by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Just when you thought your recruiting work was done… You get that email from the all-state kid you were dying to talk to…
“Hey Coach. Look, I know you were trying to recruit me six months ago and I never got back to you but I’d really like to talk with you about playing at your school. I’m really interested and it’d be great to come for a visit. I’m sorry I didn’t respond before and I’d love the chance to explain. Could we still set something up?”
I have good news and more good news for you. First, you still have a shot at landing that athlete! At this late date, they wouldn’t be reaching out if they weren’t genuinely interested. The second piece of good news is that your recruiting is done and you can choose to walk away. Doing so sends a very strong message about your program and the confidence you have in your incoming class.
If you choose to engage you have to have a plan. You have to concentrate on “what’s important now”. You have to recognize and accept the fact that you are not going to have the time to cover the ground you did with your other recruits AND you may not get to know this prospect as deeply as the rest of your class. An automatic RED FLAG should be why he or she is reaching out now. Were other coaches turned off by something? What does this late start indicate about the athlete’s personal responsibility and will they be up to the challenge of college academics AND college athletics. And, if you told the rest of your recruits they were on a deadline and now you go down this road, does that undercut your credibility with them as well as their club or high school coaches and their parents? All of these are legitimate concerns.
So, the first thing I suggest you do is ask them “how come?” How come you are just getting this process started? And, don’t let them off the hook. Be sure you get a good response. To get that response you’ll probably have to ask a follow up question like, “Could you explain that to me?” or “I want to hear more. I’m not sure I understand.” The prospect’s answer to THAT could be the road map for how you proceed (or not proceed) to recruit them. Were they not planning to go to college? If so, what changed their mind? Knowing that puts you in the position to tell a very specific story. Were they concerned about cost? If you know that you need to have a hard conversation at the point of contact about their ability to cover the necessary expenses. Their recruitment might be over before it even starts.
Another way to move forward is to ask the prospect the three most important things they’re looking for in the school they choose. With limited time to tell your program’s story you have to establish how you meet their desires very quickly. Not only do you have to address the recruit’s needs, you have to understand what the parents are looking for. They may be entirely different and you might get three different responses. Now you may have as many as six different themes to address in a limited time. The key is identifying what THEY need to know rather than what you want to share.
In addition to finding out the why they got such a late start and what they’re looking for, you also have the timeline to consider. How much time do you give them to decide. If you had your incoming class already in the bag and chose to engage, this point may be moot. If you liked this late recruit enough to pursue and your class is already set, this is just a bonus so the timeline is irrelevant. If however, you want to assert control over the process (which I would recommend) ask what their timeline is and negotiate a date that is also in your best interests.
Last point … If this prospect is a transfer you still need to know the why. Why are they transferring. If they’re coming from a JUCO why did they decide to take that as their initial path? For the same reasons noted above, answers to those questions will guide the story you tell them about how your school is different and why choose you would be a great choice. What we have heard from transfer recruits also is that for them the most important variable is your plan for them and how you plan to get them on the field or court. They’ve already had the recruiting honeymoon and now they find themselves ready to transfer. Their priority is understanding what you have planned for them and their role on your team.
Have questions about this topic? Greg Carroll would love to help you out. You can email him questions at email@example.com.