Whilst much of the focus of any development plan will be on the coaching that is delivered – and rightly so – results will always be limited unless the right players are attracted to that programme. Often, the role of recruiters is left to coaches or former coaches who might not appreciate (or believe in) the need to sell their programme to the players and their parents.
Even if they do, given the competition that there is for talent whoever has the better strategy to gain their trust will win out.
Helping improve that strategy is what Dan Tudor specialises in. The founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, his work is aimed at getting colleges to be more effective, more creative, and get better results from their drives to recruit talent for their sports programs. Here he shares his views on these topics.
Why is it important to look at recruitment techniques and policies? What edge does it give you?
For American college coaches, understanding how an athlete chooses a school for college soccer is going to give them a roadmap to developing a strategy for recruiting them to their program.
The same holds true, in my opinion, for a club soccer coach.
Not doing so is equivalent to a soccer coach saying, "I don't need to scout our next opponent and break down how they attack and defend...what edge would it give us?" Of course, any good coach knows the answer to that. You learn tendencies, identify areas of opportunity, and develop a game plan based on the best information and insights possible.
The same principles are at play in understanding how this generation of athletes, and their parents, decide who to trust with their soccer career. If you don't understand how they make their decision, you have less of a chance to approaching them correctly when it comes to recruiting them to your program - which means it is more likely you will lose that battle, in the same way you would lose a soccer contest against an opponent who you haven't scouted before meeting on the field.
What are the fundamental characteristics of a good recruitment policy?
First and foremost, consistency. Your message needs to be regular, and sequential. You need to tell an effective story of why they should choose you, based on things that are important to them.
Secondly, any good coach should ask for a commitment as early as possible in the process; it's the best way to show this generation of athlete that you are serious about them and want them more than the competition.
On the flip side, what are the most common pitfalls and mistakes?
Not having the same kind of plan to recruit and market your program as you would when you develop a game plan or seasonal development plan for your players. Most soccer coaches recruit haphazardly, and get results that match the effort. Lack of planning is one of the fatal recruiting mistakes that coaches make.
Not asking for a commitment is the other big mistake. Again, it's the top way athletes say they determine whether or not a coach is really interested in them. They don't want to be "pressured" into making a commitment, but they do want to see a coach's passion for them.
How important is honesty and not trying to over-sell your system?
Honesty is key. Especially for American athletes, they are constantly on the lookout for being "over-sold" or lied to by college coaches who would exaggerate the benefits of their program. When you are selling your program to a prospective family, you want to be passionate about your program, but not go so far as to lie or make promises you can't keep.
Does the work end once the athlete is recruited? Once the athlete is recruited and convinced to join a club, does the work stop there?
After the process is complete, letting your new group of players answer an anonymous survey as to how they made their decision, who influenced them, what their #1 objection was, and why they ultimately chose that particular soccer program. I think it’s critical that it's anonymous and done all at once, because it will free them to be honest and open in their feedback vs. telling a coach what he or she wants to hear for fear of loss of playing time or other retribution for negative comments.
More information on Dan Tudor and Tudor Collegiate Strategies can be found on their website.