It’s universal among college coaches.
Over and over, they say the most frustrating thing in recruiting is the inability to break through the gatekeepers – the club coaches, family advisors, and influencers – that control access to prospects and “unfairly” influence where they go.
“They won’t let us talk to the best prospects.”
“They favor other programs.”
“They’re not letting the players make their own decisions.”
But you need them! Particularly in high pressure environments where prospective student athletes are making quicker commitments with less information and NCAA legislation tightens communication with younger prospects. They can be your voice in the dark periods and your advocates in final decisions. These individuals are essential partners in the recruiting process.
As the front door to the prospect world, they’re often the best way to gain access to a recruit’s contact information, to make a connection to actually start a recruiting conversation, and to gain insight to that recruit’s thought process and decision making. They, in theory, also know the most about the athlete’s ability, work ethic, and motivation that will determine success at the next level.
And like it or not, they’re constantly providing opinions and sharing their perspective on your program with the prospects they coach. For many college coaches, the outsized role that club coaches, family advisors, and influencers play in both the access and decision process of recruiting presents a difficult challenge.
One former college coach once described their role in the process like this, “they’re like referees, they won’t ever win the game or the prospect for you, but wrong them and they can definitely make sure you lose it.”
If they play such an important role in the recruiting process, why is it so challenging to develop positive relationships with them?
In my experience, there are three common reasons why college coaches struggle to effectively partner with club coaches, family advisors, and influencers in the recruiting process.
- They don’t fully understand this group’s perspective or the role they play in the process.
- They fail to shape their program’s story to address the club coaches’ view of recruiting.
- They aren’t willing to spend the time to build quality relationships, and often reach out ONLY to discuss a specific prospect or when they need something.
Our research, shared in this article on effective strategies to recruit the coaches of your prospects, finds that 65% of club coaches have a negative view about college coaches in the recruiting process. Many cite poor communication, a lack of respect for their knowledge, and the unrealistic expectations of college coaches as the primary complaints.
Additionally, many of them actually think they can do your job better than you can!!
Knowing this, you must understand this relationship will form differently than the one you are developing with prospects. While student-athletes consistently make decisions based on the quality of relationships developed with the coaching staff and players on the team, club coaches and influencers possess a strong bias toward how your program is perceived by the outside world. Factors and surface information such as win-loss records, colors, the conference you play in, and the national presentation of your brand strongly reinforce pre-formed opinions. In turn, as they steer prospects toward and away from your program, this group will place more emphasis on the “status of your program” than the “fit.”
Because of the transactional nature of club sports, they approach conversations about their players from a very different perspective. They are driven by two questions: Does your program give them value? What can they sell about your program to the next athlete looking to join their club?
Your job is to answer these questions, by identifying their objections and providing detailed counter-points to demonstrate what they should believe about your program. Recognize, this group actually does like “stuff” and forms opinions on the material aspects of your program – facilities, apparel, national media rankings, and what your campus looks like – so your approach should be intentional and different than your regular messaging.
One practical idea to stand out would be to send a monthly one-page newsletter by mail to 10 coaches and influencers – those who have longevity and directly influence your player pool – with three points: a) 2 Countering consistent objections you face. b) 1 Presenting a unique feature of your program, athletes, or campus. Make it visually appealing – use color photos, your logos, limit the text, and leave a lot of white space – for pop and a short personal note.
Finally, because you are working to change an already held perspective, it will take more time and effort to build a relationship with club coaches – sometimes years before you see the benefit. Spend it!! It’s worth it and your competitors won’t be willing to dedicate extra time to “recruit” the coaches.
I agree – club coaches, family advisors, and influencers have a lot to say to prospects about your school. They don’t view the recruiting process from the same perspective as you. And they probably don’t fully understand your story.
Instead of treating them like adversaries, welcome them into your team. Communicate with them as peers, working to help them understand the value of your program and the experience you create for student-athletes.
If you’re willing to acknowledge their importance, do what others are not to build relationships, and make an extra effort to share the story they need to hear, you take back control and define how your program is perceived. Better perception = better recruits and better teams.
Be Distinct. Be Different.
Paul Nemetz-Carlson is former coach and operations director, now serving college coach clients we work with at Tudor Collegiate Strategies throughout the New England region of the East coast. To contact Paul, email him at email@example.com.