by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Who doesn’t want to be at the front of the line! We all do!
There’s nothing worse than to be starving, waiting for a table to open up at your favorite restaurant while everyone in front of you gets seated. I know this to be true because I’m the guy who waits until the last minute to eat and is instantly feeling the hunger pangs (and subsequently really cranky!)
In conversations with coaches lately I’ve found myself talking about this or that strategy and how it will put them “at the front of the line” in terms of getting a commitment. So I thought it might be smart to just collect them all and build them into an article to share with those who follow Tudor Collegiate Strategies.
First, a disclaimer. I’m not presenting these in any specific order. Depending on your program’s circumstances any one might be more important than another but taken collectively, they could truly transform your recruiting success.
- Build Out Killer Campus Visits: We spend entire days talking with clients about campus visits so there’s obviously too much there to unpack here. But I want you to consider the campus visit you took as an athlete. Are you doing the SAME thing? If you are, then it’s likely everyone else is as well. So the smart money would go to the coach who takes a new approach and gives the prospect AND THEIR FAMILY what they want. A good place to start on this would be to dig into the TCS blog and search campus visit articles. And if you want to hear more contact TCS and we can talk about how we build campus visits into our strategy plan for client programs.
- It Takes a Village: There are a ton of unique stories within your athletic department. Your recruits want to hear them all. Those stories come from your trainers, your SID’s, your strength coach, your SAAC advisor. And if you can pull an athletic administrator into the conversation you REALLY move to the front of the line. Just ask him/her! On a visit be sure to introduce your recruit to as many of those people as possible and incorporate their stories into your messaging plan.
“Greg, I have this amazing recruit who could do incredible things for us. Would you be willing to talk with him/her and say hello to the parents? It would be terrific if they had the chance to talk to the athletic director.”
As a former AD I am absolutely going to make that call or have that meeting.
- Consistent Messaging: This is one of the pillars of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. If you can consistently (every 6-9 days) message your recruits via email, texting, letters, phone calls, etc. you will separate yourself from your competitors. And, within those messages, if you can tell a compelling story about how you are different from the other schools they are considering (what features you offer) and why those differences are important (benefits to choosing you) you will be at the front of the line throughout the recruiting process.
- Lead Your Recruit to You: If you are not intentionally leading your prospects through the recruiting process someone else is and they’re leading them away from your program. A great way to start that conversation is by establishing a timeline with the different benchmarks established along the way. Telling them what they should be doing, when they should be doing it, and why those steps are important is the definition of leading your prospects. And all that plays right into your consistent
- Engage Parents First: Are you confident enough as a coach to begin your recruiting of a prospect with the parents rather than the athlete themself? If you are, you have the opportunity to move to the front of the line. Many coaches are reluctant to embrace parents as key stakeholders in the recruiting process, worrying that doing so puts them in a vulnerable position should the recruit choose to play for them. Yet, the parents are the single most important influence on where their child chooses to go. If you start the relationship out by saying:
“Mr./Mrs. Jones, this is Greg Carroll from Tudor University. I was at the showcase last week in Syracuse and I was watching your daughter play and I was really impressed by the way she moved on the field, interacted with her teammates and the leadership she showed when they were down by a goal in the second half. I wanted you to be the first to know that we are going to begin formally recruiting her for our 2022 class and we want you to be a big part of the recruiting process.”
The bottom line is you can always define the parameters of your relationship with parents after they are on campus. But if you cannot secure their commitment you’ll never get that chance.
- What’s The Plan: A summary of most recruiting conversations goes from talking about your program, the team, where you play, your background, and maybe some of your competitive success stories. What’s missing is your telling your recruit AND his/her family three things:
- What you liked about them
- Why you’re interested now (how he/she fits in right now)
- Your personalized plan for their development
If you speak to these three points and build out that personalized plan for their development you will be at the front of the line. The plan should speak not only to how you plan to develop their athletic skills but service initiatives, academic success, leadership potential, etc. This demonstrates your insight into the recruit and also allows you to showcase your knowledge of your sport, your school, and your experience working with student athletes.
- Offer Something If You Can: A common mistake we all make is waiting until we’re certain we’re going to hear “YES” before we ask any question. No one likes hearing “NO”. Meanwhile, while we are waiting until we are certain we are going to hear a yes, some other coach has already offered the recruit a scholarship or a roster spot. Now, you’re at the back of the line. Our best advice is that as soon as you know YOU want the recruit, offer the scholarship or roster spot. The sooner you can offer the recruit something the more likely you will be to find yourself at the front of the line.
- Tell Less – Ask More: In the survey data we collect one of the most common things we hear from recruits is that coaches are so intent about talking about their team, program, their experiences , etc. that they fail to find out what is important to the recruit, what they’re looking for as well as what they are NOT looking for in the program they choose. That puts you at the back of the line. So, we encourage our client coaches to ask a ton of questions and pay attention to their answers. It’s almost worse to ask a question and ignore the response than not asking the question at all. One portrays indifference while the other demonstrates, well, something else! Be a great listener and work on those skills.
If you really want to be your recruit’s first choice and have all the other programs they are considering chasing you, these tactics are sure to put you in the lead. And remember, it’s not how you start the race, it’s where you finish!