by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Before I spent the last 18 years of my career as a DIII athletic director I spent 12 years as a high school athletic director. What made me think I wanted to work at the collegiate level?
One word – Parents!
It was hard enough being a one man show (transportation manager, purchasing agent, sports information director, event manager, etc.) The challenge of keeping the parents at bay on top of everything else was more than challenging.
But we have parental involvement at the college level as well. And if you have a tendency to push them away and focus solely on the recruit you’re going to be missing out on recruits who can contribute to your program in big ways. We have done the research and written a ton of articles about it. We know it to be true.
So what are the parents of your recruits looking for from you? Here’s a short list that we have collected:
- Probably more important than anything, they need to be able to answer the question why they chose you. In all those places where parents chat (the booster club meeting, the local diner, the Friday night football game, etc.) they need to explain to their community of acquaintances what it was about your school that won them over. The best person to provide them the answers to that question is you because you control that story which goes a long way toward establishing/reinforcing your brand. The best way to do that is with consistent story telling about your return on investment, the academic rigor of your school and the support students receive, opportunities for internships, travel they’ll do as part of your program, and on, and on.
- They are looking for a coach they can trust. As a parent who has sent two kids off to college I tell you this is true! Mom and Dad have been overseeing virtually every aspect of their child’s life up to the time they go off to college. They need to know they can go to sleep at night confident their coach is looking out for the child’s well being. The best way to establish their trust is to engage in consistent and honest discussions. Be straight with them because if you aren’t it will come back to haunt you the second something goes off the rails related to the point you were shielding them from.
- Once you’ve established their trust and they’re leaning toward your program you need to help them have logical answers to any objection their child might have. If their son/daughter objects to the age of your facility you need to help them answer that objection as well as any others they might have about winning history, location, campus size, etc. In your conversations with the parents ask what concerns they think their child has about you and answer them factually and logically.“I know we’re a little remote but honestly, our players really do a ton of stuff as a team so they don’t even notice that there’s not a mall in town. And the players are always going to different places together to go out to dinner, shopping. And when we travel we make sure we spend time at places where we can build in some shopping time so they can pick up things they need back at school. Here’s what a typical week looks like so you see – there’s not a lot of down time.”
- Your parents have been taking their child to early morning practices, late night trips home after game, nights in hotels with the travel team etc. forever. They want to be involved. They want to know that they’re still relevant in the athletic lives of their child. Let them know they are still important and how great a community of parents they’re joining. Connect them with the parents of a current freshman so they can have the same orientation you want the recruit to have with your players.
- The parents of your recruits want to know YOU. The coach who gets the recruit is the coach who is the most human. The coach who makes them feel the most comfortable wins. They want to meet your family and see you as the person you are WHEN YOU’RE NOT COACHING.
- Never underestimate the power of a hat, hoodie, or jacket. Your parents want it all. They want to wear it to that Friday night football game, the diner, etc. As soon as you get a commitment, get the parents access to your team store. It’s an investment that will help secure that commitment.
- We talk about the importance of having a personalized individual plan for your recruits development. Your parents want to know what that is as well. When you present that plan to their child, have a copy for the parents also.
- Parents will be spending a lot of money for their child to attend college. They absolutely need to know their return on investment. What will be waiting for their son or daughter when they graduate? Can you speak to starting salaries, job placement, advanced degree opportunities, etc.? Your parents want that information. Opportunities for career networking fall into the same category.
All these things are part of your explaining to the parents of your recruit how you are different and why those differences are important to the experiences your recruits will have while they are in school as well as the opportunities waiting for them when they graduate.
If you’re reading this and cringing out of concern that you’re empowering the parents even before they land on your campus, know that you can always define the parameters of their involvement when they arrive. But if you don’t establish a relationship during the recruiting process you will miss that opportunity.
If you need help creating a plan for communicating with your prospect’s parents, we can help with that at Tudor Collegiate Strategies. Our team of experts can guide you each step of the way, creating effective messaging strategies for you and your coaching staff…just like we do for hundreds of other staffs around the country. For more information, email Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.