by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
In a perfect world you would get commitments from every recruit you extend an offer to. Sadly that’s not a realistic expectation. The reality is that even within the most successful programs commitments are outpaced by rejections.
There was an instance where as the athletic director I called an unsuccessful candidate for a coaching position to inform him that we had chosen a different applicant. I could have dodged this, hidden behind an email, but since we had several conversations, invited him to campus, and gotten to know each other I felt he deserved that conversation. From the moment I informed him about our decision, the rest of the conversation was all about what a mistake we were making and how the candidate selected would not succeed (he was totally wrong about that…), and how we would regret not hiring him.
There is no upside to ending a relationship like that. Whether you are leaving your current position, finding out you were not selected for a vacancy or hearing from a recruit “Coach, it’s been terrific getting to know you but I’ve decided to go somewhere else,” you always want to take the high road and leave positively.
When it comes to that recruit telling you they have chosen a different program there are several things you can do to maintain a positive relationship:
- We often talk about the value of asking the recruit to make you their backup school. A lot can happen from the time they commit to the time they enroll. Financial aid can fluctuate, the coaching staff may change, conference affiliations change, personal/family dynamics are fluid, etc. Saying to that recruit “I totally understand your choice and I’m really happy for you. We really like you and want you here so I’m wondering should things not work out if you’d be willing to make us your official second choice?” This not only keeps you in the game should something change but affirms your real interest in the recruit.
- Send a congratulatory note to the recruit AND their parents about their choice of an opposing school. Compliment the parents about how well they handled the recruiting process and how much you enjoyed getting to know them. Parents always love to hear good things about their children so sprinkle in additional comments about what it was that attracted you to their son/daughter and how you continue to feel about them. Try to appeal to their emotions about not selecting your program.
- This is an opportunity to collect some information as well about your recruiting process and your program. Ask your recruit and their parents about their thoughts about their recruiting experience at your school. What did they like about the way they were recruited and was there anything that took place or didn’t take place that caused them concern. What were the strengths they saw about your program as well as what moved them toward the other school. Not every recruit will get back to you but most parents will!
- Send their high school and/or club coach a note thanking them for their help as you were recruiting their athlete. Doing so will build
trust with that coach should something get derailed with their initial choice but also forge a stronger relationship with that coach for the next prospect they have you might be interested in.
More than everything else you want to sustain a positive relationship with the recruit and their family. We’ve all seen the recruit who transfers after the first season because they were misled by the other coach and now want to be part of your program. Be sure you leave that door open. You worked too hard to build that relationship to end it badly if they choose another program.