by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
If you are a regular follower of Tudor Collegiate Strategies you’re likely familiar with the different pillars of the principles that drive the best practices we write about and teach on when we go to a campus and meet with an athletic department.
One of those foundational principles is tied to the relationship the coaching staff builds with the recruit’s parents. As much as we talk about how important they are to your ability to get that recruit, probably the most common feedback I hear from coaches I work with is:
“Yeah, I need to do a better job connecting with parents.”
That comment is usually followed by:
“It just makes me uncomfortable getting them too involved because I don’t want them to feel like I owe them something if their son or daughter decides to come.”
The reality of the situation is that if you don’t engage them from the outset you simply won’t get the chance to redefine that relationship. So I’d like to write a little bit here about ways to engage parents perhaps differently in hope that some of these points make you more comfortable and help them feel absolutely comfortable with you, your school, and your program.
1. There are times we simply have to step outside our comfort zone in order to get the results we want. As athletes we’re certainly familiar with that! The same thing is true about interacting with parents, especially if you are a young coach. The best thing you can do is to be prepared, do your homework by getting to know A LOT about their son or daughter aside from their 40 time and their vertical jump. Their child is something you both have in common. You both want what’s best for them. Talk to their high school or club coach so you can talk specifically about their playing experiences. The more you know about them the more confident you will be in those settings. Make sure they realize the recruiting experiences about what’s best for them, not you.
2. Typically, the parents of the athletes you want on your team have deep roots in their child’s athletic development. What put them in the position of being capable of playing at the college level was the investment their parents made in coaching them as a youngster,private lessons, providing opportunities for camps, clinics, and any opportunity to participate in their sport. If you are a coach inclined to say “Thanks for getting them to this point! I got it from here …” you’re not going to get that athlete. The play here needs to be one of involvement. You want to control the narrative with them by asking them questions, giving them things to do related to the application process, planning the campus visit, etc. Make them part of the team rather than a spectator.
3. Use the parents of your current athletes as program ambassadors and spokespeople. Find ways to connect them whenever possible, whether it is a team tailgate, on social media, or a campus visit. Something VERY few coaches do is establish a parent network where your current parents can talk directly to another parent in the same way your athletes talk to recruits. Parents have a ton of questions that no matter what you do you will never have the perspective of the parent of one of your athletes. So take advantage of the resources you already have in place. Set up Zooms specific for parents. Set it up, make introductions, and then leave the session. Let them talk about the school, the dorms, academics and academic support, etc.
4. When you are planning an itinerary for your recruit (ie. at least half their time on campus being spent with younger members of your team just hanging out) build an itinerary for your parents. I was working on this exact topic with a coach recently who said he typically tells the parents a couple good places they can go for lunch and the time to come pick up their son. That’s a HUGE missed opportunity to offer the parents opportunities to get to know your school. Schedule them for an admissions tour, set up a meeting with career services, schedule time with your health center or counseling services. Ask them in advance which of these different areas they would like to spend time with.
Each of these takes extra effort and clearly it may be virtually impossible to offer this kind of depth of experience to everyone on your list. But you certainly want to engage deeply with your “A” bucket recruits. If you aren’t getting up close to your recruits’ parent some other coach is and you’ll be fighting to get in the game for the entire recruiting process.
Need help constructing a better plan to communicate with your prospect’s parents? Greg Carroll and the team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies are helping coaches develop winning strategies and plans on communication. You can email him with questions about this at firstname.lastname@example.org.