by Dan Tudor, Founder – Tudor Collegiate Strategies
My wife is an expert gardener.
Seriously, what she is able to produce in our yard, year after year, is stunning. Like, “cars drive by and take pictures” stunning. It’s her passion, and she’s spent years studying the right techniques, tricks and methodologies that’ll produce the best results. That’s a picture of a small part of one of her flower beds, just to give you an idea of what the fruits of her labor produce year in and year out.
One of the things that she does regularly is kind of counter-intuitive (to non-gardeners like me, anyway):
At the peak of their blooming season, after the flowers have bloomed for a while, she’ll cut them back. And in the fall, once winter approaches and the plants are going dormant, she’ll completely cut everything back. Barely anything is left…she prunes as much off of the plant as she can. Our yard in the winter is bare.
But there’s a reason for it: Trimming at the right time during the growing season, and pruning everything in the winter, causes more vibrant growth in the spring and summer. Most of us non-gardeners would be tempted to just let everything stay the same over the winter, but that can actually cause disease in many plants, and cause reduced growth in most. There are many, many benefits to cutting back gardens, as I’ve learned over the years.
The same principle is an incredibly important recruiting tactic, as well. Smart coaches and recruiters are always trying to reduce their list of prospects they know they aren’t converting so that new prospects will ‘grow’. The majority of coaches don’t take this approach, because like us non-gardeners, the idea of trimming the withering recruits off of your recruiting vine seems premature – “what if they change their mind? what if they decide they want to take a serious look at our program?…shouldn’t I give them the time they need?”
It’s tempting, I know. But when you do that, several negative consequences can end up hurting a coach’s recruiting year:
- Coaches who don’t cut back often see their list grow, and grow, and grow…to the point where they start to feel overwhelmed with the number of kids they’re talking to, and all the different points in the decision making process they’re at as the process unfolds.
- Coaches who don’t cut back can also have the opposite happen: They stick with their original list so long that they don’t take the opportunity to consider new recruits as they enter the process. The result is a lack of options at the end of the process, when many of those possibilities finally die-out and aren’t options for that recruiting class.
- Coaches who don’t cut back usually feel like the athlete is controlling the process, rather than them. And for many reasons we’ve outlined in the past, that seldom produces consistently good results.
None of those are good options for a coach who wants to wrap-up their recruiting sooner rather than later, and see the best possible prospects commit to their programs. So, I suggest coaches should ‘cut back’ on a regular basis. Here are some good ways to start:
- Determine a workable number of recruits by position, event group, or for a total roster. If you’re a basketball coach, and you need to get two forwards for the next class you’re recruiting, how many forwards should be on your list? Five?…ten?…seventy? The answer doesn’t matter to me, but you need to determine what that number should be because you don’t want too many to seriously recruit at one time. It’s not practical.
- Once that number is determined, nobody new gets on the list without someone leaving it first. This single piece of advice has saved coaching jobs over the last two decades, and added sanity back into the recruiting process for a lot of programs. If you have ten forwards you’re recruiting, and you have a new prospect you want to add to that top ten list, they can’t get added until you take someone else off. This takes discipline, but when you do it, something amazing happens: You are always only talking to and actively recruiting interested, top level recruits who you see moving through the recruiting process in a positive way. Cutting away prospects who aren’t keeping up with the others on your list, and making room for new interested prospects, produces a strong recruiting class year after year after year.
- Always be cutting. That doesn’t mean you act irrationally and don’t make occasional exceptions to this general approach, but you and your staff should be looking at who is at the bottom of your list (that’s right, you need to also be constantly ranking your prospect list). You’ll be amazed at what it does for your attitude, what you come across as to your recruits, and the energy it produces within your program.
Like a lush, healthy, constantly growing garden, cutting back your prospect list – and adding new opportunities to grow new recruits added in their place – is the key to making sure your recruiting results are what you need to build your program, and then reload it every year instead of just rebuilding it.
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