“You aren't a recruit until a coach knows about you.”
This is a quote about recruiting from a college baseball coach that is quoted in USA Today. As a former recruiter, I think this is a terrible quote.
The idea behind this quote suggests that an athlete is not considered a recruit unless they are known by a coach, which is not the right approach to maximizing talent in a sports organization. Organizations should have complete control over the process to identify and bring in external athletes. The purpose of this process, known as recruiting, is to cultivate these athletes into elite performers.
The old way of sports recruiting is to have athletes pay to attend showcases or events to be seen by evaluators to receive an opportunity. This antiquated way of recruiting puts a financial burden on athletes to pay to be seen.
In the new age of sports, organizations will have to adapt their process to proactively find athletes in order to stay competitive. Athletes are fundamental to the success of a sports organization, and shouldn’t be treated as an afterthought. They are recruits, whether or not a coach knows about them.
My personal mission in creating GMTM was to help all athletes be seen by coaches. I want to empower organizations and coaches to reach those talented athletes who may not otherwise have been seen.
Talented athletes are the most important element in the recruiting process. Let’s connect them to the coaches and organizations who should see them.
Why Recruiting Is Broken
With over 12 years of experience in the recruiting process, I’ve developed a unique perspective on the challenges faced by organizations and athletes alike.
I have been both a recruit and a recruiter, starting as a college football player at UCF and then working in recruiting for UCF Football. Over the past 4 years, our team at GMTM works with over 100 elite organizations across 25 different sports, from youth to professional levels.
The biggest problem we see in sports is that there is not a well-defined structure or process for what it takes to recruit successfully in order to build a long-term, competitive advantage. Organizations treat their recruitment process as a closely guarded trade secret, which creates a variety of approaches and inconsistencies.
This inconsistency adds to the confusion and challenges faced by athletes during the recruitment process. How does an athlete know where to go, what to do, or who to impress if there is no consistent recruiting process or structure?
Through our work with over 100 elite sports organizations, we have distilled the recruitment process into four key steps for optimal success:
- Audience - Identify the athletes you aim to recruit.
- Awareness - Provide information and tell stories to showcase your organization and opportunities.
- Access - Establish clear channels for athletes to enter your talent pipeline.
- Conversion - Maintain continuous engagement to bring athletes into your organization.
Each of these steps is crucial to creating a world-class recruiting process, but are often neglected or misunderstood. Many organizations believe that limited time and resources prevent them from creating a stable recruitment process, but the real problem is a lack of understanding of how recruitment works.
By committing to these 4 simple steps, an organization can create a robust recruiting process that can be continuously improved for long-term success.
1. Audience: Identifying Your Target Athlete
What makes a great athlete for your organization?
This question is simple, but often overlooked by organizations. It is the foundation to build your recruiting process around. To answer this question, you can look at your most elite athletes and reverse engineer what makes them great.
Some areas to drill into to get the ball rolling:
- What age were they when you first engaged with them? How early is too early to target the right athlete?
- What are the physical traits and metrics that are common in your elite athletes?
- What skills do your athletes need to be successful? Focus on skills they possess, not just the sport(s) they play.
- How did you contact them or get connected with them?
- Where do they spend their time (online & in-person)?
By answering these questions, you will get a clearer picture of your ideal athlete, and be able to tailor your recruiting efforts to attract them. The key is to find the right balance between what you're looking for and what the athlete brings to the table.
Skills: The New King of Sports
Gone are the days when athletes were defined by the sports they played. Welcome to the age of transfer athletes, where versatility reigns supreme.
Think about it, average basketball players can become Hall of Fame football players, while quarterbacks with a background in baseball or track and field have an edge with their mobility, arm angles, and arm strength.
Athletes who have played multiple sports have a unique set of abilities and characteristics that can set them apart from others. Their diverse background gives them an edge in adapting to new environments and learning new skills quickly. Sports are no longer just about playing one sport for a set number of years. It's about harnessing the right combination of talents and skills that can be developed in the right organization. In today's fast-paced sports world, being open to the idea of transferable skills can give your organization a competitive advantage.
This shift in focus will lead to a wider pool of talented athletes who can bring new dimensions to your organization.
The future of sports is all about molding raw talent into championship-winning skills.
2. Awareness - Showcasing What Your Organization Offers
What do athletes know about your organization?
Attracting top athletes to your organization requires more than just basic information and a winning reputation. Building awareness is the crucial first step to creating a connection with your target audience and showing them why your organization is the right fit for them.
So, how can you make your organization stand out and engage your target athletes?
Demonstrating Success Stories
Does the content you are promoting clearly show the backstory of what makes an athlete within your organization successful?
Are you highlighting the ways in which elite athletes became a part of your organization, and made their way towards stardom?
How relatable is this for the athletes you are speaking to?
Your content should not only show what your organization can offer but also the success stories of athletes who have been a part of your organization. Showcase their journey and the role your organization played in their success.
This not only creates a connection with your target audience but also demonstrates the impact your organization can have on an athlete's career.
Give Them a Glimpse of Life as a Part of Your Team
What do athletes receive by being a part of your organization?
One of the most effective ways to build awareness is through creating virtual campaigns that give insight into everything you offer to an athlete. Give your audience a tour of your facilities, showcase the surrounding area, and highlight the amenities and culture of being a part of your organization. Sharing details about these assets will help the athletes see what their life could look like if they join your team.
By creating an engaging and informative content engine, you can paint a picture of what life as an athlete in your organization will be like and why it’s a great opportunity for them.
Building awareness is just the first touch point for an athlete, but it’s a critical one that sets the foundation for attracting top talent to your organization.
3. Access - Establish Opportunity For More Target Athletes
Access is an important step in the recruitment process as it provides a clear channel for athletes to enter the organization's talent pipeline. The key to this step is to create an efficient and athlete-centric system for athletes to connect with the organization and provide relevant information about themselves.
Prioritizing the Athlete Experience
Now that we are creating content that effectively shows an athlete the lucrative opportunities they can receive, we need to focus on how an athlete takes the next step. This is often the most misunderstood part of the recruiting process, and where you can create a lot of confusion for athletes and organizations create problems for themselves.
Athletes today are seeking information in one place, consuming content in another, and left unsure of how they can take their next step. They are left trying to send DMs, emails, and taking every route imaginable that creates endless headaches for the organization.
Unfortunately, many organizations get caught up in their own internal processes, neglecting the needs of the athletes they're trying to attract. This leads to clunky intake forms, unengaging questionnaires, and a lack of information about why an athlete should choose your organization.
When it comes to the recruitment process, it's important to remember that athletes come first. The focus should always be on making the experience as seamless and valuable as possible for them.
Clearly outline why an athlete should be interested in your organization while simultaneously ensuring they can enter your pipeline appropriately.
A Single Destination for Everyone
To streamline access and increase your chances of attracting talented athletes, it is essential to build relationships with coaches, trainers, agents, and other key stakeholders in the industry. These trusted sources can provide referrals and recommendations that can help you quickly identify and attract the right athletes for your organization.
But to make this process truly effective, it's important to have a single, easily accessible entry point for everyone in your network. This way, everyone knows exactly where to send potential athletes when they come across someone they think would be a great fit.
Don't let calls and messages from different sources get lost in the shuffle. Make sure everyone has a clear destination in mind when they want to recommend a talented athlete to your organization.
4. Conversion - Engaging With Your Talent & Increasing Conversions
Getting an athlete into your talent pipeline is just the first step in a long journey toward making them a part of your program. Continuous engagement with an athlete and building a relationship with them is key to gaining their trust in order to win them over to join your organization.
Take The Time to Know Them
First, it's important to understand what athletes want. It's not just about the money or the fame, but about the overall experience. They want to be part of a team where they feel valued and supported, and where they have opportunities to grow both on and off the field.
Listen to their goals and aspirations. Take the time to listen and understand what they are looking for in a team and organization. This will give you a better idea of what they value and what they need from you.
Be transparent. Be upfront about your expectations for the athlete, your organization’s goals, and what you can offer them in terms of development and support. Transparency is the foundation of trust and helps the athlete make an informed decision about joining your organization. Make sure the athlete understands what they're signing up for.
Show that you care about all of them. Take an interest in the athlete's life outside of sports and show that you care about them as a person, not just a player. This will help build a stronger bond with your athletes and increase their loyalty to your organization.
So, how do you show athletes that your organization is the right choice? Communication is key. Keep in touch with them regularly, but don't overwhelm them with too many calls or messages.
- Early Stages: During the early stages of identifying and recruiting an athlete, you should aim to establish regular and consistent communication, ideally once a week or more. This could include phone calls, text messages, DMs or emails. At this point, your funnel is extremely wide and communication needs to support this.
- Evaluation Period: During the evaluation period, when watching the athlete play or compete, the frequency of communication should increase. Reach out to the athlete after a game or competition as they upload content to provide feedback, offer encouragement, and continue to build a relationship.
- Post-Evaluation: After the evaluation period, the frequency of communication may decrease somewhat, but you should still aim to stay in touch on a regular basis to keep the athletes updated on your process. This could include monthly check-ins, updates on your team and athletes, and other relevant information.
- Commitment: Once an athlete has committed to joining the organization, the frequency of communication may increase again, as you will need to start providing more detailed information about the next steps to ensure the athlete is prepared for the transition.
It's important to be flexible and adjust the frequency of communication to meet the individual needs and preferences of the athlete. The goal is to build trust, establish a relationship, and ensure the athlete feels supported throughout the process.
By engaging with the athlete and providing them with the support and guidance they need, you can help them achieve their goals and make a positive impact on their life, both on and off the field.
We have seen many organizations fail to support these fundamental recruiting steps for athletes. At GMTM, our mission is to empower organizations with the keys to building better recruiting systems and processes. We believe that together we can keep athletes’ needs first and connect them to more opportunities than ever before.