The Athletic Recruiting Funnel & The Real Story of How Coaches Recruit

The college recruitment process has changed dramatically. In the “old days,” if you were good enough, recruiters found you. The senior year played a more significant role while technology played a far less significant one.

Today, everything starts sooner & faster. The competition is fiercer because there’s more at stake. There are more platforms to audition for coaches, and yet nearly 40% of college students transfer to another school (and 50% of them do it more than once).

The truth is, there’s more confusion and less clarity surrounding today’s college athletic recruitment process. Parents are expected to become “marketing gurus” if they want to help their athlete attract scholarship offers. And most parents wonder…

Where do we start? Who do we turn to? How do we penetrate the clutter and be heard?

The answer can be found in The Funnel.

The “funnel” is a diagram of a similar process you might find in thousands of business marketing books out there. In short, in helps explain the lifecycle of new product that is launched.

First, you make buyers aware.

Then they demonstrate interest in the process.

Then, they make a decision about the product.

And finally, they take action and buy the product.

College coaches recruit athletes relatively the same way. It typically unfolds like this:

The Awareness Phase – You, the student-athlete (“product”) start by making college coaches (“buyers”) aware of your existence.

The Interest Phase – College coaches (buyers) demonstrate interest by conducting research (also known as “evaluating”) on multiple athletes (products) that may be able to solve their specific problem(s).

The Decision Phase – College coaches (buyers) closely examine their pool of candidates (recruits) and narrow their choices as they inch toward a buying decision. A final decision on an athlete (product) is made by the college coach (buyer), and the negotiation begins.

The Purchase Phase – The college coach makes an offer and the athlete agrees to accept the offer. Goods/Services are purchased.

You can take the “action” phase a step further and refer to it as The Re-Purchase Phase), because even though a purchase is made, the process isn’t over. As the athlete (product) & coach (buyer) experience one another, they will enter a re-evaluation/re-purchase phase during which they decide whether or not to renew their agreement.

Note that the process begins with YOU, the student-athlete, making coaches aware. That’s the key point in this lesson. You are leading college coaches through the recruitment process, not the other way around.

The “funnel” is an attempt to bring simplicity and clarity to an often-misunderstood process. If you can start to understand the flow of the funnel, then you’ll begin to realize the events that unfold and what steps you need to take to become proactive.

See, YOU, the product, have something to offer colleges. You will solve a specific problem for many college coaches. And while everyone is flying blind, spending money to produce UNPREDICTABLE results, you are simply adopting the steps of a systematic business strategy to help you produce PREDICTABLE results.

That’s why the funnel is such an important diagram. Your dream is to play in college on scholarship, right? Well, in order to achieve this goal, you need buyers, not tire-kickers. And if you follow a strategy that’s been tried & tested thousands of times by student-athletes who shared your dream, then your chances of success increase exponentially.

Need help designing your funnel? Let’s have a conversation and discuss how SAS can help you attract “buyers” from around the country.

Rex Grayner
Rex Grayner, SAS President

Rex Grayner

As a published author, public speaker and radio/television guest, Rex is widely considered among the nation’s premier authorities on college athletic recruiting.

Before founding Student-Athlete Showcase LLC in 2003, Rex served as a NCAA Division I Compliance Representative and VP of West Coast Operations for a large college recruiting firm. In 2008, Rex was honored with the prestigious “Forty Under 40” award by the Denver Business Journal.


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