Letting the Competition Control Your Recruiting Narrative

Here's how you can gain control of the story you tell your prospects

You invite a competing coach to campus to lead one of your facility tours.

As he does, he points out the cracks in the ceiling, details the fact that it hasn’t been updated in over a decade, and the points out the weird musty smell in the air. After that, he takes your recruits over towards the student union, talking about how one of his players who transferred from your program to his complained about the food at your school. He adds in that your campus has the reputation as being boring, and not that serious about college athletics (compared to his campus, which is sport heaven).

You’d never let that happen, would you?

Yes, many of you would let that happen. Not literally, but certainly figuratively. In fact, you do it throughout the year. You let your competition control the narrative about you, your program, and your campus.

And there’s no good reason for it, Coach.

Look, here’s your choice: Let the scenario I outlined at the start play out, or take control and define you and your program before your competition does. And, believe it or not, you have the ability to do that.

Our studies show that the first impression they have solidified in their minds about a particular program ends up being the impression that defines the program. Simple as that. If a prospect gets information about you and your program that takes a potential negative, and justifies it as a positive, they will tend to have that define their view of that program. However, if a prospect gets information about you and your program that is positioned as a negative as a first impression, they will tend to adopt a negative view of that program. If nobody provides information about you and your program, those prospects will define your campus for themselves. That’s a problem, as well, because teenagers (in case you haven’t noticed) tend to take a negative view on things they can’t define easily, or aren’t defined for them.

We usually see this take shape in three areas of the recruiting process:

  • Your facilities. Coaches, being competitive creatures, automatically look at their facility and compare it to the other facilities on competitors’ campuses. Prospects, on the other hand, aren’t making their final decision based on the looks of your facilities. They are more interested in what you think of your facilities…that’s right, they listen to how you describe them, your tone of voice, and the positives about what they allow your team to do. Do it the right way, and it changes the narrative in their mind.

  • Your record. Is there anything more gut-wrenching for a college coach than a bad record? It’s a personal negative that most coaches try their hardest to avoid. The good news? It’s one of the easiest objections to overcome, because most athletes are more interested in how they’ll factor into your future plans versus. Focus on that, calmly and positively talk about your plan to improve your team, and move on. Don’t apologize, tell them why it’s going to be great to compete for you.

  • Your division level or conference. Like the first two, this narrative is easy to take back from your competition. Each division level has an advantage to it, and you need to communicate that to your recruit. Your conference has benefits and advantages, and you need to make the case as to why your prospect should feel good about being a part of it. This is one of those narratives that not many coaches pay attention to during the recruiting process, and they should. It’s easily hijacked by your competition, if you let it.

Your prospects are listening, Coach. Tell them how they should think about all of the aspects of your program and campus, and watch them follow your lead.

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