The dust has settled, and the new NCAA rules for 2012 are in place.
And with new rules come new opportunities: In Division II, coaches now have more time to contact recruits and a variety of new ways to reach them – text messaging, social networks and even message boards. In Division III, text messaging is now allowed (however, contact via social media websites like Facebook and Twitter is still prohibited).
But with new opportunities come new challenges for savvy recruiters. In reading over the new rules, there are a few pitfalls I can see an unprepared college coach stumbling into as they begin to recruit new prospects using these new rules. (And by the way, even though these new rules mainly affect Division II and Division III college coaches, Division I and NAIA coaches can learn from the potential mistakes we’ve outlined and apply them to their own recruiting strategies):
Division II coaches can now visit a prospect in person on an unlimited basis beginning June 15th prior to the prospect’s Junior year in high school. Here’s the problem: Our research is showing that coaches who stage multiple visits without sharing new information or giving the prospect a sense that the recruiting process is moving forward risk alienating the prospect. Current college athletes we interview as a part of our On-Campus Workshops tell us that they grow impatiently very quickly when coaches contact them, but don’t have anything new to say or don’t outline where the process stands. I see this as a potential risk for coaches who begin regular visits to view a recruit: The recruit sees a coach, talks to a coach, and nothing new is verbalized by the coach. If you plan on increasing the frequency of your visits, make sure you are consistently outlining new information and new steps in the process to your prospect and their parents.
Division II coaches now have more time to personally recruit athletes, beginning June 15th prior to an athlete’s Junior year. The same potential pitfall exists here as it did in the previous item. More face to face time, but not enough new information to keep the prospect engaged and feeling like the process is moving forward. Additionally, if you are starting the recruiting process before your prospect begins their Junior year as the new rules allows, focus your questions on what they want out of the process and what they want to talk about…not what they want in a college or a coach. That’s too big of a concept to grasp for most of them, so don’t introduce a conversation about the topic (yet).
Division II coaches can use text messaging and message boards, as well as private messaging through Facebook. This holds one of the biggest potential pitfalls for coaches. We see college coaches wasting the opportunity to form a deeper relationship with their recruits by simply posting athletic department sports information releases and other bland communication via Facebook. Don’t do that, Coach. Facebook – and text messaging – is an extremely personal way of communicating for today’s teenagers. If you supply them with a steady stream of adult news about your program, don’t be surprised when they tune you out. Keep it real, honest and personal. Use YouTube videos made by your team versus professionally edited videos from your sports information office, and write in a personal blog style instead of using “news reporting” language in your messaging.
Division II and Division III coaches have an expanded use of text messaging. What not to do? Trying to “sell” your school and your program through text messaging. There is no faster way to be rejected by your prospect than sending anything resembling a sales message via text message to a recruit. We know this because of the testing and research we’ve done with our list of college coach clients we help as we formulate their recruiting strategy and actual messaging communication, and I can tell you as bluntly as possible that a coach who uses text messaging to overtly sell their program will ruin their chances of connecting with that athlete in a trusted way as the process moves forward. Save text messaging for discussing the recruiting process, building a friendly relationship, and talking about specific points in the recruiting process as follow-up to other conversations via phone, mail and email. Remember, texting is very personal and very informal. Keep it that way and use it to build a relationship with the athlete…not to sell.
The new rules reflect the way we see communication with recruits heading, and I think they will provide coaches with some important new avenues for making strong connections with recruits. However, there are also some real dangers in not approaching these new liberties correctly. Make sure you’re one of the coaches that uses the new rules correctly right from the beginning.
We strongly recommend you make plans on attending this Summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. It’s designed specifically for motivated college recruiters who want to be the best that they can be in the battle for their top prospects. Click here for all the information and to reserve your seat at this year’s event!