It goes without saying that the pandemic of 2020 forced us into new habits and new routines and the loss of behaviors that had become second nature. If we’re going to be totally honest, some of those behaviors and habits should have been put to the curb a long time ago.
Eliminating the stop at the donut shop on the way to campus in the morning and the lunch buffet at the campus dining hall may have been a couple things that kept some money in our pockets and inches off our waistline. Hopefully some of the routines that were not serving us well have been replaced with a healthier breakfast and a noon time workout.
The changes in our lives over the past year have touched virtually every aspect of our daily lives. One less obvious change, and probably yet fully realized is what supporters of your programs have done over the past year to fill the void created by not being able to attend your team’s events and be connected to your team as they have in the past. Those games and contests are the things that connect former players, alumni and general supporters to your program. The more connected they are to your program the more value they bring to all the things you want for your staff and team.
Where I’m going with all this is that there may be no better time to consider creating an alumni advisory committee for your program. As I talk with coaches and athletic directors I’m hearing more and more of them talk about the disconnect the past year has brought between themselves and those long time supporters. On a similar level the pastor of the church our family attends was expressing his concern about how the cancellation of weekend services has negatively affected not just the spirituality of that community but also the financial loss created by parishioners not attending services as they had pre-Covid. Just like you trying to reconnect with your supporters, he is trying to find ways to reconnect with his parishioners.
As I talk with more and more coaches and athletic directors I’m finding many are using their alumni groups in creative ways to “re-engage” them with their programs about the past year but also what lies ahead for the coming year. Whether you currently have an alumni group, booster club, or alumni advisory board, or are considering establishing one these groups they can contribute to the success of your program in several ways.
In terms of recruiting, tapping into former players who have gone on to successful careers constitute another way for you (or better yet “them”) to tell your program’s story. The story about how the lessons they learned as a member of your team set them up for the career they now enjoy. You need to know what these stories are and be able to recount them to your recruits and their families.
When we think of how former players can support our teams we usually jump right to the potential for donations and financial support. That is absolutely a reason to engage alumni but the role they can play in supporting your recruiting is not to be shortchanged. As we move into the post-Covid era of recruiting the number one factor influencing your recruit’s decision is ROI – the return in investment they will gain from their experiences at your school and a member of your team. No one can tell that story better than your former athletes.
So how do you establish an alumni advisory board? You start by establishing a well crafted “job description” for what your expectations are so they know how to be compliant with NCAA rules, institutional boundaries, as well as your own expectations. You need to have complete clarity on what resides in their purview as well as what doesn’t (coaching decisions, admissions decisions, scheduling decisions etc.) and how terms of service for the group’s officers work. You should also get support for creating such a group from your athletic director who may need to receive additional sign off from the development office or the alumni office, etc. Your development office can be a terrific resource as you begin building this group.
The experiences your athletes had being part of your team were among the best memories they have from being in college. They would be thrilled to be asked to be part of a group dedicated to promoting the kinds of experiences they had and the opportunity to be part of “the team” yet again. Whether you build this group out by class year, geography (which is nice to have when you travel for team dinners, receptions, tailgates, etc.), or some other way doing so will pay dividends in countless ways.
Greg Carroll is a former college athletics director and current advisor with Tudor Collegiate Strategies. He and the TCS team helps coaches and athletic departments construct next-level recruiting strategies to win over this generation of prospects through advanced techniques that are proven to work. To email Greg, reach him at email@example.com. For more detail on how our team works one-on-one alongside coaching staffs, click here.