Athletes: Stop marketing and start nurturing

Let’s face it. People want to do business with those they trust.
And it’s no different in college recruiting. Coaches recruit prospects with talent and grades, but they offer scholarships to the ones in which they’ve built confidence and trust.
And trust is becoming more and more a factor nowadays.  The numbers of coaches publicly voicing their frustrations about recruits who commit and then de-commit is likely to increase before it subsides.   
So as a student-athlete who dreams of landing scholarship offers, how do you build confidence and earn trust with college coaches? 
Here’s an idea: Stop marketing and start nurturing.
Let’s say 20 college coaches are currently sending you mail.  Your 10 “A-list schools, at the moment, are showing the most genuine interest and they seem to match up best with your athletic & academic priorities.  The other 10 B- and C-list schools continue to show warm, frequent interest but aren’t as attractive, at least yet.
Most student-athletes with this level of recruiting activity make the costly mistake of becoming a spectator.  After all, coaches are interested and they’re going to stay interested, right?  Not necessarily. 
The fact is, coaches evaluate and court hundreds of prospects for every one “offer” they extend.  So to sustain interest, you must engage coaches on a more personal level than those with whom you’re competing. And I don’t mean telling coaches how great you are or sending them newspapers articles that feature you. I’m talking about cultivating relationships. I’m talking about communicating on a level that separates you from others. 
Think of your college recruitment as a 2-year job interview. To land your dream job, you can’t just send in a resume and expect the offer to follow.  Sure, introducing yourself is an important component, but again, the competition is stiff.  You must assume that everyone in contention for the same opportunity is equally (or more) qualified than you; that every recruit on a coach’s depth chart can play as well (or better) than you. 
So to get the “job offer,” you have to take it upon yourself to earn the coach’s trust, and no amount of marketing will accomplish this. Instead, you must nurture the opportunity.
Here are 5 ways to start nurturing relationships with college coaches.   

  1. Recognize a gem when you find one. If a coach is sending you quality, personal emails, and they seem genuinely engaged with what’s going on in your high school career, then chances are you have a gem of an opportunity.  Sometimes it’s merely a connection you feel with a particular coach. Whenever you have this feeling, it’s good to recognize that this is a coach that you should focus your efforts and energies on.  Go out of your way to let them know how honored and appreciative you are in their efforts to recruit you.  Mention the coach and his/her school on Facebook.  Tell others what a great experience you’re having with this coach.  Coaches are human like the rest of us, and they are drawn to people who openly appreciate them.

  2. Send handwritten thank-you notes.  I know it sounds rather archaic. Taking pen to paper and writing someone a note, in this day and age, is a lost art. And that’s exactly why you should do it! A simple hand-written card can be incredibly nurturing, especially because nobody bothers to take the time anymore. And it doesn’t have to be a lengthy letter either. Two or three sentences on a blank card, expressing your gratitude for taking time to speak on the phone last night, will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression. Sure, personal emails are great. But a thank you card in your own writing might just find its way around the entire athletic department. Make the commitment to send every coach who recruits you a thank-you card or two before you make your final college decision.
  3. Stay connected with coaches using social media. Tune in on Twitter and pay attention to what coaches are posting. Create a Facebook feed that simplifies the process and creates a list of coaches. Much like with Twitter, a dedicated coach group allows you to filter out only their updates and get a quick snapshot of their activity, rather than having to visit each individual profile/page. Jump in. Comment on their latest game, event or news. Tag coaches/schools in your status updates. If appropriate, tag the coach in a status update or wall post. Tagging is extremely useful as it allows you to link directly to coaches’ pages or places a link to their page. For more on this, download this Free Report.
  4. Take an active interest in their program.  Subscribe to their blog. Bookmark their web pages and check in at least once a month.  Research the schools that are showing interest in you and reach out to these coaches monthly.  A simple congratulations email after a big win, or referencing a newsworthy topic about their school, can do wonders for a coach’s confidence and trust in you.

  5. Don’t let the opportunity fade away.  Be relentless in your commitment to follow up and stay connected with coaches. Even if you don’t receive immediate responses all the time, don't allow the communication to lose momentum and don’t stop doing your part to keep the opportunity alive. Coaches are extremely busy. They travel constantly. Recruiting is a 365-day job and many things can temporarily impede a coach’s ability to communicate. Don’t get discouraged if their interest appears to decline either.  Set up a follow-up calendar for each school, and be persistent with your communication until the coach blatantly tells you s/he won’t be recruiting you anymore.  If that happens, stay humble and show your warmest gratitude for the chance to correspond. Just because you aren’t a good fit for one school doesn’t mean that the impression you leave won’t result in another (better) opportunity elsewhere.  

Do you have any stories or examples about nurturing relationships with college coaches? Please share them with us!

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