Sports Recruits recently conducted a survey to gauge the opinions of families on their experiences in the club sports space. Many of the findings were fascinating, including this one: 47.88% of club athletes have either switched clubs in the past year or are unsure if they will switch clubs in the future.
This is an interesting statistic, because it means that on average, nearly half of club sports families have or may be willing to switch clubs. That is not particularly comforting news for club directors. But what is causing this business challenge, and what are some ways it can be remedied?
Let’s take a look.
To understand why so many families have or are willing to jettison their clubs, it helps to understand why they joined in the first place. Per our survey, 66% of families chose their current clubs because they wanted the best recruiting and coaching expertise.
There are two important takeaways to consider. First, families have high expectations for the amount of recruiting value they are going to get from their clubs. Second, if families don’t feel like their lofty expectations are being met, they aren’t opposed to taking their talents elsewhere.
Results Are Paramount
The satisfaction with a club is tightly correlated with how successful the player’s recruiting process is going. When they are not receiving the exposure they feel they could, or should, frustration builds. The more engagement the player and family feels from the college coaching community, the happier they are about their club experience.
“To understand why so many families have or are willing to jettison their clubs, it helps to understand why they joined in the first place.”
The findings support the theory that families are measuring success by how much exposure and engagement they are receiving from college coaches. Parents spend a lot of money on club sports, because they believe it is a necessary step on the path to collegiate athletics. With college being one of the biggest financial investments a family will make, they want to ensure an acceptable return on their club sports investment, in the hopes of offsetting some of the staggering increases in college tuition.
Steps to Success
If you think this sounds callous pragmatic, you’re not wrong. However, it is important to consider the process from the point of view of the family; we can all relate to the uneasiness that parents and players are feeling in their recruiting process.
It is like the project that you knew was going to require a lot of effort, but you didn’t know where to get started. The longer you put it off, the more difficult it becomes to take that first step. For many of your student-athletes, this may be how they are experiencing the recruiting process.
The chart below shows how this anxiety leads to increasing frustration for families as more time passes. Initially, family satisfaction is relatively high; over time, frustration builds as more factors can contribute to a feeling of dissatisfaction, like a friend or another player getting recruited or committing to a school. Eventually, they reach a breaking point. Parents might be misguided, or illogical, or naive about the recruiting process. It doesn’t matter. They have a problem and are desperate to find someone with the perfect solution.
Some factors are outside of your control. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate this frustration and even turn the process to your advantage. Below, we discuss three crucial steps you should be taking with your club athletes to increase family satisfaction.
1. Start Early with a Clear Road Map for Recruiting Success
It is a growing trend for student-athletes to commit to schools earlier and earlier. Coupled with the fact that it is easier than ever to hear about these commitments on the internet and social media, you have a perfect storm of recruiting-based FOMO (fear of missing out), undermining your efforts to keep parents happy while you do your job.
While you may not be able to insulate your club from such recruiting envy completely, you can get a head start by familiarizing your athletes on the recruiting process as early as 6th grade. Now, this probably sounds extreme. But “help” at that age does not mean highlight reels or college coaching outreach. Instead, it can be some simple education-based ideas, like a 30-minute discussion with an athlete’s parents about what to expect in the coming years.
More than anything, parents of younger players want to know there is a solid plan in place. It is a bit like starting a long road trip by plugging the address of your destination into your GPS before you get in the car. You know you don’t need it immediately, but it is comforting to know it will be there for you when you need it, as opposed to scrambling on the road to input the destination as an exit approaches.
2. Guide Players to Narrow Their Focus
Ultimately, the success (or failure) of each player’s recruiting process is up to the player. Players need to be proactive in reaching out to schools, going to events, and doing whatever they can to get in front of the right coaches.
But who are the right coaches? There are so many options in collegiate athletics. Each of these teams exist at a school with differing levels of academic rigor and general admittance standards. What programs should a player be pursuing the hardest?
You can have a tremendous influence on your players’ recruiting processes by helping them answer this question. Encourage your players to build a list of 20-30 target schools and you and your staff can then step in and Tag schools that you think are appropriate for the athlete on our platform.
Perhaps this sounds like a small effort on your part, but our data suggests that the impact is huge. Of course you are going to Tag schools for your players because it is so simple. Across our platforms, players for whom their clubs made a list of target schools were significantly more proactive with their own recruiting process than players without target schools. This effect is apparent across all the metrics we measure, as players with a target school list suggested by their clubs:
-Are 2.1x more likely to build a target list of schools for themselves
-Contact 2.5x more schools. HUGE!
-Send 2.4x more messages to college coaches
-Are 1.6x more likely to complete their recruiting profile page and show it off to college coaches
3. Keep Families Informed with Frequent Updates
Starting the process early and building a list of target schools are two quick ways of creating recruiting value for your athletes. We talk about a few structural changes you can make to your club to build a club that serves every one of your players’ recruiting needs in another post as well.
Yet, unless managed properly, the tremendous goodwill you build with families will fade over time. We live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world, and this is no different in the club sports space. It’s important that you demonstrate to parents that your involvement in their child’s recruiting success is a consistent rather than one-off effort.
The easiest way to accomplish this is by maintaining a log of all the things you do for each of your players that you share with each family. Keep this log up-to-date and share any new activities with families as soon as possible.
Also, make it easy to allow families to reach out to you with specific questions. We hear stories from club directors who were blindsided by families who switch to a rival club without warning. Parents are going to have concerns. That much is unavoidable. What you can avoid is letting concerns fester unaddressed for so long that they bubble into real frustration. A log of all the contributions you’re making to their son or daughter’s recruiting process gives you something to point to in recruiting discussions.
It is vital in the club sports space to consider the needs of families when it comes to their recruiting process.
By putting steps into place to ensure families are receiving a consistent experience and can see your help in action, you are providing the infrastructure needed to help your families get the most out of their process.