Coronavirus, College Recruiting and You
We’ve reached the point where Coronavirus is now staring college athletics straight in the face, unapologetically, and forcing us to change our approach midway through the game.
Whenever we’re forced to go off-script, away from our game plan, and down roads we’ve never traveled, we start to sweat a little. We’re all creatures of habit and routine, and we’ve all been jolted out of it abruptly. I got an email yesterday from my friends at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, notifying their members and presenters, like me, that this year’s convention has been canceled. That’s sad. I know fans, coaches and those who are your vendors and suppliers are scrambling to make sense of everything that’s going on. And whether you think we aren’t doing enough as a society, or you think the NCAA and the rest of the world is over-reacting, it is what it is.
All that being said, it’s going to end at some point. Hopefully soon. And you’ll be back to competing, practicing, hosting campus visits, and bugging your athletic directors for whatever you were bugging them before all of this started. In other words, it’s going to get back to normal.
So let’s get to work and do this thing.
Let’s collectively suck it up and get to work, and show recruits that you’re someone who can be trusted, someone who is reassuring them, and someone who is still planning on succeeding once life is back to normal.
Here are some ideas that our team is developing on how to do that…
Three basic strategies every coach should adopt
Maintain contact. The worst thing to do in a crisis is not communicate. We discussed this five years ago in a popular article that talks about crisis communication, and we’re in that situation now. Your recruits are on the outside looking in, and are wondering how all of this affects them. Don’t let them down over the coming weeks.
Make sure your recruiting process is communicated and maintained. There will be a lot of coaches who will be tempted to freeze in the face of a crisis. I don’t want you to be one of them. It’s vital to communicate that your recruiting timeline hasn’t changed, what you expect from them hasn’t changed, and that as much as possible is moving forward in a regular fashion.
Reassure them. As you recruiting them and continue to develop a relationship, reassure them that this will pass, and they’ll be able to compete as a college athlete. Nothing will change when it comes to that. I know this might not seem like a big deal to you, but put yourself in their shoes: This changes their plans and decision-making, too. As an authority figure at the next level they’re trying to get to, you have a big role to play in this time of their life. Don’t let that pass by.
What to do about campus recruiting visits
Probably the biggest impact we’re hearing about from our clients is the dilemma of campus recruiting visits that have already been scheduled, and those that are coming up.
You may already know that I’m not a fan of the idea of your prospects visiting your campus in the summer. It lacks all of the things that make the emotional connection to your program and - most importantly - your team.
But, sometimes it can’t be avoided. Similarly, your visits need to keep happening during this crisis…or at least a version of them.
If a visit is scheduled, keep the visit. Unless they are apprehensive about it, keep their plans in place. Obviously, a lot goes into this decision, especially when it comes to your individual school’s policy on visits. However, if it is simply coming down to a decision of keeping or canceling a visit, I would advise keeping it if your prospect’s family wants to keep it.
Scheduling future visits. This one is completely your call, Coach. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to approach it. Obviously, we’re all hoping campus closures are limited and short-lived, but if they continue for some reason, you will need to make plans to continue showcasing your campus in some way. But as of right now, we’re in uncharted territory that requires you to make educated call on what is right for you and your program.
An alternate idea that we’ve seen work in the past. You have the ability to stage remote ‘visits’ and campus tours with your smartphone and tablets. Walk around campus, show dorm rooms, tell them about your facilities…make it an abbreviated personal visit, but do it remotely. And as you’re walking around, have conversations with your prospect and make sure to ask questions…make it interactive. We’ve recommended this to clients for several years now when a personal visit to campus isn’t possible for some reason, and we see it working in this situation as well.
Make sure this is a precursor to another future visit. It’s imperative that you use a personal visit or video visit under these circumstances to set up a future visit under normal circumstances. Make this future appointment during the visit, if at all possible…even if it’s an agreement to come back during a certain time of the year, it will usually be good enough to see that future visit happen once your team is back on campus, and circumstances are normalized again.
You still have a job to do
We’ve talked with coaches who are already hearing from their athletic directors and admissions personnel on campus that this crisis is no excuse for not recruiting consistently, and bringing in their class as expected.
You owe it to yourself and your institution to maintain everything that we’ve been describing. Challenging? Unbelievably so.
But how many times have you employed your team to rise above their obstacles and get the job done? Well, Coach, now it’s time for you to do the same thing. You’ll lead by example, and use this as a story you’ll use as a teachable moment for a future team of yours. Who knows…you might even learn some techniques to become more efficient, more creative recruiters.
Embrace that opportunity, and show your fellow coaches on campus that you’re up for the job. Embrace this challenge, and beat it like a rented mule.
How we’ll be helping
We’re going to be releasing advice and suggested strategies as all of this unfolds, and as we hear about success stories among your fellow coaches.
If you’re a client, we are here for you 24/7/365. We can create personalized messaging out to your recruits about what your campus is doing through this crisis, stage video conference calls with you and your staff to discuss strategy, or anything else that’s needed. You know how to reach us.
If you’re a subscriber to this special training site, we’ll be publishing as many new tips and articles as possible. And, for those of you who aren’t choosing to subscribe at this time, we’ll be opening up many of these articles for public viewing during this crisis.
Additionally, we’ll be addressing this in our Tuesday newsletter that many of you receive, as well as on our College Recruiting Weekly podcast on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher. We’re also moving forward with plans to hold our 2020 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference as scheduled on July 14-16 as scheduled at this time.
Is this an exhaustive, one-size-fits-all list? Not in the least. As we’ve stated throughout, you have to use your own best judgement in coordination with your campus and leadership. However, these are foundational recommendations we feel good about in the face of a growing and uncertain crisis, and feel strongly that these steps will help you maintain a degree of normalcy in the near future.
If we can help with anything else, or answer questions about specific situations you may face moving forward, email me at email@example.com. We’re here to help however we can, Coach.
You’ve got this.