We all know her! That wide-eyed little girl with the covers pulled up to her chin. She closes her eyes hoping when she reopens them, the MONSTERS in the closet are gone. She hears them rumbling around, moving her well organized life into disarray. “Okay” she tells herself, “I am tough, I am a strong athlete, and I can do this, what is there to be afraid of?” This is what I see in the eyes of the young athlete when I ask the somewhat misleading question “what is your role in the recruiting process?”. The silence is quite loud, the wheels are turning, the search for the right answer is populating in her mind. I do get the occasional ‘on point’ response, but more often than not it comes out as a textbook description of a cold-call salesman’s list of weekly to do’s! It’s time for me to shut the door on the monsters! The sparkle in her eyes returns, shoulders relax and a cautious, yet excited smile appears as she hears the words roll out one by one, “your role is to be a student-athlete – period”!
As one of the top volleyball clubs in the nation, Munciana’s leadership was well aware the recruiting chasm was growing larger and more unmanageable. We asked ourselves “how can we successfully support our athletes in the recruiting process and at the same time allow them to focus on their academics and athletic growth?”
Our first step was going to the college coaches to get their input. We already knew what we needed to do better, now we needed to know what they wanted. A comprehensive survey was developed and the process of ‘taming’ began. I communicated with coaches at all levels and after the initial shock of, “you want our input?”, the information began to flow. Some of the feedback I received: “clear, concise, honest communication”, “we want to get to know the prospective student-athlete as a person”, “working relationships with clubs that build trust”, “consistent communication with the athlete”, “easy access to practice and match video”. We knew managing these components of recruiting were key to the success of ‘taming the recruiting monsters” that have taken control of these young athletes’ futures.
It takes dedication and passion from a club’s leadership to implement a plan that encompasses the ‘whole process’ and ‘whole athlete’. A four-tiered approach was developed to include the following:
1. Communication: We have partnered with VolleyballRecruits to implement a seamless communication tool that encompasses an athlete’s volleyball profile, video, academic information and a communication tool that allows direct communication with the colleges of their choice. The athletes build their own profile and begin the search for their target schools. The database houses all colleges from DI through NAIA along with contact information and pertinent information about that school. For college coaches this is a dream come true, one platform for athlete information and communication. As the recruiting coordinator, I am copied on all communication and it allows me to give real-time feedback to athletes, their parents and to college coaches.
2. Consultations/Athletic Evaluations: Meeting face-to-face with our athletes and their parents is a key component of the process. Our goal is to assist them in all phases of the recruiting process as well as educating them in understanding their roles (both players & parents), NCAA protocols/rules, and setting realistic expectations. We prepare our athletes on how to communicate with coaches, what questions to ask, and how to research the program. Ideally, we want to walk them through the process of finding the right fit for them; THE TRIFECTA – Academics, Level of Volleyball Program, Location. Additionally, our leadership is committed to working with both the athletes and college coaches on athletic/skills assessment and advancement. Each athlete will be assessed by the club and that feedback is crucial in the recruiting process. We will directly incorporate that into their improvement plan for the club season. College coaches want to know these athletes are on a path to improving their level of athleticism, skill and overall growth as a student-athlete.
3. Personal Growth & Awareness: We wanted to offer a solution that could assist the young athlete in understanding who they are as individuals. The pressure that they put on themselves and the outside pressures to achieve are overwhelming and sometimes detrimental in their recruiting process. Helping them to better understand how they are wired, what motivates them and how they manage the process can be key to their success. We have partnered with Targeted Career Solutions of Indianapolis to administer the PI (Predictive Index), an internationally known assessment tool utilized by corporations worldwide. This indicator concentrates on how the student-athlete is “wired” and measures innate motivating needs. Having self-awareness on how we approach things in life is a powerful asset. This is a great tool to help determine the right match for a student athlete with a prospective college, volleyball program and coach.
4. Nutrition: One of the silent but most destructive monsters in the recruiting process! As a nationally recognized club that graduates tough and immensely talented athletes, we had to take an honest look at how we have let this monster run wild. Well known for training athletes at the highest level, both physically and mentally, we knew that we had to do a better job in the area of nutrition. The feedback we received from coaches confirmed what we had already known. They want clubs to better prepare the athletes to adapt and maintain a healthy lifestyle that enables them to perform at their maximum level. While we know this is a marriage between the athlete, their parents and their lifestyle, we knew we had to implement options both through education and through offerings at our food court. Our 2016 athletes will be offered comprehensive nutrition options and support through key partnerships with experts in the field.
‘Taming the Monsters of Recruiting’ simply takes an introspective look at your club philosophy and values. It is long overdue for clubs that train thousands of athletes per year, to step back and take a comprehensive look at how they can better serve their student-athletes in the recruiting process.
In closing, I am reminded of the words of the great Vince Lombardi ,”The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual”. To the athlete, parent, coach, club director, and recruiter, when we combine our efforts, success is imminent.
Patty Costlow is the Recruiting Coordinator for Munciana Volleyball Club in Yorktown, Indiana.