by Dan Christensen, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
One of the trends that we saw at the beginning of the pandemic was recruits making decisions faster.
There was a lot of uncertainty about what opportunities would be available. With extra years of eligibility being given to current college athletes, many high school prospects made quick decisions while they had the option to commit.
This article is being written almost exactly two years after Covid really started to affect college sports. But, the effect it has had on the speed of decisions is still prevalent.
One of the many problems this brings is coaches might not be confident committing to an athlete they haven’t seen too much or don’t know that well. But, if the coach doesn’t make the offer or try and get the commitment early, chances are the athlete may be gone in a few weeks or months.
So, how should you approach a prospect that might be ready before you? Here are two tips:
1) Make a point to get to know the parents really well
“But, Dan, we don’t even have time to get to know the athlete, that is the problem!”
I get it. But, the reality is, if you need to figure out if this athlete will fit your team culture quickly, the parents will be a great resource.
There are all kinds of benefits to building a strong relationship with the parents. One being that you’ll get a better understanding of who the athlete is.
16, 17, and 18 year old kids often have trouble expressing themselves to college coaches. They’re nervous, shy, and worried they’ll say the wrong thing.
If you can develop a relationship and some trust with mom or dad early on, they’ll be more likely to share with you about who their son or daughter is.
You understanding the dynamic between the parents and their child might also give you some great insight into what it will look like to have this kid on your team in the future.
Are mom and dad very controlling in the process? Are their priorities for their athlete in line with your priorities for your team? Figure this out.
So, connect with the parents early. Ask them about how their child handles different situations and ask for stories about the athlete. It will help you learn what you need to know.
2) Talk timelines early
When does your recruit plan on making their decision? That is incredibly important information, but many coaches don’t ask the question early on.
And don’t just assume their answer is going to be exact. In fact, I would assume that with whatever they say, they’ll probably decide several days or weeks earlier.
Now, when do you make final decisions as a coach and get most of your final commitments from prospects?
This is something you need to know and use as a guide for your prospects.
If you’re talking to a recruit that might not quite be at the top of your list, but they are ready to make a decision, be honest with them and let them know what your timeline looks like.
If you don’t share this info with them, they’ll feel left in the dark and will probably go to that other school that is ready to take them.
Let’s say you typically wrap up recruiting by Christmas time of that class’s senior year. Chances are you’ll have a better understanding of what roster availability will be around that time.
Share with the recruit, “we’re typically making roster decisions by mid to late December and so we will be able to give you a better evaluation at that point.”
Could you still lose that kid? Absolutely. If you can’t commit to them, you can’t expect them to wait around forever.
But, if they were going to be ready to decide around Thanksgiving but know they’ll hear from you a few weeks after, they might be willing to wait if they really like you.
The main thing to take away is to trust your gut coach. You do in practice and in competition, trust it in recruiting too. If you overanalyze and delay, you’ll be left behind in this faster paced recruiting world.
Want on-demand consulting for how to handle recruiting situations like this? Dan Christensen is one of the staff here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies helping college coaches work through their recruiting strategy. If you have questions about how Dan and the team at TCS can help, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.