In May, 2000 I was the Director of Athletics at Cazenovia High School, a midsize school district located in the exact center of New York State. I had been there for 12 years and was coming off a couple really good years both competitively and in terms of leadership having held significant positions at both the state and local levels. It was time for a change.
The director of athletics position had just opened up at SUNY Morrisville, located 10 miles east of my home in Cazenovia. I was curious about the position but not convinced I should apply. I knew very little about administration at the college level and sadly, very little about SUNY Morrisville. Early on a Saturday morning that May my wife and I drove to the college to “nose” around. The only person around the athletic center was a custodian.
Seeing us wandering around, peeking in windows she inquired if she could help. I explained my curiosity and she then began opening doors, guiding me through the facility, telling me about how great it was to work there, offered my wife and I coffee. I could go on. I applied for the position, accepted that position, and remained at Morrisville for 18 years until I retired last summer.
The moral of the story is simple: When it comes to recruiting, EVERYONE on your campus matters.
We talk a lot at Tudor Collegiate Strategies about recruiting. We offer valuable insights on how to win the affection of your prospects, your prospect’s parents and their club or high school coaches. They should be your highest priority and we celebrate with you when that prized recruit commits to your programs.
That said I want to encourage you to be cognizant of the importance of recruiting inside your institution. Had I not had that single encounter with a custodian early on a Saturday morning in May I likely would not have applied for the AD position. She changed that. Similarly the custodian, the student worker, the admissions person, fitness center staff, etc. can positively or negatively affect the experience your recruits have on your campus. Just like I did, they may choose to just drop in. How confident are you about the interaction they may have with your custodian, admissions office, etc.?
Everyone does matter but some are even more important to your success as a recruiter. The relationship you have with your sports information director is critical. If your webpage is not current or even worse, features your “2-12 record which qualified you for your conference championship” (I’m not making that up) you need to take he/she out to lunch and ask for a rewrite!
Similarly, your grounds keepers and custodians are essential to your success and I assure you they love being part of YOUR team. Expressions of appreciation and a t-shirt directed their way will go a long way. A pizza for break time or donuts in the morning are always a welcome sight. The same holds true for your primary contact in your admissions office. financial aid office, alumni office, your athletic office staff.
One of the things I always told our student athletes was a warning that – at some point in time something is going to go wrong. You’re going to be sick and miss a quiz/test, something will come up at home and you will need to miss class for a while. It could be anything. If you have been diligent about attending class, sitting up front, and doing your work in a timely fashion, that profesor is likely to give you some latitude. In the same way, in the process of getting that recruit, somewhere along that timeline something is likely go wrong. Let me count the ways!
- A delayed decision or lost transcript in the admissions office
- A critical/timely question from a parent about the financial aid process.
- The late submission of some overnight visit documents to the athletic office.
- The need for some handy work from the custodial staff in your locker room.
- A late request to a school office to meet a faculty member
I could easily go on but I’m sure you get the picture. If you have built relationships and recruited key individuals on your campus to your program your success will improve exponentially.
Greg Carroll is a retired athletic director who know services the Northeastern U.S. as Regional Recruiting Coordinator, consulting with coaches to help them develop their strategy for communicating with recruits. To contact Greg, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.