by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
I’ve been retired from my athletic director position for two years, joining the team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies immediately after turning in my enormous ring of keys (most of which I never really knew what they went to). Even though it’s been a couple years I still get a nervous stomach this time of year anticipating the return of students, athlete check in, and rolling out a new year of contests and events.
Along with those things come a return to campus visits and for many they are long overdue coming off the Covid challenges. We’ve written a ton about campus visits over the years and there are many articles on the TCS blog about planning and strategizing your recruits’ time on campus. If you haven’t considered your approach to campus visits over the past year there is no better time than the present. It’s almost a necessity right now with all that has happened over the last year and a half.
All of us at TCS have been talking about the fact (and it is a fact) that families will simply be visiting fewer campuses moving forward. They now know they can accomplish a great deal from virtual visits so the stakes are now higher than ever when it comes to the campus visit. At the same time, most schools still have some degree of restrictions on campus visits (overnights, access to indoor spaces, etc.) so coaches have to be more creative in how they showcase their campus, their program, and most importantly, engage the recruit with their team.
As you think about your campus visits ask yourself “What am I offering recruits that the other colleges they are considering are NOT offering? If they are visiting three schools, which is pretty normal moving forward, what are they going to leave your campus with that they didn’t get from the other two visits? Your goal needs to be doing something, offering them something that gives them a reason to put you at the front of the line.
Much of your success here depends on what you are doing in front of their visit. This is all part of your information gathering phase. You need to know what it is that they are looking to learn from your visit (that missing 20% that they can’t discover from your website, your emails, your phone calls, etc.) How you fill that missing 20% will determine the success of their campus visit. What is it that you know they are looking to learn and how creatively and effectively can you answer that question?
One of the things I always encourage coaches to consider is sending the recruit home with something they would not have gotten from you otherwise. If you’re ready to offer a scholarship or a roster spot, there’s no better time to make that offer than the campus visit. Be sure to give such an event the staging it deserves. Remember, this is probably the biggest decision your recruit has ever made. You want to be the first to make that offer because it WILL put you at the front of their line.
But it doesn’t have to be a scholarship or place on your roster. It can be as simple as a peak at your new uniform.
“Hey Greg, I haven’t even shown this to our team yet but would you like to see our new uniforms? What number do you wear?”
Maybe you can share with them a peak at your schedule for their freshman year.
“Greg, I just finished putting next year’s schedule together and I wanted you to be the first to see it. We’re going to be playing several games within a couple hours of your home so your parents can see you play several times!”
Or, maybe you can give them a workout you will be doing with your team later that day.
So, here’s what we’re doing in our conditioning workout today. Give it a try when you get home. I think you’ll love it!”
Another thing you can offer them is a way to get better! If you have watched them compete and you see something you can offer a coaching point on, offer that up. Doing so does several things. First, it shows them that you’re paying attention and were evaluating them critically, not just eyeballing them to fill a roster space. Second, it will demonstrate your knowledge of their sport. You can make them better right now and there’s more to come if they choose your program. Last, it’s a gesture of good faith and will earn their trust. They know you haven’t committed to them yet you’re still offering to help them improve.
Even better than a few coaching cues, demonstrate how deeply you have been paying attention to all the things they’ve told you that are important to them throughout the recruiting process. Do this by sharing with them an individualized plan for their development as a member of your program. The bullet points should include not just their athletic development but also their academic success, development of their leadership skills and opportunities to grow in that area. If you want to show you’ve been paying attention this is a home run.
Be sure not to leave the parents out of this experience. Whatever it is that you share with the prospect, have a copy for the parent(s). Doing so demonstrates you desire to have them involved and pulls them toward you as part of your team. Another nice thing to do is to offer the prospect’s parents the opportunity to speak with the parents of a current player. Choose the parents of a current frosh player so the experiences are still fresh to them.
There are even more ideas within the countless other articles on campus visits on the TCS blog. This is the perfect time to get creative, think outside the box when envisioning your next recruit visit. If you’re doing everything the same as the other schools your recruit is considering you are missing an opportunity to move to the front of the line.