Slam Dunk Recruitment Lessons

by Matt Mattson

March Madness is here! At the time of writing this post, the Sweet Sixteen is decided and we’re heading into the homestretch of what has to be the wildest tournament in all of American sports. But since this isn’t a sports blog, and because we sometimes feel like we can turn anything into a lesson on values-based recruitment techniques, let’s see what the world of college basketball has to teach us, shall we?

Now, I’m not a huge basketball fan, to be honest. That probably has something to do with me being cut from my HS basketball team (just like MJ!). I only passively watch the tourney every spring because I know there are always going to be 1 or 2 games that blow my mind. But I know enough about the game to see that it is clearly just a complex analogy for how to recruit members into your organization. You might have to look closely, but you’ll see what I mean.

Here are…

Four Slam Dunk Recruitment Lessons Taught by the NCAA Basketball Tourney

  1. You can count on a strong system year after year. O.K., so Duke was eliminated in the first round, and they are probably the best example of an elite system in the game. But look how often Duke makes the tournament. Then look at KU, UK, Indiana, UNC, Maryland, UCLA… you get the idea. These schools have solid systems that are built on patterns of behavior that deliver consistent, repeated, world-class results. You’re even seeing schools like Pittsburgh and Gonzaga going from one-time wonders to solid systems that are constantly funneling in top talent and churning out wins. Does your organization have a world-class system? Or are you just hoping to accidentally bring in a superstar and make a cinderella run on long-term success?
  2. Wise coaches prevail. There is a reason you continue to see men like Mike Krzyzewsksi, Bill Self, Tubby Smith and Bobby Knight in the tournament. These men understand the importance of continually learning and improving — and they understand the importance of doing the LITTLE THINGS right. John Wooden said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” Coach Wooden is probably one of the most quoted individuals in American sports because of these truisms. As an organization, are you constantly reaching out to learn more and more? Are you constantly trying to improve your organization’s ability? Are you working on the little things it takes to be successful with recruitment (practicing your skills, working your plan, meeting people constantly)? These coaches run a tight ship, but it is their ability to learn and to get their players to do the LITTLE THINGS that get them their results.
  3. You need a versatile big man. That Oden kid from Ohio State is something. As a freshman he’s dominating the game. When it comes to recruiting, you need a big man to step up like he does every game. While most organizations have someone that is shackled with the responsibility of recruiting (i.e. recruitment chair, rush director, etc.), often that person is a younger member who gets suckered into taking the position — and then all they do is EVENT planning (they’re one dimensional). You need a real, versatile presence to truly orchestrate the outcome of your recruitment game. The person who steps up to run recruitment doesn’t have to be the most suave or smooth, that person just needs to be a leader, and needs to have vision (like the big man down low). The person in charge of recruitment for your organization should manage your names list, delegate the responsibilities of contacting prospects and interacting with prospects. Your “big man” should NOT be the only person who handles the ball — they should be able to go strong to the hoop (recruit members themselves), and more importantly, dish it back out (empower the other horses of the chapter to play their roles).
  4. The uniforms don’t matter. You can have an ugly T-shirt with the word “Saluki” on the outside of it, and still make it far in the tourney. Just like your “rush t-shirts” and peripheral advertising really don’t make any difference. Real results in basketball come from individuals beating other individuals in the man-on-man game. In recruitment, results don’t come from the uniform, the hype, or the hair-dos… results come from one person helping another person understand the value that your organization has to offer.

I told you we could find recruitment lessons in pretty much anything.

We hope your brackets are still in tact (I’ve got Ohio State winning it all!) Enjoy the rest of the tourney! Happy recruiting.


1 comment

  • Josh Orendi

    I’ll add a few “March Madness Lessons” that I've picked up that bring me back to recruitment:

    1. Players turn over every 3-4 years. Great programs have great coaches/mentors that sustain long term excellence. Does your chapter have that superstar advisor in place? If not, that person is more important to find that any new recruit.

    2. Most of us only pay attention to college basketball during March Madness. Few pay attention outside of “basketball season.” Yet, great teams become GREAT teams in the OFF-SEASON. In recruitment, it's what we do about recruitment year-round that makes us great moreso than how hard we try during Rush.

    Do you have a couple lessons you could add? We’d love to read them.

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