But most of that research and strategy discussion has taken place in ‘normal’ recruiting times. And as coaches across the country know, a year like 2020 is far from what any of us would call normal. That’s true for college coaches, and that’s also true for families. They’re trying to maneuver through the crisis the same way you are, Coach…by assessing their situation, looking at their available resources, and positioning themselves – as a family – for a win.
The biggest emerging trend we’ve seen unfold is that parents are having behind-the-scenes conversations with their kids – your prospects, as well as your current student-athletes – about a college’s location and cost.
But unlike past recruiting years, this time those factors have some new wrinkles to how they are impacting decision-making: Parents are actively voicing concern about where a current or prospective college is located, and if it makes sense to be in that location. There are more concerns about densely populated urban locations, as well as campuses far away from their home.
Along with that, there’s a more serious conversation about money, and how to pay for college. Again, that’s a fairly regular point of conversation in a family, but it’s taking on greater weight now because 1) parent incomes are being disrupted, or are threatened to be disrupted, like no time since The Great Depression 90 years ago, and b) the investment in college doesn’t have the perception of as good of an expected return as it did just a few weeks ago. True, athletes get the added benefit of being able to continue their sport, but does that outweigh a family’s newfound financial burdens? That’s an iffy proposition, at best.
None of us associated with college athletics can change what’s going on in the world right now, but you do have control over managing your roster and planning for the future of your program through recruiting. In fact, you must do those two things actively, daily. For your own mental health, and for the health of your program and your athletic department.
So, taking a micro-approach to fighting this crisis in your own little part of the world, I really feel like you need to have some deep conversations with the parents of your prospects and current athletes.
You need to understand how they’re feeling about life moving forward as it relates to their son or daughter’s inclusion in your program on your campus. Here are the topics and associated questions I’d recommend:
“Walk me through what you’re seeing as the benefits of having <Prospect Name> truly go away to school, and come compete for us here?”
“What’s the biggest question in your mind that you’re trying to answer when it come the idea of <Prospect Name> being here?”
“Tell me how you feel about where we’re located…”
“How has this whole crisis changed some of the conversations you and <Prospect Name> have been having when it comes to where he/she is going to go for college? Or is not really a question for you and your family?”
“Has any of this changed the way you’re seeing your family pay for his/her college education?”
“How is your family weather this crisis? How has it affected you?”
“Are there any new questions or topics you wanted to bring up with me that you didn’t have on your mind a few weeks ago before all this happened?”
Any question along those lines will help them open up and have an honest discussion with you about what’s driving their decisions, and how you can connect with them better to make the case that you’re the right place for them. You reaching out and opening the door to a discussion like this, whether you are a 15-year head coaching veteran or an assistant coach in her first year of college coaching, is imperative.
Silence and hunkering down isn’t a strategy when it comes to recruiting. Ever. But especially now when your roster, and your athletic department, depend on you having an accurate view on what your recruiting list and current team’s roster really looks like.
It all starts by understanding what the parent is thinking. Because in the vast majority of cases, what they are thinking is what’s getting talked about behind the scenes with their son or daughter, and that’s crucial information you need to know. The sooner the better.