I’ve been hearing this question a lot…most recently from an assistant soccer coach on the East coast.
“A lot of recruits expect that when they are invited to visit, that it’s automatically an “official visit”, said the coach. “Plus, some of the recruits just can’t afford the travel expenses.”
The coach added, “I have had a lot of recruits from the West coast contact me recently. I watch there video, invite them to visit, and then as soon as I address that it’s an unofficial visit, I typically do not hear back from them – and if I do they say, ‘I’ll try to figure out a way to come and visit’.”
Sound familiar, Coach?
Whether you’re a Division I powerhouse, or a small college just trying to build a decent program through recruiting, getting a high-value prospect to visit campus on their own dime is essential to long term recruiting success. And while there are no “universal” tricks that work with every single one of your recruits, there are several recommended strategies we’d want you to consider (and a few questions you might need to ask yourself as you make efforts to get recruits to visit campus:
- First and foremost, have you given them a reason to come to campus? Other than you being interested, and having a campus for them to come spend the day at, of course. Because with this generation of prospects, there had better be more of a reason. We’re finding that they need to understand their role in the program, why you want them, and more…essentially, they want to be able to justify why they should spend their time and money on your campus instead of one close, less expensive, or that’s offering to pay for travel expenses.
- Have you laid the groundwork for the visit? From the scenarios we’ve tracked involving clients who we are helping to deal with this situation, asking for a visit to soon in the process is something that isn’t recommended. It seems unnatural to the process: You saw them at a game or found them online, got in touch with them, and ask them to visit in that same first conversation. In any other life circumstance, that would probably be grounds for contacting the police. Be patient, let the recruiting relationship build over time, and then ask – usually, after solid phone conversations or lengthy text messaging is normal.
- Here are the reasons they’ll seriously consider visiting your campus at their expense: You’ve outlined a specific plan for them if they were to compete for your program, you’ve made it clear why you like them and what role they’ll play once they join your team, or you’ve laid out a promise that something significant will be happening or will be discussed while they are on campus. Are you building out a story for your recruit behind each one of those key reasons? If not, you should.
- Ask them, “What else would you need to see answered before you feel like it would be worth it to visit campus?” Ask it EXACTLY the way we’ve outlined. Why? Because 1) there is obviously something they need answered, and they aren’t going to tell you what it is until you ask, and 2) acknowledge that you realize they aren’t seeing the value in visiting campus, and you’re o.k. with that right now. Develop a list of what you need to talk about with your recruit as you patiently build-out your recruiting message plan for them.
- Be creative and don’t wait for them to come to campus. Bring your campus to them. Technology is cheap and plentiful. Are you using it? Here’s a great example of how a Division III coach uses his iPad to conduct long-distance campus visits. Click here.
- Set a fair deadline for taking this needed action. If the unofficial visit is the necessary next step for you, and you’re not going to feel comfortable without them taking that trip to campus, then you need to set a fair but firm deadline for coming to campus (assuming all of the above rules are being followed). If they still refuse, it’s time to move on. There will be some recruits that just can’t – or won’t – take that first step and keep the recruiting process moving forward by committing to an unofficial visit.
If you’re interested in our past articles on the topic of campus visits, click here.
This is a vital part of the recruiting process, but you have the primary responsibility as their potential future coach to guide them through the process logically, patiently and effectively. Hopefully, these ideas we’ve seen work will help you make that happen with your next long-distance recruit.