I’m in o.k. shape, but I’ve gone through periods where I think to myself, “I can be in even better shape if I just watch what I eat, or skip a meal, every day for the next two or three months.
Things go fine at first, but after a week or two, I tend to struggle with the same thing most other Americans struggle with: The benefits that ‘might’ come later on just can’t compare to that piece of chocolate cake staring me in the face. And plus, lets be honest, celery doesn’t taste that good. Not good enough to wait ten years for the benefits of that sacrifice, anyway.
So, how does all of this relate to recruiting today’s student-athlete?
You’re in the same battle. But some of you don’t realize it.
Here’s what I mean:
When your athlete, and their parents, buy-in to the idea of competing for you and your program because of how it’s making them feel now, not the way it’s going to benefit them years – or even decades – from now. That’s a vitally important concept that every college coach needs to consider, because how you choose to embrace that idea I just laid out is going to drive the way you message your prospects moving forward.
At the core of it all is this question I’d want you to answer:
“How does my messaging to prospects, and their parents, need to change?” Because if they are making the decision based on how it makes them feel now, it calls into question the type of recruiting stories you should and shouldn’t tell them. Most people will move up all the perceived benefits and costs of something life a college education, or roster spot on your team, in the future. Instead, we do our best to try to experience them now.
Here’s what I believe that should mean to you when it comes to the messaging adjustment that needs to be made:
Understand that the parents often find it hard to define exactly what they’re “buying”. Even if you offer up full athletic scholarships – and especially if you don’t – parents are a part of the decision making process. Because they don’t get to personally experience what their son or their daughter does in college as a student-athlete, they usually need more definition from you as to what’s in it for them as a mom and/or dad. Coaches that fail to do that are finding parents reverting to the school that is the least expensive, the best brand that will get them approval from their fellow parents, or the school that is the closest to home. It’s critical for coaches to break through the parents’ natural tendency to focus on what feels good now, and make the case for your program’s benefits long term. If coaches don’t, they risk letting parents go the way of many in our population who give up their diets on a daily basis, and fail to save enough money for our future.
Understand that your prospects focus on the feeling you give them now, not (unfortunately) all of the logical reasons choosing your program and your college is going to benefit them in the future. Let me take a time out there, because it’s at this point where I get objections from coaches who just mis-read what I said, thinking that I don’t want you to give recruits all of the smart, logical reasons they should choose your program and school. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m encouraging you to work on giving them the best feeling possible as you are recruiting them, and when they are on campus. That’s how they are making the bulk of their decision. I’m not suggesting to you that it’s the smartest way to pick a college, but that’s how most do it.
Here’s the take-away I want you to leave with here, Coach:
Your prospects are largely making a decision about their future based on how they perceive that future is going to make them feel now.
The question now becomes, “how does your recruiting message need to change to account for this subtle psychological shift in the minds of your prospect and his or her family?” Because what we’re good at is ‘now’. And that has an impact on the types of recruiting messaging that actually works with this generation of recruit.
That’s a really important question that you need to work on answering.