One of our clients called a couple of weeks ago, and she was worried.
A couple of her new recruits hadn’t responded to her first two emails and was wondering if we needed to highlight more of the things her Division I college had to offer their students and athletes.
“I’m worried if we don’t out-shine a couple of our other competitors soon, we won’t be able to get her on campus this Spring or in the early Fall”, she confided.
What I told her is what I want to tell you, because many of you lose the race you’re trying to win before it really even begins:
Recruiting isn’t a beauty pageant, it’s a horse race.
Here’s what I mean:
A beauty pageant is all about picking who looks the best, and who presents themselves the most convincingly to the judges. Now I’ll admit, there are some recruits who fall into this category…they’ll pick a program using the most basic criteria: How new your facility is, how big of a conference you play in, or strictly based upon something that they want for themselves.
The beauty pageant prospect is the toughest to land because they are making choices based on assumptions and stories that they’ve already defined for themselves: The decision that they “deserve” to play in the best facility…what your conference will say to their friends and teammates back home…or some other off-the-wall criteria that they usually don’t reveal until they’ve already made their decision.
In short, if you’re recruiting a prospect like you’re judging a beauty pageant – which many coaches choose to do – then you’ll going to experience a tough road when it comes to recruiting great athletes for your program: Your results will be random, and while you will experience some incredible highs when your prospect decides your program is the most “beautiful” in their eyes, there will also be far more soul-crushing defeats when they decide they don’t like the way you look.
If you’re interested in another way to approach recruiting, you should think about recruiting as a horse race.
Why a “horse race”? Because the more I observe recruiting at different levels, the coaches that take a horse racing approach usually have more consistent, more reliable results.
Here’s why successful recruiting resembles a horse race:
- Everyone starts evenly right out of the gate.
- There are always two or three horses that jump out into the lead right away, and take a position along the rail. If you’re one of those top three, great. If you aren’t, don’t panic. Find your spot and settle in for the race (remember, it just started a few seconds ago!)
- This is where things get interesting: Before they field makes the first turn, horses start dropping out. Usually that’s because those “horses” don’t hear back from their recruits right away. They haven’t filled-out their questionnaire, or returned the first email, and even seem to be pretty hard to reach by text message. Due to that lack of interest, they drop out of the race for that prospect. My recommendation to you is to not be one of those drop-outs!
- The longer you stay up with the leaders, the more you’ll be viewed as a serious consideration by your recruit. As you enter the halfway point in your recruiting efforts, stay consistent and understand that there’s still a long way to go in the mind of your recruit.
- What gets it done “down the stretch”? Outlining the differences between your program and the others still in the race. The more radical and unique the differences, the better your chances of jumping out into the lead.
- Want to make sure you win at the finish line? Stay connected and talk with your prospect regularly. It is extremely important, Coach. The worst thing we see a coach do is step back and leave the prospect alone to make their final decision. Guide them down the stretch…that’s what they want.
Beauty pageants are random, and produce subjective results that rarely make anyone but the winner happy.
Horse races are about preparation, strategy and strength down the stretch.
You can choose the strategy that you see fitting your program the best, but what I see working most consistently with programs around the country is a strategy based on a long term approach that doesn’t necessitate immediate interest from high profile prospects, but instead relies upon a consistent, compelling and creative message that forces them to take serious look at you and your program.
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