by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Assurance they’re making the right decision!!!
One of the first slides we show when we go to a campus to do a workshop for an athletic department is the picture of a squirrel.
Why a squirrel? Because a squirrel’s behavior is really similar to the way we find your recruits making decisions. Earlier today I was driving home from the store and there one was, right in the middle of the road. I slowed while the squirrel went left, then right, then he stopped. And finally he scampered off the road and into the trees.
Like that squirrel, your recruits are indecisive and they have trouble making decisions. They’re fearful and don’t trust their instincts. Does that sound like some of the prospects you are currently recruiting?
Fueling those feelings are anxiety and levels of stress we have never seen before in those heading off to college as well as those already attending. Last summer (July, 2020) Tudor Collegiate Strategies did a study on how the Coronavirus was impacting how recruits were making decisions. The audience was prospective frosh (now in the freshman year) as well as those already enrolled. Sixty percent of those from a survey pool of 2,432 respondents said they would be beginning the current college year with some level of stress and anxiety fueled by Covid.
What do they worry about? It’s a long list. Here are the most obvious ones:
*Cost of attendance and having to pay back student loans
*Will the education they’re paying for actually lead to a job and career
*Will they make the team and if they make the team will the enjoy the experience
*Will they make friends or will they be homesick
*Can they balance the demands of more demanding academics and athletics
*Am I making the right decision about where to go to school
A lot of coaches lose sight of all these concerns during recruiting because they want the recruit so badly they focus all their attention on selling their school and program rather than offering guidance and assurance that they will make friends, have support for balancing the demands of their team with class obligations, and securing a great job upon graduation that will lead to a terrific career. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you do that by telling them the consistent story about your team, your former players, and your school.
The recipe for success here isn’t complicated. It’s actually very simple but it does take a commitment to asking the questions that tell you what fears your recruits have about choosing your school. And if they tell you they are totally cool and have no worries – they’re not being straight with you. We all have concerns about life decisions! Those concerns may be big or small but they are there and the coach who gets the recruit is the one who discovers what they are and speaks to them openly and honestly by telling the story of his or her program.
Here are a few questions to think about asking and why they’re important:
- Consider asking your recruits about how they feel about different attributes of your school, whether it’s the distance from home, the academic rigor, size, urban vs. rural, etc. And then ask them follow-up questions about their answer. Questions like “Why do you feel you might not be able to balance your team commitment and your academic obligations” or “Why do you feel being closer/further from home is a good thing?” Knowing their thoughts on these points allows you to offer reassurances about your school or program.
- Personalize your conversation with your recruits by sharing your own fears. Maybe it was the fear you had when you accepted a new coaching position or a fear you had when you were making your decision where to go to school and you can talk about how a person guided you and offered reassurances. And then ask them “What things worry you about the recruiting process or choosing a school?” That opens the door for you to tell them how you will be there to be sure they make the right decision whether it’s your school or not (critical piece if you want to establish trust.)
- Tell your recruits the process you followed when you have made some big life decisions and ask them about their process. This will inform you about who they go to (parents, coach, pastor, friends, etc.) so you know who the other stakeholders are but it will also give you the opportunity to weigh in and offer suggestions that will keep you in the game and maybe move you to the front of the line. Encourage them to be patient which will allow you to tell them over a long period of time how you are different from the other programs they’re considering and what it is about those differences that makes them important.
Last point … Remember that even though they may have made a commitment to you that doesn’t mean they do not still have fear about having made the wrong choice. Most of us have, at one point or another, bought something or done something, had second thoughts, and then scrambled trying to undo whatever it was that we did. After you secure their commitment, assure your recruits that they made the right decision.
“Greg, based upon everything I know about you and all the things we’ve talked about over the entire time we’ve been getting to know each other, you’re making the right decision.”
And if you have followed the recommendations of Tudor Collegiate Strategies about the benefits of a consistent, engaged, prolonged conversation with your recruits AND their parents you will be able to make that statement with confidence and honesty.
Greg Carroll is a retired athletic director who now services coaches around the country as a Tudor Collegiate Strategies Recruiting Coordinator, consulting with them to help them develop their strategy for communicating with recruits. To contact Greg, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.