:
The Burden of Boring Messages
One of the reasons revolutionary soldiers were able to defeat a larger, more well organized, better funded army is because we didn’t play by traditional rules. The British walked in lined columns, in bright red uniforms, and doing it all very slowly. Our forefathers hid behind trees, tried to eliminate their leaders, and generally cause chaos.
Minus the killing part, I’d like you to emulate that style of communication with your recruits.
Heading into this next recruiting cycle, I want you to understand that all of the research we’ve done over the past decade teaches us that your recruits crave a variety of messaging. You need to tell your story consistently, but over a variety of channels. By “channels”, I mean hard-copy mail, email, phone, text, social media, and in-person engagements. That array of messaging needs to be maintained throughout the recruiting process, even when you think they are committed to you.
One of your main functions as a professional coach and recruiter is to get teenagers to pay attention to what you’re saying. You have to surprise them. You have to ambush them. You have to keep them off balance a little. Why? Because our studies show that it’s what keeps them engaged and interested.
Once you become predictable, or only talk about one thing over and over and over and over again, you lose their attention.
The Burden of Not Setting a Fair But Firm Deadline
What I want to do here is explain what will happen if you don’t set deadlines:
- You will quickly be viewed as the back-up choice of your prospect and their parents.
- It will quietly tell them that you are giving them permission to continuing looking at other programs.
- You’re more likely to be viewed as weak.
- In the cases where your recruit has you as their top choice, and they are ready to commit, the lack of a direction or deadline that you set will confuse them, and will make it harder for them to commit.
If you aren’t setting deadlines with this next class or prospects, your recruiting revolution will be short lived. And, you will subject yourself to living under the tyrannical rule of teenagers and their often misguided parents.
The Burden of Misguided Modesty
I’ve mentioned it before to athletic departments that I’ve had the chance to work with: One of the reasons I feel so fortunate to do what I get to do is because the vast majority of college coaches are good people, with great intentions and positive attitudes.
The problem begins when that starts to seep into your recruiting approach. Most coaches want to do what they did as a college athlete: Stay humble, put your head down and get the work done, and don’t call any undue attention to yourself. Admirable, to be sure.
But in recruiting, that can sabotage a coaching staff. Recruits want to see confidence; they want evidence that you believe in yourself; they’re looking for proof that you’re excited about them; and, most importantly, they are looking for you to explain to them why you and your program are the better option for them compared to the other programs that are recruiting them.
None of that can happen if you are overly modest. Now to be sure, you have to balance it. I don’t want you to swing wildly in the other direction and turn into a cocky jerk who oozes over-confidence. But, Coach…can you dial it up just a little bit more when you’re trying to attract a kid to your program? They need you to do that.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of things that can cause you to remain captive to recruiting practices that make life harder, of course. But it’s a start. And every revolution has to begin with a declaration that enough is enough, and things are going to be done differently now.
Start with these three.