by Paul Nemetz-Carlson, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
If you’re involved in college athletics, one of the best things about September is the energy created by the return of students and teams to campus. It’s hope. It’s opportunity. It’s everywhere.
For every program I work with, I encourage them to capture that spirit and make it the foundation of their recruiting story. Telling an aspirational story can be pretty powerful in creating the emotional connection that gets recruits to say yes. Simply, share your excitement about the future with the right people, at the right time, and on the right platforms.
But I know it’s not that simple and all your challenges won’t be solved at once. Because of that – and because I know you’re busy – I wanted to share a few tips in an accessible form to get you thinking about making some adjustments that will lead to better results.
This is the sixth version of 20 tips pulled from my recent “Recruiting Tip of the Day.” I’ve been sharing them on Twitter (@PNC_777) each weekday for a few years now. I hope it inspires some great conversations in your office about how you highlight what you do well and how to improve what you don’t. Enjoy!
- While you continue to recruit by making logical comparisons of rankings, facts, figures, and records, your recruits are making decisions on feelings about comfort, relationships, and an imagined future.
- Recruit people you like. Tell them why your program is better. Do it often and consistently. Be your own megaphone to drown out all the other voices that want to tell you and your recruit why they’re not good enough.
- Know your audience. Speak their language. Share what makes you unique, what makes you different. Instead of following, be the program others try to copy.
- Easing prospective student-athletes’ fear – of making the wrong decision, of affording it, of fitting in, of being prepared academically and athletically – is your primary job in the recruiting process.
The Most Liked:
- You know who thinks they’re really good at recruiting? The assistants at traditional powers. You know who is really good? The coaches that do more with less, out recruit their station, and consistently make their peers ask “How’d you get them?”
- Who you say no to defines your program as much as who you say yes to. Not only does it create a feeling of exclusivity, it also sets the expectations for how recruits perceive your level and your culture.
- Recruiting is much harder than people think, especially when you’re not able to compete on cost, history, and academic reputation. But you can always compete on the value of your experience. Show up consistently and share why that’s worth it.
- There’s a lot of good recruiting advice that doesn’t get implemented because it’s labor-intensive and battles with all the other hats you wear. Start simple – identify kids you really like and show up more consistently than their other options.
Preparing Your Recruits to Be Recruited:
- Being seen as a destination – a place recruits think is desirable, worth dreaming about – is the best way to start the recruiting process. But know that if you want to create that, most of the work happens long before you can even contact them.
- Commitments happening within days, weeks of the first opportunity to contact prospects speak to two things – the want of prospects to make early decisions and the value of a strong, known, desirable brand before communication starts.
- Successful programs that are “like” you – level, academic reputation, scholarship limits – provide a tremendous outline for your recruiting story. And when you position yourself as an equal, you create an audience ready to hear why you’re better.
- What happens BEFORE your recruit visits defines what happens on the visit. Tell them what they’re going to see, what they’re going to like, and how they’re going to feel. (And when they come, remind them of those things.)
- The number of programs prospects seen as potentially good (or desirable) options before they start the process is shrinking. To even be seen as a “maybe”, you must do more to build name recognition among the group you intend to recruit.
- The parents of your recruits have thoughts about you. If you don’t work to understand what they are – their concerns, their fears, their misconceptions – they become the reason your recruit says no. Find the unknown and provide the missing answers.
- You don’t always control what people think of when they see the logo on your shirt. But you do control what you talk about in your office, what you highlight, and how you connect what you have to the feeling your recruit is looking for.
- The best recruiting stories capture both the feeling of familiarity with what your recruits expect in a college sports experience and a feeling of superiority found in a unique element or approach that makes it better than their other options.
Making Your Story Believable:
- It’s not showing your recruits that it can happen one time, but showing them it can happen again and again that makes your story credible, believable, and real as they imagine becoming a part of it.
- The best way to get someone to believe in your story is to show them someone else they trust already does. There’s comfort in doing something that’s already been done like another athlete from their school, club, or country on your team.
- The most powerful recruiting stories aren’t always the ones you tell. Including other voices – from in and out of your program – adds credibility and impact for a skeptical prospect trying to sort through everything coaches throw at them.
- Your players are the most credible – and most influential – source of information for recruits. The best recruiters find creative ways to get them involved on visits, in social media, and in messaging.
I started this list talking about the power of an aspirational story. It’s one that gives hope for the future, but also connects the dots about how you’re going to get there. It’s a story that places your recruits inside your program as part of the solution. It’s one that creates a positive feeling about your program long before your recruit arrives.
And one worth telling.
So, for all the coaches working day in and day out to tell a compelling story of a brighter future, keep going. Don’t let your performance story get in the way of your aspirational one. Know that building something great takes work. Be patient, keep showing up.
Recruiting is a sharing a dream and having credibility that you can make it happen with the people you’re asking to join you. Find your audience and tell that story – and then tell it again. Good luck.
Be Distinct. Be Different.
Paul Nemetz-Carlson is part of the staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies working with over 600 programs around the country to help them bring in better recruiting classes. If you have a question for Paul about his article you can connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org.