by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Over the past month I was on three different campuses doing workshops. It was great being on those campuses, interacting with staff, meeting new people, and talking about recruiting. During those workshops we cover a ton of topics including how and when to ask for your recruits’ commitment.
Of all the different things we discussed during those workshops, the discussions about asking for the commitment have been the most interactive and engaged. And that shouldn’t be a huge surprise. As a coach you have invested a great deal of time building a relationship with the recruit and hopefully their parents. And if you have set things up correctly, you eventually arrive at that 10-14 day window where you start wrapping up your recruiting based on the timeline you established for yourself as you began to build your next class.
Even with universal recognition about the importance of getting the commitment I was really shocked (and I do mean shocked…) by how many coaches are pretty cavalier about “the ask”. As I was talking with one staff, I singled out a couple coaches who I knew were married and asked them to share how they proposed to their significant other. In each case they shared each detail about how carefully they picked the day, and the attention they gave to creating the perfect setting (a favorite restaurant, the place where they first met). And I asked each coach to describe how they asked, the words they used, and how they came up with the script. Both coaches nailed it! Heck, I would have accepted the proposal!
In terms of important decisions that a typical 17 or 18 year old has made, it is unlikely anything has loomed larger in their lives than choosing the college they attend and the program they are going to play for. And yet, when many coaches ask their recruits for a commitment, they’ll do so over an email that is basically a cut/paste message that they have been using for a couple years and have sent off to a few dozen other prospects. I’m thinking the odds of getting a yes to a marriage proposal in an email are pretty thin!
Setting yourself up for success prior to asking for their commitment is absolutely essential to hearing “YES, Coach! I’d love to play for you!” Here are a few suggestions that you might consider:
- Pick the right time. This could be an entire article on its own. Picking the right time to ask is critical to your success. Too soon and you appear desperate. Too late and you may have missed out. The sweet spot for asking is as soon as you know you want the recruit to be part of your team. That may be the very first time you see them play if you know the family, you’ve been watching them for a couple years, you had a sibling previously, you have discussed the recruit with their coach, or you have a small window of time (ie. your starting goalie just told you they’re transferring and it’s late in the year…) Lately, I have been talking a lot about being first in line. The sooner you identify the recruit, the sooner you can begin telling your program’s story which leads to your asking for their commitment before any other program. That puts you first in line.
- Share your plan for them. More than anything else, your recruit wants to feel like you know them. Recruits obviously know that coaches scout a lot of players. Yet, you landed on them. Why? What made them stand out to you? Not only that, what are you going to do to make them a better player? What things do they do well and what things are you going to work on so they do those things better? What are you going to do to assure they graduate and leave your school ready to represent you, your program, and your school in a positive way. What is your plan to take them from a wet behind the ears frosh to a team leader, maybe even a team captain. When you have that personalized plan all written you share that with them AND their parents just before you ask for their commitment. They absolutely need to hear and see that plan. Build this out point by point with tactics you will deploy for each point. It will be different from anything they see from any other program simply because it is your plan for them.
- Choose the right setting. So, I’ll be totally transparent. My wife and I worked together for years before we started dating. Our relationship started to deepen as we found ourselves sitting together at church each Sunday morning. I proposed to her as the choir was singing one of our favorite songs during a Sunday morning mass. With very sweaty palms, I slipped a ring on to her finger. It was the perfect setting for the moment. How you set up your ask for their commitment is a huge opportunity to be first in line. If you coach a court sport, a spot light shining at center court, the scoreboard lit, and a table and chairs for the recruit and their parents set the scene. On the other side of the table are you, your staff, and you’re surrounded by the players who hosted the recruit on their official visit, their new best friends! And then, you ask them.
(This is where the teaser comes in! If you want to hear how we tell our client programs to ask you’ll have to contact your TCS rep!)
The only limit to creating the perfect setting is your imagination and we want you to be creative when you ask. Think about how 99.9% of coaches ask for a commitment. Typically it is in an email, or over a phone call or in their office as they conclude a campus visit. You can do better than that Coach!
You have worked too hard getting to the point where you are ready to ask for a commitment to not give deep thought to how you’re going to ask. There is a story about how the legendary University of Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman asked the great Steve Prefontaine to come to Oregon. He wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper in Eugene inviting Pre to attend. The rest is history. Good luck!
Want help creating a better plan for setting the stage for your prospects to say “yes”? Email Greg Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you have about this strategy.