We recently marked the one year anniversary of Tom Hanks, Rudy Gobert, and the week that shut down sports. What a year it has been for college coaches throughout the country – challenging, confusing, and filled with uncertainty.
But in many programs, it’s also been a year of opportunity. The pandemic and all its resulting chaos has presented a unique opportunity to re-imagine and re-evaluate culture, rosters, and, of course, recruiting.
In some cases a lack of traditional tools – visits, off-campus evaluation, and traditional competition – necessitated a shift in tactics and strategy. In others, it was driven simply by the desire to use this time to grow and better prepare staffs to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
Over the past 10 months, my contribution to coaches has been a daily set of questions – called #staffchat – designed to create conversations amongst staffs looking analyze their recruiting strategy and results. And while the topics range from how to understand your program’s brand to how to approach transfers, it’s primarily a daily exercise in self-discovery and encouraging coaches to ask the right questions to identify the best path forward.
This is a summary of those questions – sorted by theme – to help coaches understand their current situation, who they are, and how they’re planning to attack the most difficult recruiting challenges ahead.
(It’s the 2nd version. If you missed the first version, it can be found here.)
How You View Your Current Situation:
- If recruiting is going well, how do you measure that? Better than past results? Meeting goals? Higher-rated athletes? On-field results? Ability to be in more conversations? Is it measured against local, regional, or national competitors?
- How much can your recruiting improve? What is your program’s ceiling? Would it help to consistently win more recruiting battles against one team? Are the biggest challenges at the beginning (building interest) or the end (getting commitments)?
- What’s the key to next-level recruiting in your program? Is it consistency? Access to a new talent level or pool? Winning specific recruiting battles? How can you attack that? Better strategy? People? Money? Time? Relationships?
- When you come in second, do you consider that a loss or progress? Do you identify mistakes you made or logical reasons they would pick the other school? Does the school matter? Can you change that dynamic? In every battle? Just once?
- Has the pandemic improved your ability to find talent? Made it harder? Do you recruit from the newspaper and local high school results? Do stats provide enough info to start a conversation? Will you incorporate new strategies going forward?
How You View Yourself as a Recruiter:
- Who is the best player you’ve ever recruited? Is it defined by what they did before, during, or after their college career? Were they the hardest get? Or the easiest? Could you have gotten them to go to another school if you worked there?
- Who is the best recruiter in your game? What traits do you admire – work ethic, eye for talent, emotional intelligence? Are they good because of their institution and all its attributes? Or in spite of it? Are they also a good coach?
- Without time on the road how do people know you are a good recruiter? Commitment announcements? Being constantly mentioned by prospects in calls with other coaches? Does a wide presence make you good? Or just being in the right conversations?
- Does what you do well at your level work at a higher level? Is your sport played differently? Or just faster? Can you do what you do well with less talent? Do you need a different type of athlete? Can you recruit that type of athlete?
- Conversely, does what you do well work at a lower level? Is your sport played differently there? Or just slower? Can you do what you do well with less talent? Do you need a different type of athlete? Can you recruit that type of athlete?
How You Plan to Recruit Transfers:
- Are you prepared for the uncertainty ahead in college athletics? Planning to act on a growing transfer pool? Changing the way you coach to try and keep more current athletes happy? Just doing the same things and hoping for the best?
- Is the transfer portal surge a reflection of the pandemic? Poor recruiting stories? Coaching behavior? Player’s need for immediate success? More opportunities than talent? More talent than opportunities? Good for college sports? Bad?
- How well-positioned are you for changes in transfers in your game? Do you see your sport matching national trends? Independent of them? Are you saving money or roster spots? Plan to add or react to interest?
- Are you spending time looking at other teams’ rosters in light of the extra year of eligibility? Have you had discussions about potential changes to your roster? Do you have enough info to act quickly when players contact you?
- Transfers like to go fast and have specific issues. Are you ready to go fast? Why not? What can you do for athletes looking to transfer up (status) or transfer down (playing time)? If they don’t know you, how do you get them to respond?
And Bonus Questions: How One Thing Could Change Everything
- What single thing would improve your program tomorrow? Is it an athlete? A new staff member? A cultural change? A training tool? An unrestricted addition to your budget? A different conference? A big institutional announcement?
As you – and many other coaches – return to your office, re-engage with your colleagues, and begin to see the path back to normal, take the time to celebrate the best part of being a member of a bustling athletic department. Grab a cup of coffee and have a conversation.
There are so many great solutions that come from sharing ideas with others who face the same, or similar, recruiting challenges. Those answers exist across the hall, across sports, across gender lines, but only if you seek them out.
Hope these questions help you and your staff access them.
Be Distinct. Be Different.
Paul Nemetz-Carlson is a former college coach and Director of Operations who now works with coaching staffs around the east for Tudor Collegiate Strategies. To contact Paul, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.