With the prospects of campus visits looking a little more normal in the fall this may be a perfect time to take a close look at what you have been doing in the past and how those practices match with what prospects have told us what makes for a great campus visit.
1.If we have ever done a workshop on your campus you’re probably familiar with our recommendation that at least half the time a recruit is on your campus should be spent just hanging out, getting to know the younger members(freshmen and sophomores) of your team. Your highest priority with the campus visit is to build relationships that will make the recruit want to be part of what you are building. That can only happen if they make connections with the people they will be playing with and the coaching staff they will be working with. Maybe your player hosts can follow the recruit on social media post visit!
2. As a lead-up to the campus visit, a great tip is to have one of those who will be hosting the recruit send the prospect a text, email, call, etc. to introduce themself. “Hey Greg, this is Mike and I’ll be your host when you visit next week. Say, we’re going to get some pizza while we watch the game and I was wondering what you like on your pizza? Can’t wait to meet you and let me know what’s good.” This will make the recruit feel more comfortable and reduce some of the nervousness he/she might be feeling about the visit and what to expect.
3. All too often coaches rush the campus visit. Take your time. I often describe a rush to visit like moving into a new neighborhood and before the moving van has left your driveway your new neighbor has invited you over for dinner that night. It’s going to be a little awkward. Get to know the recruit AND their parents before you have them on campus. The visit will go much smoother. In addition, you may learn that the recruit doesn’t fit your program. It’s easier to walk away before a visit than it is after.
4. Don’t leave anything to chance! This is game day! Have contingency plans if a host is sick, if a class gets cancelled, if you have an emergency that you have to deal with.
5. Ask the recruit and their parents what they are hoping to accomplish during the visit. Make sure you meet their needs but not at the expense of your needs. Your priority is getting them to spend half the time on campus with your biggest asset – your team. That may mean that Mom and Dad go one way and do the campus tour, financial aid meeting, meet the dean, etc. while their son/daughter is getting to know you and your team.
6. Don’t over schedule the day. If you try to squeeze too much in it will just cause stress for everyone. And the recruit and their parents are probably already stressed! Build in plenty of transition time between events. Things always run long because someone is going to be late, talk longer than planned, or the recruit and/or their parents might simply have more questions than planned for the director of campus housing, the dean, the financial aid advisor, etc.
7. Probably the single most important suggestion of all is to train your hosts! This is a huge responsibility you are entrusting them with. Make them tour with you and test them on some hard questions about alcohol use, hazing, parties, what it’s like to play for you, your locker room culture, etc. All the work you did to get them to campus for a visit could go down the drain if your hosts are not coached up on how to be effective in that role.
8. Treat your recruits and their family like VIP’s. Have parking reserved for them, have snacks and drinks in your office for them upon arrival, and strive to give them something extra. Maybe this is a visit with the AD or some other campus administrator. Send them home with something they would not have gotten otherwise. Maybe this is your next year’s schedule or a workout plan your team is currently following, a preseason conditioning test incoming players/returners take each year, etc.
9. What is it that you, as the coach, want to learn about this recruit AND their family during the visit? Are there red flags from either previous conversations or has their club/high school coach shared some concerns with you that you need to explore? Be prepared to ask all those things you need to know before you offer them a roster spot. And it’s not just about the recruit. Can you live with the recruit’s parents?
10. And last, if you know the recruit or their family are wrestling with one specific issue about your campus or program, dispense with that point first. Take it on honestly and with full transparency. Give them the opportunity to talk about it as long as they want. Ask them “Have I spoken to your concern completely? Do you have any more questions about it?” And then make the remainder of their day all about how you are different from the other schools they’re considering (It’s ok to ask them what schools they’re considering. They want to tell you!) and what makes those differences important – why those differences matter.
Want to go deeper into the topic of improving the way you execute campus visits? Add our book on the topic to your coaching library! Freaking Awesome Campus Visits will teach you how to personalize a visit to your campus, and give you ideas that are working for other coaches. Click here to order it today.