Even something simple like finding clothes that fit just right can be a challenge, much less finding the “perfect” college to spend four years at as a student-athlete.
To rise to the level of “perfection”, several things usually need to happen:
We need to figure out if it’s even a possibility that it might be “perfect”, we need to take time to make sure all of our questions and fears have been answered, and then we have to be ready to own the “perfection” after we decide that it is, indeed, a perfect fit for us.
But to read some messaging from colleges and coaches, you’d believe that declaring a university was a “perfect fit” for a given student-athlete would be the secret to untold success. The number initial messages that declare that, from both coaches and the admissions departments at the colleges where they work, are actually hurting their chances of initiating a serious conversation with those prospects.
It’s too big of a jump. It doesn’t make sense. By making that claim, a coach or college communicates that they aren’t interested in making their case to their prospects; instead, they are demanding those same prospects rush to the decision that they want them to come to as soon as humanly possible.
And the prospects see right through it, according to our research. That shouldn’t be a surprise:
- They need to figure out, on their own, the merits of a particular college or athletic program.
- They need to take their time in determining whether all of their questions and fears have been answered adequately, Rushing that process only makes a coach or college look insincere, or at the best, clueless.
- Because of those first two factors, they are unlikely to be ready to “own” that perfection. In short, they haven’t decided that it is indeed a perfect fit.
Hopefully that makes sense. In case it does, here are three out of the seven strategies that we typically will use with our college coach clients when we want to denote a connection with a new prospect, without trying to make the case that a particular program is “the perfect fit”:
Tell them one specific thing you want them to know about you. That’s one of the most effective ways to get them curious about what you and your program are all about without trying to make the ridiculous case that you are “the perfect fit”. Detail one special thing about your program or campus, let them know that you can’t wait for them to see it for themselves soon, and then ask them if they feel like it’s something that would be a factor in them choosing a college.
Give them some reasons you might NOT be a good fit. These don’t have to be actual negatives about your program or campus…I’m not suggesting that you throw your program under it’s own bus for not winning too many games during the last two seasons, or point out that prospects would hate your on-campus housing because the rooms are run down. I’m talking about personality traits (“lazy kids who don’t want to work towards a championship aren’t going to be a good fit here”), the size of your campus (“if you’re looking for a campus where people don’t know your name, and it’s not personalized, then this place won’t be a good fit”) or what your team is like (“we’re looking for prospects who want to join a group of guys that love hanging out together off the court as best friends”).
Ask them to give you their top two or three factors in choosing the right program, coach and college. If they reply and are honest and open with you, they’ll give you a beginning roadmap to winning their attention, and they’ll be more likely to listen to the case that you make.
Describing your campus as “the perfect fit” is just one of the verbal miscues we see well-intentioned college coaches making on a regular basis. The fixes are actually pretty easy, and the results can be significant.
The lesson I want you to remember: Be careful choosing the terms you use to describe where you coach!
To contact Dan Tudor with questions about this article or how Tudor Collegiate Strategies is working with college coaches to increase their recruiting results, email him at email@example.com.