And it’s that good-hearted optimism that tends to get coaches in trouble when it comes to recruiting.
In conversations with their prospects, for example. Coaches hear, “Yup, coach, you’re still in my top five and I’m still considering you”, and it fosters hope that he or she is being honest and up-front about what’s really going on behind the scenes.
The same holds true with their parents. And their club and high school coaches, too. The game they play is for their own benefit, which is fine…I get it. They have their priorities, and future plans, front and center.
The loser, in many cases? Coaches.
So based on our work with our clients, and hearing story after story of coaches’ assumptions being wrongly made about the real intentions of their prospects, I wanted to offer up some advice to make sure you’re taking the right approach with each one of your recruits:
The worst case scenario. I want you to make several worst case scenario assumptions about each one of your prospects. If you do, you’ll be protecting yourself from assuming the best, when you should be assuming the worst.
Here’s the list:
Assume each one of your prospects is stressed, and feeling more than a little overwhelmed. The key here is to understand that, according to our research, the majority of your recruits become increasingly tired of the recruiting process as it goes on. They aren’t usually excited about another phone call with you (even though they can fake it pretty well), and they aren’t all that thrilled about another admissions tour (when you see kids walking around campus on those tours, do they look excited?)
So, here’s what I want you to do: Assume that your prospect is really stressed out and overwhelmed, and as each day goes by, they get more and more apt to saying “yes” to someone who asks them to commit.
If you assume that they’re stressed, it will probably change the language you use in your messaging, and how long you delay moving them forward in the progression of the recruiting process.
Coaches who don’t want to strongly lead their prospects during the recruiting process radically increase their risk for letting that prospect become so stressed that they lose focus on what you want them to do. Do you really want them to do that? Assume that there’s a real risk of that happening.
Assume each one of your prospects are content to make the “safe choice”. What are the safe choices? A bigger program than yours. A higher division level. The coach who is better known. The conference that will be more impressive sounding to your recruits’ friends. The school that’s closer to home.
When your recruit is under stress, they often revert to whatever they deem as the “safer choice”. That’s why the recruit you really wanted, and who you told would start as a Freshman, quietly freaked-out a little to themselves and opted instead to go to the higher level program where they’ll sit the bench for at least a year or two.They were scared about something that was perceived as a risk, and retreated to the safe choice.
The question for you is simple: What are you telling them that could be interpreted as something that is a risk? What are the risks you’re asking them to take (even if it was their idea in the first place)?
Assume each one of your prospects don’t like change. You could call this a sub-set of the last assumption, but it’s slightly different. If you’re asking your recruit to make a big change in their life – your location, paying more for school than they thought they’d have to, having to choose a different major than they intended – it’s perceived as change.
Assume that your prospect doesn’t like change. What are you asking your recruit to change? How can you reduce that change?
Assume that it’s your job to create curiosity during the recruiting process. Your core job, along with consistent contact and telling a great story, is to create curiosity.
Assume that they aren’t automatically fascinated by your offer to come and play for them. They probably aren’t. How do you keep them interested? How do you make them look forward to your next communication?
That’s your job. And the coaches that assume they need to weave in curiosity to their overall recruiting message have this strange knack for getting most of the recruits they want. Wouldn’t it be fun if that were you?
Assume that at least 80% of your prospects won’t result in any kind of real possibilities. If that’s true (and that may be a conservative number), I’d want you to ask yourself how many prospects your list really needs to have on it right now.
One of the least fun jobs of a college coach is reassessing your prospect list. That’s something we’d advise you to do at least every 90 days, for each of your recruiting classes, to ensure that you have more than enough recruits.
How would it change your recruiting practices if you had to take a hard look at your assumed true list of interested prospects every three months?
Assume that each of your prospects will be putting themselves first. They aren’t usually interested in how they can make your program better, or what you will mean to you.
Assume that they’re looking at it all from their perspective, not yours.
How does that change the way you’ll talk to them next time?
When it comes to your prospects, tart assuming that things are trending away from you, not towards you. If you do, you’ll find that it changes the way you build out your recruiting plan.