COACHES’ CORNER: BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH PREP COACHES
Simply put– your network and relationships with prep coaches will #1- be the key to signing recruits and #2- be the key to getting future jobs.
The best philosophy is this: you need to treat every prep coach as if they have a top prospect on their team now. You are recruiting for the long-term and building your career, and there is a good chance that one year, five years, 10 years from now… a no-name coach at an unsuccessful school may have a great player for you! A prep coach may go from an unheard of program to a traditional powerhouse program down the road. If you make a bad impression on a prep coach when they have nothing to help you, they’ll remember. The best recruiters implement this philosophy early in their careers and build every relationship possible.
You need to invest time each day building and strengthening relationships with prep coaches. EVERY DAY. Prep coaches are the gatekeepers who can help or hurt your cause. You will need to go through them to get prospect phone numbers, access to prospects and to pass mail or initial interest along, especially early in the process. You also will want strong relationships so that prep coaches will trust and respect you, and pick up the phone to call you and tip you off about great young prospects.
THE BEST PHILOSOPHY IS THIS: YOU NEED TO TREAT EVERY PREP COACH AS IF THEY HAVE A TOP PROSPECT ON THEIR TEAM NOW.
A strategy to help you long-term: pick a region of the country and prioritize building a great reputation in that area, building strong relationships throughout. Assistant coaches are often hired because of their “pipeline” to a specific region. If you really focus on building great relationships in a specific area, it can help you get jobs in the future– especially if it is considered a “hotbed” area with several prospects each year.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your daily responsibilities but if you take a second to Google what’s going on in their world before you make a call, you show that you’ve been doing your research on them. You can quickly reference their upcoming schedule and already know who they’re playing or who they just beat. Saying “Congrats on that big win over Northeast” sounds a lot better than, “So… who did ya’ll play last week?” Congratulate them on wins, wish them good luck on upcoming games, give them shoutouts on achievements– take that extra step to know a detail of what’s going on with them before you call. Separate yourself among all the other college coaches that are also reaching out to them.
All dealings with prep coaches need to be positive, prep coaches need to feel as if you’re doing everything possible to help them. Show genuine interest in them and their program. Many of them are former players, they need to feel invited and wanted around your program. You need to have an “open door” policy for prep coaches, invite and welcome them into your program. In order for trust and a relationship to grow, people need to feel heard. Take the time to listen to your prep coaches and devote time to hearing them out.
Quickly return voicemails and emails when possible– even if you’re sure it’s a dead end. Send a coded questionnaire out as a good gesture showing that you are following through on the lead. Take two minutes to make a return call, even if you are “stepping into a team meeting,” and especially if it’s a program within the state or city.
Great recruiters manage their time in order to maximize their ability to call as many prep coaches that they can, daily. Great recruiters make back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back calls to prep coaches. Checking in, getting schedules, asking about up-and-coming players, congratulating them on wins or achievements, inviting them to camps or Unofficial Visits or just shooting the breeze. If you expect high school coaches to help you and return calls, you need to help them and be responsive to their calls and emails too.
CENTER CONVERSATIONS WITH PREP COACHES ON WHAT IS GOING ON IN THEIR WORLD, NOT PATTING YOURSELF ON THE BACK OF ALL YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
With all your responsibilities, time management with prep coaches will be a difference-maker for you. While you need to treat all prep coaches as if they’re a high priority, you need to master the art of getting in and out of conversations quickly and genuinely. Make a quick call before a practice, meeting or flight… “Coach, we’re about to step into a staff meeting (practice, team meeting, compliance meeting), just wanted to give you a quick call back.”
You need to reach out to the former prep coaches of your current players, throughout the year. Just because you already signed their player, that doesn’t mean recruitment has ended. You still need to keep in touch, and if financially possible, always include them in recruit mailouts.
Although difficult at times, it’s always best to be up front and honest (with tact) with prep coaches about their prospects if they’re not going to make the cut. After seeing them play, if you have no interest in their player, it’s best to be honest with them. Always be open and willing to “take a look,” but don’t lead anyone on with false hope. Give them a few pointers of what improvements they would need to make in order to be legitimately considered, characteristics that the prospect can actually improve on or control. You will quickly damage your reputation and lose respect when you begin jerking prep players and coaches around. Remember– you are building a career and will likely cross paths with these coaches years from now.
“A WINNER MAKES COMMITMENTS. A LOSER MAKES PROMISES.”
Another great way to help build relationships with prep coaches is to be a teaching resource for them. They will likely ask for sample drills, schemes or gameplanning advice– have a few email-ready files ready to share. Be a mentor and be a resource to those younger or less experienced coaches wanting to learn more.
Extra Credit: Drop a quick handwritten note in the mail after a conversation with a prep coach (or any key gatekeeper). A couple handwritten sentences and a stamp can go a long way in the world of texts, tweets and RTs. You can even pre-write or have your assistant handle.
WHAT TO TALK ABOUT:
• Upcoming schedules.
• Invite them to practice or games.
• Player recommendations (underclassmen, other players in area).
• Ask how your prospects are doing in school, at practice, in games and mentally.
• Talk shop: Philosophy, teaching drills, rule changes, current news with your sport, pros in your sport, other sports.
• Ask them for feedback about your program: their perception, what they think of your head coach, your style of play.
• Ask when the best time to call is, which days and times work best?
• When planning visits, ask what time works for them and try to plan your visit around their schedule.
• If running late for an appointment or visit, call and let them know. Give them an estimated time of arrival and your cell phone number.
• Send a handwritten thank you note after great conversations or visits. Have pre-stamped notes with you to carry on the road or send immediately when back in the office.
• Keep them involved and updated in the recruiting process when actively recruiting one of their players.
• Write a letter to their principal or supervisor, thanking or applauding them for their efforts, attitude or leadership.
• Never make a promise to a prep coach that you can’t deliver on. They’ll know that your words can’t be trusted, and they won’t appreciate you leading their players on.
WAYS TO HELP:
• Pass along drills or offensive/defensive tips if coaches ask. Be a teaching resource.
• Invite successful and up-and-coming coaches to work camps. Use that time to build relationships with them on campus socially- eat together, talk shop, get to know about their goals and family.
• If you aren’t interested in a player that they’re pitching and know a coach at a lower division who probably would be, offer to recommend the player to another collegiate coach on their behalf.
Types of Mail:
• Motivational: They are under the same schedules as you. Send them occasional “We know what you’re going through…” notes or great quotes they can use for their players.
• Informative: Major program or university points (program, academics) as well as sport knowledge (offensive/defensive drills, philosophy.)
• Events: Practice, Games, Clinics, Junior Days, Camps.
• Congrats: Team Rankings (National, State), Coach of an All-State teams/player. You need to notice and recognize their achievements!