They seem excited, and why not? You’re another college coach who just reached out and heaped praise on them for how well they’re doing in their sport, and are telling them how interested you are in them competing for their program. In turn, they quickly agree with your idea of visiting campus, talking and texting regularly, or applying early to get the best financial aid or scholarship package. They’re pumped when you tell them that you’ll be coming to scout them again in the near future, too.
And look: All of that is important in the process. Any start of a new relationship – whether it’s in recruiting, dating, or a new job – has to start with mutual attraction. As a coach, you like what you’re seeing from them. As an athlete, they like the idea of another program being interested in them. You need that initial sign of interest to light that rocket and see what happens.
It’s the “seeing what happens” part that many coaches fail to manage properly.
The result? For a D1 program, it could mean another poor recruiting class that puts you one step closer to being called into your athletic director’s office for a conversation that you don’t want to have after a losing season. For a smaller college coach, it could mean missing your number and not bringing in the quality and quantity that the school is expecting (resulting in an uncomfortable meeting with your athletic director, too).
All because that coach was so in love with the idea of getting the process started, there was a lack of attention being paid towards definable actions that were taking place.
When your prospect verbally expresses interest, but fails to demonstrate any corresponding actions, that should be a big red flag for any coach who wants to take a measurable approach to recruiting.
Case in point: Me.
As I type this, I have yet to tell a contractor we’re looking to hire that he isn’t getting the job. We have a small project at our house that my wife and I need a contractor to do, and we’ve decided on Contractor A. Contractor B has already given me a quote that is more expensive than Contractor A, and didn’t provide it in as detailed a fashion as Contractor A. He’s taken longer to get back to us, and in general, has just made the process more complicated than it needs to be. Contractor A is our man for the job.
So why won’t I just tell him that? Specifically, when he texted a day ago and asked “have you made a final decision?” (which we had). I’m no psychologist, but I’m imagining it’s for the same reason your recruits aren’t always up front and honest with you…or why sometimes you’re not always up front and honest with them:
- As humans, we don’t like to deliver bad news. Especially when the other person seems to be thinking that he or she is doing a good job at giving us the information they think we need. Because most of us have a good heart, we don’t like to disappoint another person. We don’t want to make them feel bad.
- We like to keep our options open. What if Contractor A suddenly can’t do the job? We like the idea of having a back-up, for as long as we can keep them as a back-up. Telling our secondary options “no” hurts us immediately, which we tend to want to shy away from.
Those two primary human emotions, amplified in pretty much every teenage student-athlete you’re recruiting, are the source of what I get worried about on behalf of some coaches. I’ll be breaking the bad news to Contractor B tomorrow, more than likely. Your recruits aren’t likely to be that polite.
You need to look at their actions. Based on our research, and tracking athlete actions through emerging technology like ARI Recruiting, here are the top three things you need to be seeing from your recruit that will signal strong, genuine interest:
- They communicate with you to give updates on their process. An interested prospect will want to make sure any delay on their part, has an explanation. You’ve seen this play out before…think about the last prospect that really wanted to come be a part of your program, and how they communicated with you, and then compare that to the prospect you really wanted who ended up going somewhere else. I’m betting the communication patterns resemble what I’m talking about.
- They visit campus early. For an interested prospect, getting to campus is a priority. If you’re having to beg a prospect to come to campus, and they keep promising but not visiting, that’s a red flag.
- You’ll get procedural questions from parents. Late in the process, look for questions coming from the parents of an interested prospect. They’ll ask things about their financial package, registering for classes, and other questions related to them picturing their son or daughter already in your program and at the school.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, of course, and even if they demonstrate positive signs through these it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to get them. However, it is a strong indicator you’re in the game and headed in a good direction with them.
It’s part of measurable actions you should be looking for in every recruit you take through the process. It’s your job to assess and look for changes, and whether they’re demonstrating actions that signal them leaning towards coming to be a part of your program, or against that idea.
They’ll reveal their true intentions, if you look carefully.
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