This is a strange time in college athletics.
While some decisions have been made – a push forward for big revenue football, announcements of general start dates for some Division I winter sports and an announcement of the cancellation of one Division III conference’s winter sports – the vast majority of coaches across all sports and levels are in a wait and see mode. And college sports – on the whole – remain paused.
Uncertainty has led to inaction. In departments of all shapes and sizes there is no scheduling, no spending, and no clear vision of the future. The best course of action seems to be minimize risk and hope a logical path forward magically presents itself.
But hope is a lousy strategy. Especially in recruiting – where inertia is its most damaging enemy. And if your staff isn’t getting better, it’s getting worse.
A few months ago I began offering some ideas every evening on my Twitter account to help create a plan for life on the other side. I called it “Staff Chat” and presented a daily series of questions to help staffs dig into their recruiting story, their plan, and their understanding of themselves.
This is a summary of my most challenging questions – by theme – to help start the proactive conversations necessary to re-imagine your approach, actively improve your recruiting message and language, and make the most of this strange, strange time.
How You Identify Talent:
- What’s more important in your evaluation process – talent, potential, character? How do you measure them? How do you weigh what you’ve observed and what you’ve heard from others?
- Who is best prepared to be immediately successful in your program? The best player from a good team or an above-average player on a great team?
- Can you be a good program if you only recruit players who contact you first? Do you dismiss recruits who contact you? Does it impact your perception of them? Even in a pandemic?
- Talent – is it recruited or developed? Who are the future All-Americans you are recruiting? What language are you using with the most talented athletes? Are you telling them what they “can do in your program” or “how you will develop” them?
- How do you know who the best player will be in each recruiting class? Is it “ratings and stars” or actual performance in your environment? When do you make that shift – after they commit, arrive on campus, after the 1st year?
- How do you become a better team through recruiting? How long is it going to take? Is it 1 class or 4 good ones? Do you need 1 or 2 players or many? Is better defined by better than what you currently have or better than your competitors?
How You Tell Your Story:
- How are you perceived in your league? Do other programs talk about you in the recruiting process? What do they say? If you’re not being talked about in the recruiting process – what are you doing to be more visible, relevant?
- How do you talk about your competitors in the recruiting process? How do you contrast your program? Who is the frame of reference? If you only talk about your program – are you doing enough to show how you are better?
- When do you get to talk about competing for championships? Do you have to prove something? Finish in the top half of your league? Is the benchmark successful seasons or can it be success in one game? What’s believable to a recruit?
- Are you talking about the present or the future with your recruits? What’s the balance in your recruiting conversations and text? Do you tell them everything is going to be great or identify/help them work through potential challenges?
- How much do you talk about team discipline with recruits? Do you bring it up or only respond to questions? Does every coach – in today’s environment – need to be the “nice guy” in recruiting?
How You Incorporate Visual Elements:
- Think about your walk-path from when you meet recruits to when you start telling them your story. What does it say about your program? What silent messages are you sending? What can you do today to improve the rough spots?
- Are you meeting recruits’ social media needs? Does your story have enough graphics and photos? Are you providing things for them to use – commitment graphics, uniformed photoshoots, logos/access to pictures? Could you do more?
- When you meet with recruits what space do you use? Your office? Another space? What do they pass to get there? What are the visual elements families see? Is it self-promotional, team focussed, or a little bit of both?
- What does your bio look like on your website? (You know it’s the first place recruits’ parents go, right?) Good picture? New picture? Do the words reflect your accomplishments and program values?
How You Reduce Professional Pressures With Your Recruiting Story:
- What administrative pressures are your staff facing? Enrollment? Numbers? Results? Graduation Rates? Culture/Behavior? Additional Responsibilities? How does your recruiting plan or approach address those?
Most good recruiters are only one to two tweaks away from being great. The trick is to identify the necessary changes and develop a plan to improve in those areas. I’ve always believed the best answers are found in conversations by asking the right questions.
Hope these help you and your staff continue to find the right language, the right message, and right targets to consistently tell a compelling story to the ones you want AND get them to choose you.
Be Distinct. Be Different.
Want more training on how to approach this generation of recruits, and your coaching life, in a more strategic way? Bring us to campus to lead one of our On-Campus Recruiting Workshops. Get the details here.