by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
I can recall the vacation as if it were yesterday. It was 2014 and we had decided to go to the Florida beaches for our kids’ February school vacation. My son was a senior in high school and we had set a timeline of making the college decision before February vacation so we could just enjoy the week, knowing the burden of that decision was behind us. We were going to celebrate his decision with a great week.
It didn’t happen. In fact, the week was a train wreck. The weight of that decision hung over us like a black cloud the entire week. He was afraid whatever decision he made was wrong. He wanted our insight but he wanted it to be his decision. He didn’t want to disappoint anyone including all the great people he had met at each of the schools he was considering.
My wife and I swore not to repeat the same mistake in two years when our daughter would be making her decision. It sounded like a good plan but two years later there we were, in the same predicament.
If you have been in the same position you know what I am talking about. Households around the country are in turmoil right now as your recruits are agonizing over what school they are going to choose. And trust me when I say, no one wants the process over more than their parents.
The parents of your recruits can be your greatest resource right now if you have done a good job of the recruiting process building that relationship (another reason you want to make parents a priority from the very beginning.) Some considerations as you move forward at this critical juncture:
- As frustrated as you may be with the delay in getting a decision you don’t want to be overly aggressive. Be empathetic and talk about how you have seen other families struggle under the same circumstances. But if you have been working along a timeline with the recruit and their family, you need to remind them of those dates and why you need to adhere to that decision window.
- You should be prepared to ask your recruits’ parents flat out, what they think their son or daughter needs to know about your program that will make them feel comfortable with choosing you. It’s likely to be a reflection of their concerns as much as their child’s. If you have asked this question to the recruit and not gotten helpful insight you will find their parents much more willing to talk. Why? Because they want this OVER. This is your opportunity to obtain as much information as possible. Ask that second question (ie. “could you tell me more about that?”) and if you still want more ask a third question (ie. “I’m starting to understand. Could you give me an example of one of those concerns?”) You have to continue to probe.
- We have talked a lot over the last year about personal letters and their value in the recruiting process. If you are waiting for a decision and the eleventh hour has arrived, write your recruit a heartfelt personal letter, put a stamp on it and drop it in the mail. Tell them why you have chosen to stay at your school or what made you accept the position there. Use the letter as an opportunity to tell a personal story about a previous or current athlete. Everyone thinks of their team as a family but what makes your family special and how do you create that feeling. Be specific here, give examples. Describe how you have dinners at the homes of team members when you travel. Talk about how all the families stay at the same hotel when you travel and parents all get to know each other. This creates a feeling of safety and warmth. Which brings me to my last point.
- Just like my kids several years ago, your recruits are afraid. They’re afraid to decide. They’re afraid of making a mistake. They’re afraid of disappointing others. It’s a lot for a 17 or 18 year old to carry. You can “get to the front of their line” by being the coach that not only understands what they are going through but offers some answers. You can offer answers to the things that worry them. Reassure them that they are indeed good enough to do this. Many recruits simply don’t believe they are good enough to compete in college. Assure them that they are every bit as good as other athletes who contributed to your team when they were freshmen. Assure them that your current athletes are totally excited to have he/she as a teammate. Share with the recruit some of the things your athletes said about them after they visited. Talk about how you could see them becoming great friends with a specific member of your team with similar qualities and traits. And then you tell them”
“Based upon everything we have talked about during the past year, everything I know about you and what you’re looking for in a college, you’d be making a great decision to choose our school.”
This is the make or break time for a lot of recruiting classes. If you are sitting back, just waiting for those recruits to offer you their commitment, you’re going to be disappointed when you see them on someone else’s roster in the fall.
Greg Carroll and the staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies are helping over 500 programs around the country close out their best recruiting class yet. If you have questions about how you can close prospects in your current class, email Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a strategy call.