We are all busy people. Coaches perhaps even more so. We are pulled in so many directions when leading a program. Staff management, office operations, practice planning, game preparation, media responsibilities, academics, logistics, strength and conditioning, and training staff are all dealt with on an hourly continuum. Outside influences that directly affect your modus operandi that require your attention such as boosters, board of directors, athletic directors, general managers, and presidents need cultivating. And through it all, recruiting is your lifeline.
There are so many potential student/athletes to be evaluated and contacted. The use of today’s social media can be overwhelming to coaches that have been at this for several decades and the reliance on your younger staff to properly portray your objectives within that medium is paramount. It is important to spend your energies where it will be most productive for the initial qualifying. Once prospects are identified, the next question is, are they a match for your institution and program? Will they be good for you and will you be a fit for them?
It is vital that your staff has a complete understanding of what your institution’s prominent selling points are and what your program has to offer, as well as understanding what the prospect provides your campus community.
Every school has a plethora of qualities, attributes, and characteristics that combined with your athletic program will be attractive to the recruited athlete. A complete understanding of each recruiter by taking campus tours through the admissions office and gathered information from each department head so that they may comfortably address the prospects needs and interests of what you have to offer.
We developed a series of letters coming from the Head Coach, Coordinators, Positional Coaches, Strength Coach, Training Staff, and Athletic Director to supplement the normal materials provided by the Admissions Office. Some prospects with specific academic interests where sent letters from the appropriate Department Head. In every letter we supplied a puzzle piece. With each received letter the puzzle came together. When complete, a picture of the National Championship Trophy was in the recruits hand with the name of our institution underneath it. This portrayed our goal and kept us in the prospects mind when other programs propaganda arrived. In this world of electronic media which is vital to maintaining instant access within NCAA/NAIA regulations, a good old-fashioned letter demonstrating the attention to detail the program has to offer is appreciated by not only the student/athlete but also influences the key advisors to the prospect.
In the first letter from the Head Coach, we sent a “check-list” of the aspects we felt are important to evaluating the school and the program. This is the most important decision these young people have had to make in their lives. This decision will be identified with them forever. You are in the midst of extending yourself to the parents or guardians as the one that will take their most valuable commodity, their son or daughter, the single most precious aspect of their life, and prepare their child for a chosen career path and development of self-assurance to enter an independent life. That is far more pressure than trying to win a game.
The check-list had a rating of 1-5. 1 being “excellent”, 2 “above average”, 3 “average”, 4 “below average”, and 5 “poor”. We then provided boxes for five official visits so that the prospect could “rate” the qualities we determined as specific characteristic strengths of the school and program.
We started with ACADEMICS listing these categories; quality of prospective major, other academic choices, quality of academic facilities, research opportunities in the area, athletic tutorial program, and graduation rate. Next where ATHLETICS with these specifics; head coach, position coach, chance to play early, record, style of offense or defense, off-season program, conference advantages, weight room, locker room, training room, dining hall, stadium, equipment (including uniform, shoes, number availability). We then went on to SOCIAL LIFE; location, campus style, dorms, personality of team mates, and church of my faith. Lastly we addressed JOB OPPORTUNITIES; job opportunities in the area, athletic alumni in credible jobs, and job placement service. The idea is that with each visit to an opponent’s campus, the prospect returns to look on our evaluation sheet putting us back into the prospect’s thought process.
When you lose a prospect it’s often easy to blame factors out of your control. Sometimes that is the case but most often it’s a case of not selling smart. We went to a seminar that outlined these reasons why coaches miss on a prospect and they’ve held true over the years even to the point that it has a direct correlation to the free agent process at the professional level when salary is not the only deciding factor. All these missing elements negatively affect your recruiting efforts;
- The prospect may athletically match the coach’s needs but the prospect doesn’t fit with the academic or social needs of the school.
- The coach doesn’t adequately understand the needs and interests of the prospect and doesn’t relate sufficiently how the coach’s program and school match those needs and interests.
- The coach doesn’t really know who is making the decision and upon what criteria.
- The coach fails to effectively diminish negative points and emphasize positive points.
- The coach doesn’t communicate effectively, ie; listening, explaining, persuading.
- The coach doesn’t develop an individualized strategy that takes into account the prospect, the various influence factors, and the competition.
- The coach fails to adjust the strategy as events and information dictate.
- The coach relies solely on his or her “personality” to win a prospect.
You have to develop a well thought out recruiting strategy that allows you to take a course of action with the student/athlete that will assist your chances of getting a commitment. You must use your time and resources wisely avoiding missteps providing the impression that you are organized and competent and respect their needs. By outlining your plan, you can inform and engage others preparing them to assist you in the process.
When developing your strategy state your objectives involving the key people and define the role they play in the decision. Identify “influencers” who can ethically sell your program and identify what hurdles might exist. Have a keen understanding of the decision criteria of the prospect and what is their decision making process and timeline while knowing exactly who is your competition.
The detail of your strategy is important in understanding the above mentioned factors. Knowledge is power and you must learn this information from the prospect and their inner circle. Ask yourself these three questions when putting together your strategy; 1. What recruiting contacts will you make in what sequence? 2. What are the aims of each contact? 3. What resources or alternate paths are required to support your plan?
Recruiting is the single most difficult aspect of your job and the most important. If a student/athlete is worth going after then spend the time to connect all the aspects in the process cognizant of all your resources. Believe you, your program, and your institution are the best choice and go get some commitments!