They pride themselves on cutting edge design, reliable products, and retail stores that have such loyal customers that they often are lined-up a half hour before opening for the day. Their stock price is through the roof, and they employ some of the brightest tech minds on the planet.
But they aren’t perfect. Far from it. Even Apple experiences regular bouts of imperfection. If you owned an iPhone over the past decade or so, you’ve experienced times when you something glitches – like a time several years ago when users discovered that its difficult to type the letter “I” in a sentence without it being transformed into random symbols. It’s been fixed, as have other bugs that crop up from time to time in all technology, but you have to wonder…how could they let something like that happen?
Like I said, nobody’s perfect.
College coaches are very much in that category, too. No group of humans strive as hard as college coaches do in the pursuit of perfection. The trouble is, many coaches make it an all-or-nothing endeavor: It’s either perfection, or nothing. And since it can’t be “perfect”, sometimes the fall-back position of coaching staffs defaults to “nothing”.
Let me explain giving you three pretty common examples, along with some strong recommendations on how to avoid the trap of not settling for less than perfection as you build and manage your individual programs:
Projections aren’t going to be perfect. Early recruiting is a staple of modern recruiting in most college sports, but one of the consistent concerns I hear about on a regular basis is having to forecast college athletic readiness from an increasingly younger and younger prospect base.
As a result, the temptation is to not trust your best educated guesses on younger prospects you might want to move forward with getting a commitment from. The fear, for many, is that their guess will be wrong tragically wrong.
Spoiler alert: You will fail on some. However, as several coaches we work with have come to discover, you’ll succeed just as often, if not more. What coaches need to understand is that consistently successful programs, and the coaches that lead them, determine an acceptable rate of failed prospects, and then planning for it as a part of their overall recruiting plan.
Trust your gut. If you don’t, you’re making the active choice to pass on quality recruits in an effort to not make a ‘mistake’ on others. Increasingly, that’s going to be a harder and harder strategy to win with.
The number of times you need to watch a prospect isn’t going to be perfect. When a staff is unsure about a recruit, the go-to response is to go watch the recruit again. And again. And again.
Now, if you legitimately need to scout a prospect again, nobody will stand in your way. You have to make sure that athlete is a good fit for your team, and is someone who you want to coach for the next four years. And sometimes, you just want the prospect and his or her family to see you watching them compete as a part of the recruiting process.
That being said, many times important decisions – possible deadlines, or getting an answer your staff may not like – are delayed through the justification that ‘we need to go watch him/her play one more time.’ I have seen that happen many, many times, and the majority of the time it doesn’t have a good result.
Again, if you truly need to further assess a recruit’s true talents or specific skills, it’s your responsibility to do further evaluating. However, if in your heart of hearts you know that you’re simply delaying a next step or difficult decision, re-think your strategy.
Most coaches I know could watch a prospect for 15 minutes and come to a conclusion about most prospects that actually doesn’t change much during the subsequent 15 hours of watching that prospect. You’re smart, Coach, You know what your ideal prospects look like. Identify them, and then focus hard on moving your recruit through a manageable timeline. You’re smart, Coach…give yourself more credit.
Your recruiting message isn’t going to be perfect. Yes, even if we help craft it, it won’t be perfect for every single recruit on your list. There are too many variables in personalities, backgrounds, motivations and other factors in their decision making. And, there are too many variables with you and your staff. The challenge of in-season contact, splitting staff duties, differing recruiting talent levels, and other factors in the way you execute your recruiting plan.
But while you can’t “communicate perfectly”, you can greatly increase the odds of connecting with your recruits better than other teams, and have those student-athletes feel like you are the most interested in them.
It’s simple, actually: Consistency. If your message is consistently and methodically put in front of your prospect population, the majority will be drawn towards you and your program. Yes, the exact language becomes important later in the process as everything moves forward, but a core part of their evaluation of which programs they should take seriously revolve around who is the most consistently telling them the ongoing story of why you are the program that is going to be the better choice in the end.
Devote yourself to delivering an ongoing message that is the best possible, not necessarily “perfect”.
Here’s the bottom line: Don’t sacrifice the good for the perfect. You only reach perfection a few times in your career, but the potential to find good – sometimes really, really good – will happen more often than you imagine, if you stay focused on it.
For hundreds of college programs around the country, we team with them to create effective, compelling, consistent messaging. Our goal, in our work with those programs, is to help them connect with their best recruits. And it works. If you’d like to hear how we do it, and why it might be right for you and your program, click here and then email Dan Tudor at email@example.com.