Staying the Course is the Key

Even in the midst of a pandemic, consistency is the key in successful recruiting

Most of my less than exemplary academic career involved me looking for shortcuts. I tried everything, short of sleeping with my textbook under my pillow in the hope that the information would magically seep into my brain.

Of course, there aren’t any shortcuts to earning a degree (which I did, with a solid B average, thank you very much). Lesson learned: You have to study, day after day after freaking day.

Just like you have to recruit through delivering a story - consistently, over a long period of time - day after day after freaking day.

One of our clients continues to see the fruits of this strategy, as she told me in a text message yesterday:

* The blacked-out section in the middle referred to a specific strategy we taught this client, so I didn’t want to put it out there for the world to see and lessen it’s effectiveness.

Consistency, along with talking about more than just the prospect’s sport, is the key. It’s the key to recruiting, just like it’s the key to you enjoying a meal at your favorite restaurant - or, not enjoying it.

This is from marketing guru Seth Godin’s blog today. As you read it, the ‘customer’ in his example is your recruit:

It’s 2018, a special night out. The restaurant shouldn’t have been as disappointing as it was. The room was beautiful, the staff was trying hard, the menu was ambitious–and yet it fell flat.

I realized that the problem is one that many of us face:

All shift long, there’s a lot to do. Another plate to fire, another customer to serve, another plate to clean. And yet this customer doesn’t care about all of that. For any given diner, this may very well be the only time he or she will ever eat here. For any given diner, this dish, this interaction–that’s the only chance you’re going to get.

It doesn’t matter to them that you have 100 tops to serve in the next hour. It doesn’t matter that the last week’s worth of customers all left happy. To this customer, there’s just this one time.

Over and over.

Just this one time.

Over and over.

That’s what the coach who texted us is doing. An incredible experience, producing incredible feelings, over and over. And, doing it at a school that doesn’t offer athletic scholarships and has a host of other unique and daunting hurdles associated with coaching and recruiting there.

It’s not easy, but consistency works. And, it’s what prospects today demand if we want them to say no to the easy, better known, or more successful programs, and yes to your program.

Over and over.

Just this one recruit.

Over and over.

Critical Recruiting Questions We're Answering for Coaches Right Now

With all the changes and hurdles and ongoing crisis, new questions arise in recruiting

What are the questions that coaches have been asking as Fall recruiting begins and the start of college is underway?

Most of them are centered around how to effectively navigate deadlines during the crisis, but other situations also arose as we asked coaches to

Here are answers to the most popular questions we’ve been getting asked:

“What’s the best way to fast-track a general deadline for a specific class? We had expected to wrap-up our 2022 class in the Spring (and told most of our recruits that) but with the Division I dead period now going through January 1, 2021 and possibly beyond, we want to reframe the message to the recruits that this Fall is now our revised deadline for making a decision.”

This is a great question, and one that gets asked consistently as the recruiting calendar keeps getting altered and updated.

The most important aspect of making sure changes in a deadline are communicated correctly to recruits is doing it soon, and not apologizing for the change. What’s going on now isn’t your fault, Coach. And to that end, you shouldn’t treat it like it’s unfair to the prospect. You’re managing events and building a program, those are your priorities.

In this case, let them know that because of the dead period being extended, your best recruits are now starting to accelerate their decision making process. You’re letting them know this because you want them in that group, and you want to know if they could see themselves making their decision sooner rather than later. Explain when the new date is that you feel you’ll be wrapping up recruiting, and move forward from there.

The more unapologetic you are about having to make a tough decision, the better. Don’t be unsympathetic to their stress and frustration, but don’t frame it as ‘your fault’.

* Here’s a good article on the topic that will add to these thoughts, written before the COVID-19 crisis started:

And, along the lines of the previous question, one that gets to the question of tone:

“How do we get firm with a deadline without sounding like a car salesman”

Along those lines, another coach asked…

How do you start talking to a recruit about committing?

By being matter-of-fact, explaining why the the deadline exists, and offering to talk through their decision and whether or not they see themselves being able to decide by the time you need them to. That’s the tone you want to strike. And, it begins to give them an idea about when they should be talking to you about committing.

The most important part of ‘not sounding like a car salesman’? Ideally, tell them when you see yourself wrapping-up your recruiting (your deadline) at the very start of the process. When you do that, you come across as honest, trustworthy, and transparent. When you wait until midway through or at the end of the process, you risk sounding like you’re making it up as you go.

But what about during a crisis? Should you be flexible with a recruiting deadline during something like COVID-19 and all the disruptions it’s causing? I can make a strong case for “no” as the answer:

What is an appropriate length of time to give a recruit post-official visit to decide whether or not they want to commit to my team?

If it’s within the decision window, and they have two, three, four months to decide (or some other timespan), then they technically have until that date to make a decision. But you should tell them you’d love to hear their decision before that time, and also let them know that other commitments could come in prior to them deciding that could give you a full roster, thereby ending the recruiting process.

Statistically, recruits tell us that after they visit a campus - from the moment they leave the campus or the coach drops them off at the airport - they know whether or not you’re still a serious consideration or not. In other words, they don’t spend a lot of time “thinking about it.” In another study, 7 out of 10 recruits told us they are ready to say “yes” to a coach that asks them for a commitment within 30 days after their visit…and 3 out of 10 of those recruits are that number say they’re ready and waiting within 7 days after visiting.

What’s the appropriate length of time? As soon as you feel you’re ready to hear their answer, Coach.

What is the best way to follow up after you make an offer to a recruit? Before a deadline you gave to accept? After a deadline passes? And what if after that deadline passes, and we still want them?

First, don’t stop recruiting them after you make the offer. Too many coaches make the mistake of saying to themselves, ‘Well, we’re done, I’ve told them everything I wanted to and now they have their offer.’ HUGE mistake - it creates a vacuum of contact, and slows the momentum you’ve built. Don’t assume they know everything they need to know about you. Keep recruiting them.

You can check in with them specifically regarding their decision once every two or three weeks if a lot of time is left before your final deadline, and once every 7-10 days otherwise.

If the deadline passes, and they don’t take your offer or can’t tell you ‘yes’, they aren’t coming, Coach. Sure, once out of every hundred instances, waiting pays off. But the other 99 instances are what destroys programs and hampers coaches’ ability to successfully control recruiting.

Are we allowed to instruct our freshmen to interact with our PSA’s? I thought that was illegal?

Rules vary by division level and even individual campuses, but in general, you aren’t allowed to compel or force your student-athletes to say specific things, but you are allowed to instruct them to be involved in the recruiting process. Coaches do this all the time when they instruct their freshmen and other team members to host recruits on a visit.

Beyond that, coaches can ask for volunteers to communicate with prospects, and encourage them to be in touch, but that’s about it. This can be a gray area in recruiting given the different rules that coaches from different division levels have to play under, to be honest…I advise coaches to work with their team to come up with a comprehensive, team-oriented approach towards interaction with prospects.

Another coach chimed-in with the same thought:

The one issue for us is the fact that we can’t have current players interact with recruits via text and video calls when it’s directed by the coach. So how would you suggest we go about that?

“As directed by the coach” is the key here, of course.

Simple solution: Don’t direct them. Meet with your team now, select some leaders to take charge of the contacting project you want them to manage, and let them run with it. We train coaches to tell their team - ideally freshmen and sophomores - that this is their chance to help choose their future teammates. Most of your student-athletes want to be involved in that effort, and will do a great job of keeping in touch with your prospects.

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