by Dan Christensen, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Getting recruits to talk and give good feedback.
This is one of the most difficult parts of recruiting, yet it is essential to an effective recruiting strategy.
Sometimes the reason coaches think this is a struggle is due to “this generation of athletes.” Could there be a generational commonality in current recruits that makes it harder to engage with them? Possibly.
But, I think the bigger problem is that coaches struggle to ask effective questions!
The ability to ask great questions will allow a coach to engage better with prospects. It will allow for phone conversations that are not always dominated by the coach. This ability will allow a coach to get answers they need to move the process along and get that recruit to a decision sooner.
So how can coaches make sure they are asking great questions? Here are two things to keep in mind:
1) Keep questions open-ended
There are certainly times a coach might be looking for a simple “yes” or “no” answer. But, when it comes to engaging with recruits in order to get to know them better and help the coach know how to best recruit that athlete, “yes” or “no” answers do not help much.
What does this look like?
Here is an example of the difference between an open-ended and closed question:
Closed question: “Sarah, are you open to going to school on the other side of the country?”
Open-ended question: “Sarah, what excites you about the idea of going to school on the other side of the country?”
The first question might get a “yes” which will be a positive for this coach assuming they are maybe an east school and Sarah lives in California. But, does Sarah really mean it? Or is she just saying what the coach wants to hear? It is really easy for her to just say “yes” to this question.
The second question actually gets Sarah to verbalize her thoughts on the situation. If she can give some really specific things that she is excited about, that is a great sign! If she struggles to think of anything positive to say, it could be a red flag that she really isn’t interested in going to school across the country. The open-ended question gets that feedback while the closed question does not.
2) Keep questions focused
A focused question is more likely to get a specific answer than a general question. What does this look like?
General question: “Johnny, what are you looking forward to about going to college?”
Focused question: “Johnny, what are you looking forward to most about playing on a college golf team that you feel will be different from high school golf?”
The general question could get a variety of answers, including some very vague ones. A nice safe answer that recruits might give would be “the opportunity to get an education and play at the college level.” This kind of answer gives you nothing if you are a college coach!
But, with the focused question, you’ll get specific feedback about what that recruit is excited about when it comes to competing in college. The way they answer will tell you more about their character, personality, and what you might want to focus on in your recruiting communication.
Coach, when you want recruits to respond to your questions with useful and productive feedback, make sure those questions are open-ended and focused. You’ll start to get your prospects to talk more which helps you get feedback and avoids the common (and boring) phone call where you do all the talking!