Do Events Dictate a Recruiting Timeline, or Does a Recruiting Timeline Dictate Events?

This coach asks a great question

Honey Badger Recruiting is a community, and when someone in the community asks a great question, we share the answer (while protecting the identity of coaches who ask those questions).

After all of our recent posts we’ve done about setting timelines and deadlines, smart coaches ( we’ve run the numbers and that’s like 99.8% of all Honey Badger Recruiting subscribers, by the way) start thinking strategically, and it begins to bring up great next-level questions like this one from a Division I head volleyball coach who we work with as a client:


I love this series, thank you for doing it. The question I have is, what is the best way to go about establishing what a reasonable timeline or deadline is. I can think of the obvious – ‘what is a reasonable time that will allow us to go through a checklist for our recruiting process’:

  1. Get them and their parents on the phone

  2. Get them on campus (official or unofficial)

  3. Possibly get them to a match or two

After that…what things are you looking to check off in establishing the timeline? I like your advice of getting the timeline established early in the process, but sometimes early means there is a lot to figure out (when CAN we get them on campus, when can we see them next, etc.)

I have recently given a kid a timeline that as we plan things out is quickly becoming apparent that it is too short (I originally said ‘end of November/Early December’), but with her current high school season schedule and other commitments she is unable to take her official visit in that time frame, when I thought she could, so a key piece seems to be missing to the process…

Do I back down and shift the deadline? What could I have done better to have established a clearer and fairer deadline in the first place?

It’s one of those chicken or the egg questions:

Do events dictate a recruiting timeline, or does a recruiting timeline dictate events?

That’s really what this coach is trying to figure out, and I completely get it: One allows you, as the coach, to establish events within the timeline that you want to see the prospect go through, whereas an established order or list of events that typically comprise a recruiting timeline for a program (as this coach outlined) could mean a more fluid end to the process - meaning less control of the process by a coach.

Here’s my advice to this coach, and any other coach who is developing their timeline with this next class or recruits:

  • Don’t bend your timeline to their list of events. Heck, don’t bend it to your list of events. The truth is, recruits don’t always need to go through the traditional schedule of recruiting formalities - 1. get them on campus, 2. bring them to a match, 3. do a home visit, etc. And the truth is, just because a recruit says they ‘need more time’ doesn’t mean the can’t make a decision. You have to make a philosophical decision, Coach: Either you’re going to be in charge of your process, or let the prospects take charge. Because you can’t both be in charge.

  • “What things are you looking to check off in establishing the timeline?” Awesome question! My previous point partially answers it, but let me zero-in on the root of this question: Are there specific things that need to happen that affect when we say the timeline ends, and it’s time for a prospect to make a decision? Yes, probably. For example, if I’m recruiting a volleyball prospect and I know there’s a really tough stretch where it’ll be impossible for them to complete their decision, I won’t set that as the end of the timeline. Be firm, but be reasonable: When do you see most good recruits committing to the teams you’re trying to beat? Match up with their general timeline, but then set your timeline for 30-60 days before them. That’s a strategic, analytical approach to this part of the process. In other words, there aren’t specific things I’d be looking to check off in establishing a timeline. Be fair, and let the timeline dictate to the recruit how long they have to accomplish their to-do list within that timeframe.

  • It all works best when you establish the timeline early. The example that this coach gave, where he has set a deadline for the recruit that now - upon further review - seems it might be unreasonable given that the recruit’s current schedule, is a good lesson on the benefits of defining timelines early. The more advanced warning recruits have as to when recruiting is going to be wrapping up, the better; that puts the onus on them to get everything on their checklist done so that they can comply to your timeline.

  • Another benefit of establishing a timeline: It helps you evaluate your process more clearly. After establishing the timeline, most coaches begin thinking in a linear fashion: Everything now has more order, and is defined as more of a process that has a series of defined steps. With that insight, a coach (like this one) can make an assessment when it comes to their process, and adjust it in the future.

  • Now, the big question: Does he shift the timeline? That’s your call, Coach. What I can tell you is that if you do, you give up the right to set future timelines with that recruit…if you can adjust it now, why can’t you adjust it later when I ask for even more time? (That’s actually a reasonable question on their part, and it’s based on a brief history of your actions to this point). Now having said that, that strategy may be the best based on the level of the recruit…you might make the judgement call and say to yourself, “we’re completely out of our league with this next level recruit, so I’m making the coaching decision to ditch the timeline, roll the dice, and see what happens.” And if you did that, I’d completely respect that decision. For the other 97% of prospects? I’d stick with the timeline you’ve established.

  • What makes this strategy work? It compels your prospect to tell you yes or no. If they tell you ‘no’, our research indicates that the vast majority of time, it was always going to be ‘no’. If they tell you yes, they had already decided it was going to be a ‘yes’ but they were just waiting for you to ask. Establishing a timeline moves the process forward, and gets a family to take action that enables you to make the critical decisions you need to make. It’s completely optional, but it works. Is it stressful? At first, absolutely. But as you continue to put it into practice, and refine it, you’ll see it drives more high caliber recruits to you.

Since I’ve written this much, why not keep going!

I had a conversation with a friend last night, who has a son being recruited as a basketball player by a few NAIA schools, and has a really good offer from one of them.

And yet, dad is hesitating.

DAD is hesitating…not the son, dad.

  • “I think he could get a D2 offer if we just wait a little bit longer.”

  • “We’d take that good NAIA offer, but the coach doesn’t seem to be asking for a decision, so I think we should let my son start his senior high school season and see if there’s any other interest..”

  • “I just think he’s better than NAIA. I played D2 ball, and my son is already better than I am…I’d just hate to see him settle for something too early.”

  • “I like the school that’s made the offer, and the coach is great - I think he’s being really honest with me - but it seems like he’s not in a hurry, and that he’ll let us sit on this 90% offer for a while.”

Let the record show that this coach hasn’t established a timeline with my friend’s son, nor has a firm deadline been established.

Flip to a text received by another client and Honey Badger Recruiting reader. Due to his great communication, and some key messaging we’ve created for he and his program, this coach just got a big commitment - and beat their chief D1 rival at the same time.

Establishing a timeline and a fair but firm deadline was a key component of their strategy.

When coaches control the process in a fair and well-defined manner, it can mold their prospects’ decision making timeline.

Does the strategy work 100% of the time? Of course not. However, in those cases, the recruit’s “no” was coming at some point…you may have just found out about the decision a lot earlier than normal, which is not a bad thing, in my opinion.

So, I’ll end with the same question I started today’s post with…one that you need to answer for yourself and your program:

Will you let events dictate a recruiting timeline, or will you let you recruiting timeline dictate events?

Don’t miss our next daily recruiting discussion, Coach.

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