“Dang, this is really their face mask?” said an admiring Wisconsin center Peter Konz this past weekend, as his team was preparing to face the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl played yesterday.
“I’m going to have like metallic stains on my jersey. Wow. That’s pretty cool, though.”
Yes, the Oregon Ducks have broken new ground with their metallic, reflective football helmets. And as you can see, even their opponents were awed by the next evolution in equipment creativity, courtesy of the Ducks.
But it’s not just their opponents. It’s virtually everyone. I follow lots of college coaches on Twitter, and it seems everyone was talking about the Oregon helmets. Coaches, fans, recruits, the media…everyone.
Which would seem to make the case for a coach who contends that “the stuff” – facilities, uniforms, locker rooms, strength and conditioning centers – is what a recruit bases their school choice decision upon, right?
This is where I find most coaches failing to connect the dots. Many programs in many different sports at the college level introduce new logos, new uniforms and new facilities every year. Few get the kind of press that Oregon’s seemingly bi-monthly football uniform adaptations get.
Why is that?
In my opinion, and based on our ongoing research with recruits and how they make their final decisions, it’s more about the fact that the constant uniform evolution at Oregon has become the main story, making the individual styles almost secondary. A mirror-like, reflective metallic helmet? “That’s Oregon”, said one Wisconsin player this week. The fact that Oregon does it with regularity? That’s the main story here.
Here are a few thing all this means for you, no matter what sport or division level you coach:
- The story matters. And as Oregon football has proven over the past few years, telling it with regularity pays big dividends. As you start the new year, what is the big story you’re telling your recruits?
- Telling it regularly is important. Oregon has taken uniform changes to a new level with the frequency of their new combinations. Think about it…the frequency is what makes it unusual and unique. The fact that football players at Oregon get to expect a new uniform combination on a week by week basis is the story. As you start the new year, how can you take something good and make it great by talking about it more?
- Embrace who you are. Don’t “invent” your story. Wisconsin changed their uniforms for the game, too. Compared to what Oregon did, it didn’t make as much news. But they branched out by working with Adidas on its Rose Bowl uniform, which incorporates figures of the rose petal into its red numbers and lettering. “Subtle, but classic to what Wisconsin is,” said the uniform designer. “We’re not as wild as Oregon, but it’s different. It’s nice.” The Badger players are proud to wear traditional uniforms and helmets. “These uniforms have been worn for many years by many great players,” he says. “We try to embrace what we have here. Not many other schools can stick to what they’re doing. That’s what makes us: We stick to what we’re doing.” As you start your new year, what can you do emphasize your traditions and your history…and the fact that you aren’t changing anytime soon?
- Be on the edge. Reflective helmets? That’s edgy. But then again, that’s Oregon. The Wisconsin football team did it their own way, emphasizing stability and their long tradition. Whatever route you choose, go all the way. Be extraordinary. That’s another thing that gets a lot of attention for the Ducks: They raise the bar for being creative and breaking new ground. As you start your new year, make a promise to yourself that you’ll do everything at 100% when it comes to telling your story to your recruits, your team and your fans.
- Always look for new ways to tell your story. Make this the year you not only use social media to tell your story, but really understand what your athletes want as you communicate with them. Letters and emails? Look for new ways to tell your story and build your foundation with your recruits.
Yes, the helmets were cool. But the story about the helmets is what we’ve all bought. We expect it now from Oregon. That’s the story that they’ve created, and most of us listen to it.
And that’s why we all pay attention to Oregon’s new helmets.
The premier recruiting conference in the country will give you and your staff new, creative ideas on how to tell your recruiting story more effectively. Clients attend for free, but the conference is open to any college coach or athletic director. For all the information on attending the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference, click here!