How are you expected to recruit your next classes of student-athletes when you haven’t been able to see those prospects in action over the past several months – and may not be able to see them for several more?
That’s been the question foremost on the minds of college coaches. The delays in being able to evaluate recruits face to face, as most coaches want to do, continues.
So here’s a question you may find yourself asking yourself as the COVID-19 crisis of 2020 wears on:
How are your competitors able to feel confident in offering scholarships and roster spots, while you feel uncertain about how (or if) you should move forward with recruits you can’t see in person?
Your competitors – whether they know if or not – are acting intuitively, and trusting their gut.
Sounds simple, but risky, right? Author Malcolm Gladwell outlines why its the best way to make faster, accurate decisions (which is what many coaches need the confidence to be doing right about now) in his book, Blink. Here’s a quick summary in case you aren’t familiar with it:
Humans can take a small amount of data — a “thin-slice” — and draw conclusions from it using a combination of experience and intuition.
“Anyone who has ever scanned the bookshelves of a new girlfriend or boyfriend — or peeked inside his or her medicine cabinet — understands this implicitly; you can learn as much — or more — from one glance at a private space as you can from hours of exposure to a public face.”
Thin-slicing allows us to make smart decisions based on little information with minimal deliberation.
Snap-second judgments are often more accurate than when we take the time to analyze a situation (paralysis by analysis). The subconscious recognizes patterns and connections — what we call a “gut feeling” — long before our brain. But we often don’t know how or why we know something:
“Our unconscious reactions come out of a locked room, and we can’t look inside that room. Guided by experience a person can become expert.”
Speed-dating is a particularly good example of snap judgments in action because it’s very difficult to put into words why we want to date specific people and avoid others.
Untrained intuition leads to bad decisions based on prejudice, bias, and stereotypes. If you’ve never been in a particular situation before, the brain can draw wrong parallels between similar experiences (also discussed in “Thinking, Fast and Slow”). As such, experience and expertise are preconditions to effective thin-slicing.
“In the blink of an eye, a single expert can usually tell you more than a mountain of survey data.”
Or a mountain of time sitting on uncomfortable bleacher seating in hot gyms around the country.
The point is simple, Coach: You probably know enough about the prospects on your recruiting list to know whether or not you should move forward with them, and move forward despite not being able to watch them compete again.
An important clarification on this big idea:
You get to make the final call.
Just because you have the intuitive feeling that a prospect is going to be good enough, doesn’t ‘require’ to do so.
I’m just letting you know you have permission to do it. And, getting back to our original question, it’s the reason other coaches you may compete with feel comfortable in moving forward with offering a prospect the opportunity to compete for their program.
Remember: Your competition is dealing with the same scouting and evaluation deficits you are
They haven’t been able to get an updated look at that prospect, either. They haven’t tracked their growth, seen how they’re acting when they’re on the bench, or evaluated their footwork.
Just like you.
The playing field has been leveled. Everyone is dealing with the same lack of traditional recruiting and scouting information. And yet, the timelines for decisions haven’t changed much…your competitor knows that, and so does the recruit.
That’s why you’re seeing a lot of verbal commitments, even during the pandemic and social unrest we’re experiencing in the spring and summer of 2020. Your competitors and prospects are using the same intuition Gladwell talks about in his book in order to make the best decision possible.
I’m not saying you should. But if you want to, I think you’re going to make the smartest, most informed decision you can, using your experience, intuition and expertise as an evaluator to play well in this less than idea leveled playing field.