“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
– Bruce Lee
In the last month, that I can only describe as a whirlwind, this is what my team keeps telling each other, “Be Water”. With the recent announcement from the NCAA to extend the NCAA D1 recruiting dead period to September 30th, impacting 335 college volleyball programs, I would like to pass this encouragement on to everyone. In a time of uncertainty for many prospective student athletes, we all want things to return to “normal”, but instead of focusing on the opportunities we don’t have, we must fix our vision on the opportunities we do have. Opportunities to grow and shape our programs, our athletes and ourselves through circumstances we could have never anticipated.
Here are 3 opportunities that we have to Be water
Don’t Stress/Stay Calm
I honestly don’t think this can be said enough, but during this time of uncertainty and change we all must remember everyone is in the same boat, facing the same struggles and stresses. For a little while now, the recruiting process has been different than any of us imagined possible, but we will all (players, high school, club and college coaches alike) learn to navigate this new normal together even if it is only temporary. If a student athlete truly has a desire to play at the college level, then there will be a place for him or her to play. I personally, have recruited great college players as early as their freshman year and as late as April of their senior year, the recruiting journey is different for every player and the situation with COVID has not changed that simple fact.
Almost every recruit that I have spoken to over the last couple of weeks has expressed how stressful this situation has been for them: missing their club season and for rising juniors/rising seniors their recruiting process has become uncertain. In my position as leader of a college program, I know that there are many challenges facing the average college student in the course of their career and it is my job to help my student athletes navigate them. I challenge all club directors, recruiting coordinators and coaches to help their players navigate this period of uncertainty by controlling the things they can control. They have many challenges to face in the future, we can help them develop the skills to face tomorrow’s challenges right now.
The current class of club players have the potential to be some of the most resilient athletes we have ever coached, if we help them develop that mindset.
As club directors and coaches we count on you to be the first line of defense to inform your players regarding basic recruiting rules at all levels, especially right now. There are many resources out there for rules education and you don’t need to do in depth research for every rule to be a great resource for your athletes. The JVA has a Recruiting Tools page and NCAA has resources at NCAA.org, to name a few places you can go for information about our ever changing landscape.
In this dead period club coaches and directors are working very hard to get exposure for your athletes and to continue to serve them in the best way possible. This is a great time to help educate your athletes on the recruiting process and for them to learn more about the schools that interest them.
Alumni – engage your club’s alumni in the education of your current athletes, most of them would be happy to help. Live or prerecorded answers to FAQ’s, filling out surveys about their recruiting experience or their experience as a student athlete would all be very helpful. These can be shared with your high school athletes. The best resources are always the people who have gone through the experience.
Ask more questions –This is the moment to dig deeper in the recruiting process. Encourage your athletes to have tough conversations with coaches when they talk. It’s my job to answer the tough questions. Many athletes won’t get in person campus visits in the near future, so this is the time to learn as much as possible before they take that step. Take a deep dive into the majors offered and learn more about the areas outside of athletics. The STUDENT part of the student-athlete experience is just as important.
Social media – Encourage your players to utilize social media! It a resource they already have. We know almost every program in the country has some form of social media to send out updates about what is happening with their teams. Many college programs also put out helpful recruiting information, especially as everything changes so rapidly. Furthermore, most universities have a general social media account, and make sure to look for individual academic department social media accounts. Do you have a student athlete that’s interested in Economics? Follow the ECON department, the professors and advisors in that department! Follow the Office of Admissions, SAAC, Res Life and even the university cafeteria. If this isn’t a moment that your players can travel to campus, many of them have access to campus at their fingertips. Universities are offering more content now than ever.
Club recruiting coordinators, coaches and directors have been so creative over the last 5 months using social media and technology. Many clubs have taken the time to film practices and offer live streams of scrimmages, but what can you do if your gym isn’t allowed to operate at that capacity yet? A couple highlight clips are just as effective! Include the prospects name, position and grad year, post the short clip to an Insta Story or a Twitter post and that is immediate exposure for your athletes. I have seen clips from private lessons, informal scrimmages and from this year’s club tournaments. Rarely, will a video get an athlete a scholarship, but it can get them the first conversation.
During this stressful time, let’s remember to do all that we can to help student athletes Be Water, adapt, and respond. Those that do will come out of this stronger and more resilient.
About the Author
Maggie Couture is the Head Women’s Volleyball Coach at Jacksonville University. She has been coaching collegiately at the Division I and Division III level sine 2013. She was a standout student-athlete at Belmont University where she garnered ASUN Co-Player of the Year, ASUN Scholar-Athlete of the Year, and four-time All-ASUN selection.