by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
We all have that person we go to when we are contemplating a big decision. Your recruits do the same thing. They will seek out individuals they trust and whose acceptance is important to them and ask for input about what they think about your school, your program, and you as a coach.
Obviously, in most cases your recruits will be relying on their parents. That’s why we speak so passionately about the importance of engaging with your recruit’s parents right from the very beginning of the recruiting process. When nine out of ten recruits tell us their parents will be impacting their decision it’s foolish to distance them from you and your program.
That said, as an athletic director I frequently saw situations where there were additional decision influencers who were driving your recruits’ decision. One of the things I always tried to do as an AD was spend time with the recruit and their “travel party” while they were on campus. There were several reasons I felt this was important. One reason was because it was another way to put my school at the front of the recruit’s line by doing something, offering something they weren’t going to get at “the other school.” During those visits I entertained grandparents, older siblings, pastors, girl friends, aunts and uncles, coaches … The list is endless.
Realizing that, one of the most important questions you NEED to ask your recruits is who they will be looking to for advice on the decision about where to go to college. Doing so accomplishes a couple very important things. First, it is another opportunity to put yourself at the front of their line (I know I’m sounding like a broken record but you need to be first in line) by asking that question. It demonstrates your appreciation for the other people who are important to your recruit and doing so will earn their respect. Second, when the other programs your recruit is considering fail to identify those key stakeholders they are creating an enormous window of opportunity for you to build relationships with those individuals by consistently telling the compelling story about how you are different from those other schools and what it is about those differences that are so important.
You’re probably thinking that all makes sense but how do I foster relationships with those individuals after I have identified them. It’s simple communication. When we’re working with a Total Recruiting Solution client we provide them with content each month to message the parents of the recruit as well as the club or high school coach. In those messages we summarize what we’re talking to the recruit about during that month but also ask them what they think is important. If we are talking about the location of the school during a particular month we ask those stakeholders how they feel about the recruit being so far/so close to home, or how they feel about your campus being rural or urban, etc. You need to know that information so you can frame your “story” to your advantage when talking with those individuals over Zoom, on the phone, and most importantly when they visit campus. You can involve those other stakeholders in the same way you would involve the parent. Share the campus visit itinerary with those individuals and invite them to Zoom with you and your recruit.
Many coaches are reluctant to involve these additional stakeholders worrying that the high school coach is going to want to have input, or the grandmother is going to be calling you every week about everything from playing time to why the dining hall serves meatloaf every week! The fact is that you can define your parameters for talking points once they are on campus. But if you fail to engage those key stakeholders early in the recruiting process you won’t get that chance. Your top prospect will be on the other team’s bench when you play them next year.
Greg Carroll is a former athletic director who now serves college coaches through his work as a Recruiting Coordinator here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies. If you have questions for Greg about how to effectively identify and recruit your prospect’s influencers, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.