Have you seen this creepy old pictures of Halloween costumes from the early 1900’s?
There’s something about them that sends a chill up your spine. I spent my Halloweens as a kid walking around Acacia Street in one of those sweaty plastic masks with the cheap rubber band that barely held it on my sweaty little head. Had I run into one of these characters walking around I would have high-tailed it home.
The interesting thing is, one of the things that make these get-ups so creepy is that they are so very simple: Flour bags pulled over your head with two holes for your eyes, and a slit for your mouth. Add a creepy hand-drawn face, and you’ve got a recipe for big-time scares.
Unbeknownst to many college coaches, there’s something else that might be frightening away your prospect. What’s more, it’s something simple that many coaches use as a selling point over and over again in their conversations with their prospects – especially the good ones.
I’m talking about the selling point many coaches lead with when they’re talking to their top recruits that goes a little something like this:
“If you come play for me, we’re going to build the program around you. You’re going to be a star here.” You might have said it a little different than that when you’ve told a prospect how much you’ll mean to your team in the past, but the general message is the same: We need you, you’ll be a star for us, and that’s why you should want to come and compete for us.
In many cases – not all cases, but many cases – the idea of having to star for your team on day one is pressure they don’t want. A slight majority of female athletes that we’ve conducted focus group sessions with say that having a program tell them that they are going to have the program built around them, or that they can come in and star for the team as a Freshman, is a big negative in their minds. Not all recruits, but many. Those that feel that way describe the imagined pressure on them if they were actually going to be relied upon to “carry” a program. Interestingly, four to six weeks after their first practices, female Freshmen college athletes tell us they are then ready to assume that role as savior to the program (once they scope out other existing team members, and figure out where they stand compared to their new teammates).
On the male side, the number of student-athletes who feel too pressured to respond to that selling point is much smaller than their female counterparts: Just slightly more than 2 out of 10 athletes we asked responded that they would not want to be put in that situation right away. However, with male athletes, another phenomenon takes place that is centered around the selling point of “come here and be a star on day one”:
They think you’re lying to them. More than 60% of the time, male prospects who hear a coach tell them that they’re going to be a star at their school say they are likely dismiss those comments as something that they wouldn’t take seriously…at the worst, they would assume the coach is outright lying to them in order to “trick” them into making a commitment to their school. “I think every coach lies a little bit to get their prospects to say yes to them, and it’s our job to make sure we take everything with a grain of salt,” said one college Freshman men’s basketball player we talked to.
The bottom line is that for both males and females going through the recruiting process, this time honored selling point is often frightening them into second-guessing their original interest in that program. The practice also risks creating a communication challenge moving forward in the recruiting process, especially on the male side, since they seem to be judging the honesty of the coach when they hear them talk about how much they’re going to mean to the program that is recruiting them.
So, what do you do if you’re a coach who honestly is looking at a good athlete, who could start as a Freshman and play early, and wants to communicate that to the recruit? There are two rules we see coaches needing to follow:
- You need to go into a LOT of detail with your prospect as to why you see them being able to meet that challenge and opportunity that you are promising them. Map out their first year step by step, in as much detail as possible as you talk to them.
- You need to assume that they’re going to receive your compliment with skepticism. If you do, it will probably mean you will change your approach and focus on proving to them that it will happen, and why you’re going to be the best coach to make that happen. Additionally, assume that they’ve already heard that approach from one of your competitors, and now hearing it from you makes them wonder if both of you are “just saying that” to try and trick you into competing for your respective programs.
Again, this is something that we see frightening a lot of recruits as they talk to programs that they would otherwise be a great fit for. It doesn’t happen with every recruit, and even when it does it doesn’t mean you can’t overcome that objection and still bring that recruit to your program, but if you can be aware of this feeling among many athletes and adjust your conversation to accommodate that line of thinking, you’ll be more successful as a college recruiter.