My beloved Houston Astros cheated, and they’re paying the price.
The leaders of the organization have been fired, they’ve incurred the maximum fine Major League Baseball can impose, and lost their first and second round draft picks for the next two years. And there could be further repercussions, as well. All because they were found to be illegally stealing signs using video signals during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.
This is a story of taking short cuts, and paying the heavy price later. It’s not an unfamiliar storyline, and it’s not exclusive to professional sports, politics or Wall Street.
It happens all the time in college recruiting, as well.
In fact, come to think of it, nearly every scandal in college athletics centers around recruiting: A coach offers money under the table to sign a recruit…a coaching staff knowingly contacts prospects outside of the allowed time period…promises by boosters are made, and then come back to haunt the coaching staff who nodded and winked along the way because it would hopefully benefit their program.
This is not the place to list which coaches have done what, but chances are good that a coach somewhere out there is reading this and is in the middle of a situation similar to what the Astros organization is dealing with currently, or are leaning towards the temptation of cutting corners and looking for shortcuts to help ramp-up recruiting results.
Don’t do it, Coach.
Every coach at every college involved in every such scandal thought they’d be the ones to get away with it, and of course, it never happens. It’s like police car chases…I used to love watching those on live TV with the helicopter broadcasting the chase live for all to see. “What’s the guy in the getaway car thinking? How does he expect to get away from an eight police cruisers right behind him and a police helicopter above him?” And yet, the chase goes on. And the criminal gets caught, and we wait for the next chase to unfold.
College coaches can’t get away with it anymore. Oh I’m sure there are scattered instances that haven’t been publicized (yet), but overall, we live in an age where it’s very hard to get away with wrongdoing.
That being said, let’s approach this from a different angle: What non-illegal short cuts do college coaches knowingly commit in recruit that ends up hurting their chances at building successful programs? There are three that are really common:
- Some coaches have abandoned consistent messaging, especially sending hard-copy mail to their prospects every few weeks throughout the process. Our research in prospect decision-making points very clearly to the idea that today’s teens and their parents value letters more than almost anything else, because it’s so rare for them to receive mail from coaches beyond the initial letter. It’s a shortcut for the coach because they save time by not having to print, sign and mail letters, but it does longterm damage to their chances of landing prospects (especially upper-tier prospects being recruited by a lot of programs).
- Some coaches rush the process. They’ll ask for a visit to campus on the first phone call, or otherwise accelerate the timeline without establishing a relationship. It’s getting tougher and tougher to pull this off, because most recruits are taking a more methodical, relational approach to recruiting. Plus, if you aren’t the natural first choice for most recruits, you do great damage to your chances of erasing the bias your recruit may hold against you as the recruiting process starts.
- Some coaches wait until way to late in the process to make contact, and establish a relationship, with their prospects’ parents. There’s a variety of reasons for that…you know what bugs you about many of the parents of your recruits, and sometimes I’ll bet it’s made you want to just take the short cut of not developing a relationship with them. That’s a mistake. Our research shows that 91% of the time, the parents’ opinion of you and your program is going to play a role in the athletes’ final decision. This is the shortcut that can undercut your recruiting before it really even gets off the ground.
Shortcuts don’t work. They don’t work with strength and conditioning, they don’t work with game preparation, scouting, leadership development, and definitely not with recruiting.
With a little internal planning, you can create an orderly method for approaching recruiting – and developing a systematic, ethical, winning strategy for long term recruiting success.
Need help developing your program’s long term recruiting strategy? If you feel it’ll be tough to do that alone, we can help. We work with hundreds of coaching staffs around the country to give them the research, strategy and messaging plans that improve the way they communicate with their recruits. And it gets great results. Click here for more detail on how that all works, and then contact us to discuss it.