One of the puzzles constantly trying to be solved by recruiters at all levels is how to successfully communicate with varying prospect talent levels on their list.
And it makes sense, right? You want the best players to commit first, and then have the rest of the recruits on your list commit in order of talent level. And, preferably, they do it as quickly as possible.
Oh, and let’s not forget: You don’t want the mid-level or lower tier recruits to lose interest in you while you’re waiting for those upper-tier kids to decide, because you may need them to round out your class when all is said and done.
One of our clients that we’ve worked with for years now has enjoyed a consistent run of success because they’ve applied different proven techniques towards their recruiting efforts, and are at the point now where they want to make sure they’re doing what I’m describing above. Part of a recent email to me asked this:
We are currently just needing players that we feel are difference makers. On our 1-5 ranking system a 3 is someone we feel could compete for playing time as a freshman, a 4 is someone we feel is at an All-Conference Team level and a 5 is an All-Region/All-American level. We currently have plenty of 3’s or below and we only want 4’s and 5’s.
My question to you is we have a normal sized list of prospects on that list, but we only need about 5 in this class and we only need 4’s and 5’s. Do we just tell all the 3’s and below we are done recruiting? If we strike out on all the 4’s and 5’s do we go back to the 3’s that we’ve already told we are done or do we just continue to send everything to all 26 of them?
It’s a bit of a dilemma that we’re unsure how to manage.
My answer to this coach and his staff was simple and short, and is taken from all the research and data we’ve collected over the last two decades of work:
Be actively trying to close the 5’s and 4’s, while still recruiting the 3’s. We may need some of the 3’s, depending on what the 4’s and 5’s decide, so I don’t want you to abandon them yet or tell them that you’re moving on. In doing this, you’re not ‘promising’ the 3’s that you’re going to ask them to commit, all you’re doing is queuing them up to be ready to do so.
Let me break that down a little more, just in case you want to adopt this proven approach, and avoid some of the common mistakes coaches make in the process of trying to close out their classes:
- Have a defined rating system ahead of every recruiting class. I encourage it to be numerical, because numbers tend to erase vague ideas and changing feelings. Don’t fall in love with personalities, and don’t have an allegiance to a prospect you found just because you found them. Look at the whole class, assign a rating, and work the ratings.
- Your top group of prospects could be labeled as 10’s, 1’s or in the case of this coach, 5’s. What the numerical system is really is irrelevant…just have one that allows you to rank each prospect from top to bottom, in order of their ranking.
- What most coaches do is start at the top, and recruit from top to bottom. This is a mistake, and here’s why: While you are waiting for your top athletes to decide between you and the x number of other schools and coaches recruiting them, your middle group of above average but possibly unspectacular prospects, are deciding to go elsewhere. Your top prospects usually have more choices versus fewer, which means they usually take longer to decide. And, while they are deciding and you are waiting, the largest group of your recruits – those 3’s or “B-caliber” or “second tier” recruits are making commitments to other programs. When your top prospects don’t come through like you were hoping they would, you’re going to need this group of recruits – and the best of this group of mid-range recruits is going to determine whether or not you win championships, or have another frustrating year as a college coach.
- No matter what ranking you give a prospect, never stop recruiting any of them. Even the last prospect on your list should be recruited and messaged the same as the top recruit. Why? Because you may need them. And if you don’t, or you don’t want to hear from them or spend time with them in the process, you may want to ask yourself, ‘why am I recruiting this prospect?’ Most coaches largely ignore prospects at the bottom section of their list, and then try and start-up the process again in a panic when the top part of their list doesn’t pan out. What nearly all of them find is that it’s very, very hard to re-engage a prospect who has been ignored and is now deeper into the process with a competing school. What I’ve explained here is the remedy to that problem.
- Though we won’t go into detail on it now, establishing defined timelines and deadlines is also a critical part of managing the process that you are developing here. For a look inside this concept, listen to this podcast episode of a conversation I had with a group of coaches who are clients on a campus we work with. It’ll help add more context to the process we’re laying out in this training article.
- Rank your recruits, apply all the messaging you are sending to all of them throughout the process, focus on commitments from your high-B’s (or 3’s, in this coach’s example), then work on commitments from the top group, and if you don’t want to hear back from kids on your list, take them off your list.
The process that you develop is just as important as the scholarship money you or your school can offer, or the quality of your facility. Most unsuccessful recruiting stems from a poorly developed process that isn’t based in this foundation that I’m describing here. Once you integrate this into your approach, recruiting at a high level is going to get easier and easier to achieve.
Dan Tudor and his staff go into much more detail on this process during the popular On-Campus Recruiting Workshops that they conduct for athletic departments and team throughout the country, month in and month out. Haven’t had us on campus yet? Or, is it time for another session with updated techniques and information? Click here for more information or contact Dan Tudor directly at email@example.com.