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How do you learn which part of your recruiting pitch and messaging are sending the wrong message to Generation Z?

Spring and summer is an inflection point for college athletics thanks to a connected Gen Z.

What are they learning and sharing from your program?

As Generation Z has entered its high school and college years, experts have told us this cohort is participatory and connected. They seek collaboration and dialogue.

If millennials saw social media as a mirror on their personal world, Generation Z experiences social media as a window. They experience the outside world through that window, but this goes both ways: They can open that window and shout.

Through the spring and summer, a handful of college programs learned how empowered this generation of players is.

They’re more willing to speak their minds, to call out injustice and to add their voices to growing social movements. And thanks to social media, they can bypass the traditional gatekeepers in the media and athletics communications departments.

Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, for example, delivered a heartfelt video amid the wave of protests that swept the country this spring. He used his newfound platform to launch Marvin’s Movement to teach young people financial literacy.

College athletes can add critical voices to a national dialogue. At the same time, shining a light on the inner workings of college programs has led to embarrassed head coaches or staff changes.

In some cases, student-athletes want their experience to be recognized, appreciated and understood. Facilities, building names and tributes don’t always reflect the full history and breadth of the student experience.

Spurred by student-athletes, the University of Texas announced a series of changes to honor the contribution of Black trailblazers on campus. The family of benefactor Joe Jamail went a step further and asked the field at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to be renamed for Heisman winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams.

This year is an inflection point for college athletics in many ways, but one will be the combination of a passionate and empowered generation of young people and the reach of social media at their disposal.

Coaches may continue to employ No Social Media policies, but they seem more and more likely to backfire.

Student-athletes believe they can — and should — make a difference in their communities with their platforms. Evolving legislation on name, image and likeness means athletes will have a greater stake in developing and growing their personal brands.

Non-athletic differentiators always have driven college choice. Academics, location and social options continue to be key factors in recruiting. Now, this includes an inclusive environment that recognizes the power and platform for student-athletes. More than that, missteps in these areas can become public embarrassments.

How do you craft a recruiting message that recognizes this new reality while staying within program core values and team concept?

Or more important, how do you learn which part of your recruiting pitch and messaging are sending the wrong message?

College programs must evolve to these new realities. Communicating values that embrace the preferences of Generation Z, visually and verbally, will be the key to running successful programs.

If these recruits open the window to your program, what will they see?

Learn More at The Recruiting Playbook


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