Written By: Dan Tudor
One of the things that most college swimming and diving coaches preach to their team all the time is consistency: In practice, in competition, in the classroom. And yet, based on nearly two decades of experience working with coaches at all levels of college athletics, do you want to know what hurts more coaches’ careers than anything else?
You guessed it: A lack of consistency…especially in their recruiting efforts.
Based on all of our research over the years, I don’t think you would need much convincing that being consistent in the message you send them, over a long period of time, is what college coaches need to be doing. Simply put, it lays the groundwork for netting consistently good results in terms of the quality of swimmers and divers that become part of the program you coach.
But the idea is easier than the execution. In truth, recruiting is hard. It can be a grind. And it’s definitely not the reason most college coaches got into the business.
A Division I swimming coach who sat in on one of the talks I did at the coaches convention emailed me about ‘the grind’ after hearing me outline this a couple of years ago:
Dan, thanks for the info you gave at the talk today. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind for a while now, but it’s a struggle. I feel like I fall behind with every recruiting class, and now I’m seeing that we’re actually regressing. I feel like the swimmers I have now are slowly making our program worse. They are great people, but they aren’t want we have to get her to be competitive and grow the program.
So I listen to what you said, and it makes sense, but honestly it just seems so overwhelming I don’t know where to start. I get the feeling I have a lot of catching up to do.
Did any of that strike a chord?
He knew that the data we talk about all the time says recruits want to hear from a coach every 6 to 9 days with a written message that explains why they should choose your program, and why you’d be the better option compared to the other schools they’re looking at. Again, easy to agree with in theory, tougher in actual practice.
But it can be done.
Three different clients we’ve worked with for close to two decades have developed outstanding habits that, for a coaching peer on the outside looking in, kind of look like just part of “the grind”. In actuality, it’s not. They have a system, and it governs how they manage their recruiting process.
And while what I’m about to tell you shouldn’t be viewed as a universal 3-step cure all for every one of your recruiting and organizational struggles, it can prove to be the core of what you would put in place as the start of a more systematic process to get better recruits into your program. They’re what these three coaches lean on, and it seems to be working for them, so I just wanted to share it with you:
Those three good coaches all had a designated time of the week that they focused on their recruiting message. One of the staffs found their best time was 9am to 11am on Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, that’s a repeated time slot blocked out on their calendars…whether they’re in the office, or everyone’s in different cities, or they’re waking up in a hotel room while they’re scouting summer tournaments, that is their time to organize all of their recruiting messaging for the next 7 days, and make sure they’re all on the same page with all their top recruits.
Those three good coaches make sure they set a defined timeline for their prospects’ decision making process. And they don’t sway from it that often. It’s one of the core concepts we teach when we go to a campus and lead one of our multi-day recruiting workshops for athletic departments. Two of these coaching staffs were taught the principles of setting and maintaining a timeline, and the other coaching staff had just learned it on their own through trial and error. All three now firmly, and fairly, control the process by discussing and agreeing to a timeline for decision making with their recruit. Are there exceptions they make to that rule? Absolutely. But it’s rare, and when they do it, it’s justified.
Those three good coaches put a priority on connecting with the parents of their prospects really early in the process. When you create a simple, straight-forward plan to communicate with parents right away, you stand out compared to your competition - and parents take notice.
Simple? Yes. The key for them is putting each one of those things into practice weekly, which has helped each program become consistently great recruiters.
The truth is, it’s up to you as far as what to do, how often to do it, and what your message is. The big point I want to get across is that like with anything else in your program that you deem successful, organizing a strategy around how you execute a consistent, long term message to your recruits is going to quite possibly get you over the hump when it comes to landing the recruits you really, really need in order to build the swimming and diving program you’re envisioning.
It’s working for three consistently successful coaches we work with. It’ll work for the coach who asked the question a few years ago. And, it’ll work for you.
Dan Tudor is a regular speaker at the CSCAA and is the Founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, a nationally respected athletic recruiting advisory firm that specializes in training coaching staffs to communicate and recruit their prospects more effectively. Dan has been referred to as “America’s recruiting coordinator” thanks to his company’s cutting-edge strategies, research and ongoing advice to the college coaching community. Dan and his team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies conducts recruiting workshops at athletic departments around the country, as well as serving several hundred individual coaching staffs as clients as he and his staff help to craft their recruiting strategy and communication. You can contact Dan directly at email@example.com.