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The Recruiting Rules: Rule 2 - Communication is key

Recruiting is about relationships, so some relationship advice works well here.

Recruiting is like dating. You find someone you like. Maybe a couple different people. Talk to them a bit. Maybe go on a date or two. But, through it all, the thread of communication from both sides indicates the level of interest.

This brings me to the second recruiting rule:

COMMUNICATION IS KEY.

For many teams, and for many elite players, building a recruiting relationship is a multi-year endeavor. It starts with the team being visible in the community/city/state/area where they’re trying to recruit. By being visible, the player(s) should become aware of the team in a way that’s different than fandom; i and then making that recruit feel wanted.

“Building relationships early with recruits is key,” said David Furones of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Teams have to identify talent when recruits are young, and be among the first to offer the top players in each class. Once you’ve done that, you can build a connection with those players, those studs that every team needs, and make an impression on them.”

The themes you can take from that quote are: 1. early identification of talent and 2. early and continuous contact through the various means of communication available to each program in recruiting. Those things will help with being successful getting the players you want on your team, and several other analysts had similar thoughts.

On the point of communication, Michael Felder of Watch Stadium offered his thoughts:

“You have to identify talent and engage early to foster a legitimate relationship. The relationship has to go beyond “I need you to win” so the kid and his family or support system feel comfortable. That’s how you build a real trust.”

On a similar note, Tyler Donohue, Penn State recruiting reporter for 247sports, spoke about consistency in communication:

So often I hear from recruits that the program they chose on National Signing Day is a result of consistent effort. Some staffs toss out a ton of offers early, then fade back for a while. Others don’t really ramp things up until too late, chasing players with quantity (continuous texts, calls, etc. that can come off as desperate) rather than quality (established relationships carved out by visits and conversations during a long span). Prospects, and especially parents, often see through the late love and value what’s always been there. It’s tedious for a staff, but a consistent plan of pursuit routinely separates certain programs from the pack.

Donohue brings up good points about communication. The point of quantity vs quality is something that schools have to balance every year. Often, the quantity of communication — we’ve all seen the pictures of a team sending a certain recruit 57 hand written letters on the same day — can be pushed when the quality, an established relationship as mentioned above, is lacking. The hope, obviously, is that the “action” of multiple texts/calls/letters will collectively get the player to open up to building a real relationship with the school. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s recruiting.

Bud Elliott, SB Nation’s National Recruiting Analyst, took a slightly different view of communication, but one that still matters — communication between the school and others in the recruiting space:

The best recruiting staffs make their own evaluations and judgements, but they still reach out to scouts and recruiting media. Some of the ones who are big failures are those who think they know it all.

To really drive that point about communication home, Sanjay Kirpalani of the Recruitniks podcast had this to offer on the topic:

We all know recruiting is all about relationships. Those can’t be built without establishing proper lines of communication. That means your staff has to be willing and able to talk with coaches, parents, mentors, trainers and anyone else that may be influential in the decision-making process of recruits.

Now that we know that communication matters, the question is “when can/do teams communicate with recruits”? In general, the answer is all the time. That can be at a school-sponsored recruiting camp (the kind every college has during the summer). That can be at a HS during an evaluation period. That can be in person — within the rules and approved timeline of the NCAA’s recruiting calendar. And, lastly, that can be on social media.

Here’s what Kirpalani had to say about using social media in recruiting communication:

Embracing technology and social media should be a must at this point, because that’s what a majority of the recruits they are chasing are doing. You have to be able to relate to kids without being fake.

After the initial evaluation and contact, there has to be continued communication. I’ve said it before, but recruiting is like dating, and you show interest by frequent contact. You can’t say to a player “you’re the #1 guy on our board” but then not use any of the above-detailed means of communication for months. That doesn’t match up, and that will clearly show the player, who is undoubtedly hearing from other teams more frequently, that you’re just not that into him.

Every year on the recruiting trail, there are “they stopped talking to me” horror stories. For Miami, several players were dropped from their respective recruiting class after the Canes stopped communicating with them. Kevaughn Dingle. Jesiah Pierre. Renato Brown. Diamante Howard. And, most recently, Denzel Daxon. And there’s more where that came from. But, that’s not unique to Miami.

Louisville infamously pulled a scholarship from RB Matt Colburn the night before signing day. He landed on his feet at Wake Forest, but that kind of thing happens a few times every year at different schools. UConn dropped LB Ryan Dickens 2 weeks before NSD in 2018. He landed at Louisiana Lafayette. Northwestern was recently noted as having not accepted a commitment from a “top target” they had pursued for the entire 2018 recruiting cycle, a move which has gotten them banned from recruiting at that player’s HS in Michigan. And Notre Dame reneged on a scholarship offer from a 4-star WR in early July....a week AFTER he’d already committed. And the list goes on and on.

Regardless of which school you root for, the point that communication is a key element to the recruiting process stands to reason. Even Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia, 3 of the hottest and best-recruiting programs in America, have to use various communication methods as tools to help them recruit successfully.

And that, my friends, is why communication is key.