Written By: Dan Tudor
Think it’s hard for you to get back into the swing of things heading into a new school year, Coach? It can be even harder for your prospects.
Right now, this summer, they’re working out or competing in meets, and they’re starting to feel burned out. They’ve been on vacation, and they don’t want to face the reality of going back to school in several weeks. And even if they are coming back to that reality, the last thing they want to start doing is begin facing the stress of making hard decisions about college and their swimming and diving future. It’s much easier to put all of that off, not think about about it, and see if they can drag out the lazy, care-free days of Summer.
That means it’s your job, as a college swimming or diving coach and as a recruiter, to get them to re-focus on the recruiting process. And preferably, get them to place the bulk of that focus on you.
So as we begin the time of the year when coaches and their college programs are making plans and revving-up for another year, I wanted to pass along several key engagement strategies we’ve seen work as we see swimming and diving coaches moving out of the summer and into a new fall season:
You MUST talk about something new. Especially for recruits that you’ve been talking to for any amount of time, now is the time to introduce something new into the conversation. Our studies are showing that while continuing to tell a consistent, compelling broader story to your recruits, your personal conversations with prospects should offer something different heading out of Summer. Now is the time when your swimming and diving recruits are looking for new reasons to continue to talk to you one-on-one.
They’re looking for that “next step”. Coming out of Summer, teenage swimmers tell us that they often feel a little stuck. They want to look smart in continuing to talk with you, and they want to know what to do next as you continue to recruit them, but they aren’t sure what’s right. That’s why many of you experience what feels like disinterest from your prospects this time of year; the thing is, it’s not that they’re not interested…they just don’t know what should happen next. Never forget that you’ve been through this process before, but they haven’t. Be a guide.
It might be time to set a deadline. Or, at least a timeline that clearly establishes your expectations as to when a decision needs to be made. This is the easiest time of the year to do that, in the sense that it’s a natural calendar break (end of Summer, beginning of Fall and their new school year) which contributes to an overall feeling that new timelines make sense. In other words, when you start a conversation about deadlines or timelines that you want your prospects to pay attention to, doing it during this time period makes sense and ‘feels’ right to your recruits.
Outline your process for them. As an extension of the deadline and timeline conversation, take them inside your swimming program’s decision making process: Detail for them what you’ll be doing in evaluating them and other recruits this Fall, describe the type of prospect that you’re no longer recruiting (and why you stopped recruiting them), and make clear when you see yourself being done with recruiting. Prospects are craving this kind of behind-the-scenes information that helps them understand the “why” behind some of your requests during the process.
Give the parents of your recruits a clear to-do list. One of the best ways to determine if your prospect is serious about you heading out of Summer is to find out if their parents are equally serious about you and your program. And the best way to do that is to give those parents a to-do list, and see if they respond. Parents of recruited swimmers, because of their intense time commitment in helping them grow in their athletic careers, are logical targets for inclusion in the process.
Some ideas: Tell them to help their son or daughter get their application submitted by a certain date, get back to you on a weekend that works for a visit to your campus, establish a regular time for you and they to talk to one another during the Fall, or ask them to email you a list of their questions about you, your college, or the process so that you can help them with answers.
Establish one clear selling point. One of the most difficult hurdles that your prospects face this time of year, as they talk to you and listen to your message (and the messages of your competitors), is trying to figure out how to define you and your swimming program. They need, and want, a one-line definition of you and your program that defines your main selling point. Once that’s established, you can certainly weave that into your program’s ongoing story to your recruits. Without it, you risk sounding like too many of your competitors: Too vanilla, no definition. Heading into this time of year, that can be the beginning of the end.
That last point needs to be emphasized: As recruits head out of Summer and into the Fall, there will come a point (soon) where they will want to start to whittle their choices down to make this whole process more manageable. Unless you give them smart reasons to define you and your program the right way, you allow them to make-up their own definition of you and your program. Do you really want to give that power over to them heading into this Fall?
This is an important time of year in the recruiting process, Coach. Make sure you establish yourself as a player heading into the fall, and do it with a strategy in mind. If you do it correctly several weeks in advance, you’ll be the coach that refocuses your prospects heading out of the summer.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.