Updated: Mar 28
Written By: Dan Tudor
Earlier and more frequent contact by phone and text message are the new norm when it comes to contacting a new class of swimming and diving recruits. With so many contact methods available today, getting in touch with your new group top prospects is getting a whole lot easier - and many recruiters are discovering that talking to prospects on the phone can provide really solid results.
And yet the same question that was considered decades ago still gets asked by coaches today: “How should I first contact my new set of recruits?”
That’s been a question which we have devoted a good amount of study to over the years. And after crunching the numbers, conducting research studies all over the country during our On-Campus Workshops for college athletic departments, and hearing the feedback from this current class of prospects, the verdict is in:
Your prospects want to be called on the phone when you first start recruiting them.
Interesting, isn’t it?
I think it’s surprising because most kids find it challenging to talk on the phone with you when you call them at some point during the recruiting process. So given that, why would they want to hear from you by phone as the first point of contact? Here are some of the answers we discovered:
They want to know that you’re serious about them. When you call them, that shows them that they are a serious recruit in your eyes – otherwise, why would you take the time to call them?
They want to hear how you found them, and why you want them. Sometimes those introductory letters that you send are a little to vague: “You’ve been identified as a prospect…” Or, “You’ve been recommended as a prospect…” Both are a little too generalized, and why they are of interest to you is one area where you don’t want to be mysterious. Today’s swimmer and diver wants specifics, starting with how you have found them, and what immediately jumps out at you about their potential in your program.
A phone call automatically puts you at the front of the line. They’ve heard your voice, which is one better than most coaches who are only going to send out a letter. It will be hard to ignore you after they hear your voice because they’ll be comparing you to the rest of the coaches that aren’t taking the time to call them. For this generation, they want to be able to starting ranking colleges and figuring out who’s serious about them, and who isn’t, as soon as possible in the process. This is one of the best ways we’ve found to make sure you are doing just that.
Phone calls are hard for them – so they’re looking for you to lead. Because it’s harder for a many teenage recruits to talk on the phone and feel comfortable taking the lead when they’re on a call, they really look for you to do it. When coaches keep the process moving, and manage the content of the call, good things happen.
So, have I convinced you take the time to make a phone call first with this new group of prospects you’re getting ready to recruit? Good. Here’s a model for what should be included in the call (and a few things that shouldn’t):
At the start of the first call, tell them that you want them to know that they are officially being recruited by your program. You can play around with the wording a little, but make sure they understand that you are serious about them and that your phone call warrants their attention.
Tell them the next two things that they should be looking for from you and your program. A letter and then an email, two quick emails with questions they need to answer…whatever. Give them an agenda of whats coming up in the near future.
DO NOT ask them for information right away. That’s not the purpose of the phone call - it’s all about creating a relationship, and getting them comfortable with interacting with you.
DO NOT sell your school, unless they answer this next question:
Ask them: “Before I hang up, do you have any questions about me, my program, or the college?” If they say no (which they likely will, because their heart will be pumping a little too hard to focus on questions they might have), tell them that you can’t wait for the next time you can talk to them and end the call. Leave them wanting more. If they do have questions, take the time to answer them and sell your college where appropriate as part of your direct answer to your question.
For any phone call - new or ongoing - try to keep it to no more than ten minutes long. Short and up tempo beats long and drawn out every time. More time on the call doesn’t usually translate into a deeper connection unless they are driving the conversation.
That’s the simple formula that we’ve seen work over and over again for initial calls. The results you see should be significant: We usually hear that this approach provides greater engagement sooner from all of your swimming and diving prospects, and you will clarify exactly where they stand with them as soon as possible (which is what they all want).
If you’re a coach who see’s an increased emphasis on recruiting phone calls as a way to differentiate yourself from your competition, keep this strategy in mind for your new group of recruits as they become targets on your recruiting board.
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.