Very few college coaches, I find, can actually do an effective job of managing their prospect’s expectations during the recruiting process. And to be candid, this is an article that I feel somewhat unqualified to write; I’m not completely sure that I would do a bang-up job at managing my recruit’s expectations were I to coach collegiately today.
It’s easy to understand why:
- Recruits make their decisions earlier and earlier, meaning there is more time to change their mind after making that early commitment.
- Recruits make their decisions based largely on how they feel about their connection with a program, according to our research. When you’re dealing with a teenager’s feelings, you’d better be prepared to manage their expectations or be run-over by them.
- Parents of recruits and their expectations? Don’t get me started…
What kind of expectations am I talking about?
Well, among all of the unique expectations that we could talk about from campus to campus, probably the number one “expectation” that needs active managing by college coaches is scholarship money. Money, and the emotions and expectations surrounding what the athlete and his or her parents feel is owed to them by an interested college coach, is the primary focus for most prospects coaches deal with on a regular basis.
So as we talk about the lost art of managing your prospect’s expectations, I’m going to focus on the “money expectation” on the mind of your prospects. There are some key things to master if you’re a college coach wanting to take more control of the recruiting process, and all of them can provide coaching staffs with a much better relationships – and overall results – in their recruiting efforts:
- First and foremost, focus on honesty. When we go to a campus to work with athletic departments and their coaches, we hear athletes that we interview talk about how important honesty is in their decision making process. As a coach, you need to paint an honest picture of what you are planning for your recruit. If your scholarship is going to be less than 100% (which is what most of your prospects are expecting, even if they have no business doing so) you need to explain that to them as early as possible, and in as much detail as possible.
- The details matter. A lot. The details about your offer, or some other aspect of your program that requires management of your prospect’s expectations, are vital. Withhold details until later in the process, and risk losing their respect and totally destroying any chance of effectively managing their prospects’ expectations.
- Try to talk to your recruits as partners. If you bring them to your side of the table and help them see things from your point of view, you will probably find it easier to get them to agree to your line of reasoning. Notice I didn’t say they would necessarily “like” it, but they will understand it and, more often than not, accept it. If you’re talking about money and scholarship amounts, one of the most important things you need to do as a coach is to get them to understand how your funding works, compare it to similar athletes on your team, and trust that your details will show you to be an honest and reliable information source.
- Get them to talk about what they want. It sounds like an amazingly simple concept, but answer me this, Coach: When was the last time an athlete you were recruiting revealed exactly what they want from you and your competition, and what will end up being the deciding factor in their decision. You’re going to have to work hard to get them to talk, but once you do it’s much easier to manage the expectations that you’re vividly aware of, right?
A few weeks ago I talked with a Division I basketball coach who mentioned that he felt like he and his staff was “getting lucky” when it came to signing really strong recruiting classes, and wanted to know if there was a quick way to turn that around. My answer incorporated the four points I explained to you today.
As the the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good in college sports. However, when it comes to your prospects expectations of you and your program, it’s better to manage their expectations than quietly hope they see it your way at some point. Much, much better.
Want to learn more about your prospects and what drives them to connect with one program while rejecting another?
Make sure you attend this summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. We’ll be focusing on specific topics of recruiting that coaches have said matter most to them, with a variety of experts and your fellow coaches presenting their strategies for you to use. Want to join us? Register early for big discounts…click here for all the details!