Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Improving Early Recruitment

by Mitch Kallick, Assistant Coach - Central Michigan

Early recruitment.  Two words that either rub you the wrong way or make you shrug your shoulders.  Either way, the overall reaction to early recruitment has been reluctant acceptance.  When you speak to college coaches regarding it, the response you hear most is, “Not a fan/hate it but we have to.”

Regardless of your feelings concerning the collegiate recruitment of players prior to their junior year of high school, the reality is it is here to stay.  The schools at the top conferences are more and more receiving commitments from players prior to September 1st of their junior year – the date which the NCAA deems it legal to begin contacting prospective student athletes through email.  According to, there are already 51 total players committed for 2016 and 2017 commitments (I’m sure there are more than a few that have yet to be announced).  Over 80% of these players are going to a member school of the top-10 volleyball conferences in the country.  To get these commitments, college coaches have to use alternate routes to communicate and recruit the prospective student-athletes.  Normally, this means employing an intermediary to allow communication to happen.  Sounds a little circumspect?  Most would agree with you.  The big question is, what can be done to make this reality less, well, unsavory. 
One of the first solutions would be, as in most cases, to cut out the middle man.  Currently, schools have to contact high school or club coaches/directors/recruiting coordinators to express their interest in a player prior to the September 1st date mentioned earlier.  This puts way too much of an onus onto the club coach/director’s hands in the players’ recruitment – not to mention taxing their time and resources.  The majority of people in these positions are working on a part-time or voluntary basis.  This makes it pretty difficult to stay on top of all the correspondence that currently flows between full-time college coaches and recruiters.  

The simple solution to this is by moving up the September 1st date.  Rather than have it at the beginning of their junior year, let’s move it to the beginning of their Sophomore year.  Or possibly to New Year’s Day or Martin Luther King day of their Sophomore year.  Either way, this allows the college coaches direct email communication with a player they are interested in rather than having to go through someone else.  Also, this puts the prospective student-athlete in more control of their recruitment.  Rather than having to rely on someone else to relay messages for them, they can have direct contact with the schools they are interested in and let other schools know they are not interested – saving everyone that valuable commodity of time.  It’s really that simple.

The NCAA has been toying with some ideas to increase communication with prospective student athletes.  There are currently discussions allowing all forms of communication beginning on the current September 1st date. If this proposal passes, it will allow phone calls on this date but will also allow text messaging, snap chats, tweets, and all other forms of electronic information.  Though this is an interesting first step, I do not believe it will have the intended effect.

Like an earlier proposal a few years ago, this proposal is well intended but misguided.  I do not believe it is ethical or appropriate for me as a college coach to be allowed to text or Snapchat a recruit.  There is something about engaging in those activities within the recruiting process that I do not believe grown adults should be initiating or participating in with teenagers – regardless of gender.

The good thing about this proposal is the NCAA is listening and understands that early recruitment is here to stay.  Absolutely there are other steps that can be taken to help the overall recruiting process.  I believe moving the electronic correspondence date up one year is the most appropriate, important, and relevant first step.
The genie of early recruitment is out of the bottle.  So let’s take steps to make the process more transparent and open rather than continuing down its current path of ambiguity.

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