In fact, it’s something that is essential if you’re the coach that is going to direct them most effectively as they maneuver through the often confusing recruiting process.
A little clarification before we get to far into this idea:
What I’m talking about here is a line of separation between believing in Santa, and not believing in Santa. When our kids are young, believing in Santa is fun. And they buy into it because their perspective on what is real and what isn’t is a little wishy-washy. One winter, I earned “Father of the Year” points by sneaking out of our bedroom, scaled a ladder to our roof, and stomped around bellowing “Ho, Ho, Ho!” so that our subsequently terrified kids would believe in Santa (I was even able to make it back to bed before they came in to wake me up telling me that they had just heard Santa). Getting them to buy-in to Santa was easy.
Fast forward to our adult years. We know Santa isn’t real (sorry if you’re reading this and you’re a 7-year old kid whose mom or dad who is a college coach…there really is a Santa Claus, I’m just trying to trick your mommy or daddy, o.k.? Don’t tell them). Not only do we not believe in Santa, but it’s hard to remember when we did, and why.
There’s a mental chasm that has formed between what we used to believe and what we know as reality now.
And that’s where most coaches begin to make a fatal flaw as it relates to recruiting…
- Are you wondering why your B-caliber prospect is insulted when you don’t offer him a full scholarship, when you know full well that he isn’t going to get any full ride offers from coaches? It’s because he (and his parents) believe in Santa, and you don’t.
- Are you confused when your prospect gets bored with you six months into the recruiting process and no longer replies to your occasional emails or mediocre form letters? It’s because she (and her parents) believe in Santa, and you don’t.
- Are you incredulous when your top tier prospect loves you, your campus and your great offer but is calling you to tell you that the other coach just offered $1,000 more at the last minute so he is going to take their offer? It’s because he (and his parents, plus his club coach) believe in Santa, and you don’t.
When I talk about “believing in Santa”, I’m describing the often unrealistic expectations that your prospects have as they move through recruiting. So much so, in fact, that they will let those emotions and beliefs rule their decision making process. They’re “believing in Santa”…something that looks and feels real, but is actually a fantasy.
As a high level college recruiter, one of your core responsibilities is to explain reality to your prospect – and those individuals helping him or her – that it’s time to stop believing in “Santa”. Your other core responsibility is to tell them how. Most coaches fail on both counts. However, the coach that is able to achieve those two objectives during their recruitment of a student-athlete is going to have a rich, successful career as a college coach.
If that’s your goal, here are a few of the successful ways we’ve helped college coaches lead their prospects back to reality:
- Influence their parents and/or coaches. That means you’re going to have to come up with a separate recruiting messages aimed specifically for them that will give them logical justification to point the prospect to you and your program. Sometimes, it’s hard for a prospect to trust and believe in what you say (especially if you are inconsistent in your messaging with them). They’ll trust and believe those already close to them far more quickly.
- Explain the “why” behind your talking point. Whether you are trying to justify why they should choose your program that is far away from home, or explaining a partial scholarship offer, going into detail about why that makes sense is essential. Most coaches skip over that part of the conversation, thinking that today’s prospect might be insulted or confused by a lot of details. Our research shows the exact opposite to be true. Going into detail will often be the reason they connect the dots, see your logic, and (possibly) change their view of what the “right” decision is. If you leave out the details, it’s unlikely that will be the case. That doesn’t mean you’ll never get prospect to commit; rather, it means that your results will be far more sporadic.
- Talk about a deadline far in advance. We’ve become fans of fair, long-standing, established deadlines for a prospect to make a decision, primarily because it works. Telling your prospect when you’ll be needing their decision – and then sticking to that deadline – tends to cut out the sugarplums dancing in their heads, and focuses them on the task at hand: Seriously considering your offer, and making a final decision. The coach that fails to set a deadline, or mentions a date and then gives-in when a prospect tells him that she needs more time, is more likely to see that recruit take an unrealistic approach towards the decision making process.
- Tell them that maybe it’s just not the right fit, and that they should pursue other opportunities. In other words, give them a little taste of “loss”. Let them know that you’re prepared to move on. Give them the feeling that life will go on – and that your team will actually suit-up next season – even if they aren’t there with you. Talk about walking away. When you do, you’ll often see the prospect (and their parents/agents) respond with verbiage that tells you “whoa, wait a minute…we’re still interested!” It’s an effective verbal technique when used properly, and at the right time in the process.
The most important lesson in all this is for you, Coach:
It’s your responsibility to lead your prospect from fantasy to reality, and to do it with sensitivity. You shouldn’t be surprised that your prospect holds the world view that they do…many of them have been told that they’re the second coming of (insert name of your sport’s legend here) by their parents and coaches, and they have been slaving away at year-around training and private coaching with the expectation that it would pay-off with a full Division I scholarship within easy driving distance from home.
Your job is to get them to stop believing in Santa, while understanding why they still believe.
Easy? No. But if you’re able to perfect this important part of the recruiting process, you’re going to be a solid, successful recruiting who can close the recruits they want down the stretch.
Not a bad Christmas present, right?
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, coach! Want to give yourself the recruiting gift that keeps on giving? Make sure you attend our annual national conference designed for coaches and recruiters, the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference! Spend an early Summer weekend with fellow coaches from around the country and a line-up of amazing speakers and experts. CLICK HERE for all the details!