A Five-Point Plan to Win Parents and Influence Recruits

By Jeff Beck on January 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm
The King's Speech

By now, I’m sure you've heard cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs’ epic recruiting pitch delivered to Ezekiel Elliott and a few other recruits. The clip, courtesy of Elliott's father, Stacy, is Coombs at his best, selling Ohio State hard to the recruits and their families.

On a purely cosmetic level it’s easy to see why. The video gives Buckeye fans a rare glimpse into the life of a blue-chip recruit. Show of hands if you were recruited by a top program to play big-time football. No one? Ok, therein lies the intrigue.

So yes, of course the video is captivating to Buckeye faithful, but I’m here to tell you why it works on a much deeper level. To be frank, it’s just a damn good speech.

To prove it, I’ve analyzed Coombs’ performance through the lens of success put forth by Forbes in their January 19, 2011 article “How to Write a Great Speech: 5 Secrets for Success”.

According to the piece, the keys to an oratory barnburner are as follows:

#1 Great speeches are primarily emotional, not logical
#2 Small shifts in tone make an enormous difference to the audience, so sweat the details
#3 A great speech has a clear voice speaking throughout
#4 A great speech answers a great need
#5 A great speech conveys one idea only, though it can have lots of supporting points

So there’s the measuring stick. Let’s see how Coombs’ speech stacks up.

#1 Great Speeches are Primarily Emotional, not logical.

If there is any “key to a great speech” that is most evident in Coombs’ pitch, it’s this one. Since his hiring last offseason, it was pretty apparent emotion was Coombs’ bread and butter. The man feeds off of it like Hoke to a ham and this performance is no exception.

Even through the grainy footage you can see the vein bulging out of his forehead as he bullies urges these young men to consider the Scarlet and Gray. I can’t be certain, but I’m fairly sure my brow was assailed with "Coombs hype spittle" as I viewed through my screen. It’s that intense.

See for yourself:

Your ears didn’t deceive you. That was Coombs getting juiced about giving equipment to players followed by a “we don’t apologize for it being hard.” What being hard? Getting equipment? Wearing clothes? Does it matter? No, you still want to run through a wall for the guy and that’s the idea. 

Emotional yes. Logical no. Don’t worry about it.

#2 Small Shifts in Tone make an enormous difference to the audience

Coombs was masterful with this aspect as well, realizing his target audience was split between parents and players. Changes in tone and content were needed to speak to both segments and he does it without missing a beat.

Speak to the kids, Kerry:

Now give the parents something to gnaw on:

Don’t forget to mention academics… the 'rents love academics:

Tone shifted flawlessly.

#3 A Great Speech Has a Clear Voice Speaking Throughout

In this case, “speaking” isn’t adequate to describe Coombs’ style. For all intents and purposes, he is yelling for five minutes straight. But contextually the voice works as the volume and delivery exist for one reason and one reason only: to let these kids know they're at the big show.

The voice is bombastic and overwhelming at times, but it’s a perfect metaphor for life as a member of the Scarlet and Gray. Bombastic and overwhelming – welcome to Buckeye football. If you can’t handle it, don’t let the door hit ya.

#4 A Great Speech Answers A Great Need

In this context the speech doesn’t answer a great need, but rather, a great want emanating from both sides of the equation.

Coombs wants these kids to play for Ohio State. These recruits want to be convinced they’re choosing the school that will give them the best shot at becoming a better football player, winning a national championship and making it to the pros.

Player: “But Coach Coombs, will I be the only one working my tail off?"


Game. Set. Match. Needs answered.

#5 A great speech conveys one idea only, though it can have lots of supporting points

Finally, a great speech works itself to a crescendo, an endpoint that ancillary facts have been powering toward all along.

In this case, the supporting points have been covered in great detail. These kids should come to Ohio State to:

  • Win a championship
  • Get a world-class education
  • Have the chance to be surrounded by like-minded players
  • Be coached by a staff that just took a team to the top of the 12-0 mountain
  • Be groomed into a potential NFL draft pick
  • Wear clothes

While all of these points are important, they’re not the main idea.

No, instead, the main drive surfaces with the use of eight simple words:

"What in the world are you waiting for?"

With skills like that, Kerry Coombs may just be Ohio State's most valuable coach right now.

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