Coaches use recruiting to breathe life into collegiate sports

By Gus Bode

Coaches provide life to college sports with recruiting

Deckline:Recruitment of talented players is important to the success of any college sports program.

Talking into an answering machine is sometimes the only way to communicate with a college sports coach during the summer, and they’re not all gathered at someone’s house having an all-coach barbecue.

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Most of them are out recruiting.

SIU coaches agree there is nothing more important to a sports program than recruiting.

“Recruiting is the lifeline to your program,” said SIU volleyball head coach Sonya Locke.

If the coaches can’t reel in talented players, their respective programs will pay the price.

“If you don’t have the players, it doesn’t matter what kind of coach you are,” said SIU softball head coach Kerri Blaylock. “If you don’t actually have the athletes to get the job done, you’re not going to go anywhere.”

The NCAA sets up recruitment guidelines for coaches to follow. The organization outlines when coaches are allowed to begin contacting and evaluating possible recruits. It also establishes the dead period, when the athletic staff is not allowed to make in-person recruiting contacts or evaluations, on or off-campus, or permit official or unofficial visits.

Much of a coach’s recruiting time is spent on the phone finding the athletes.

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“The main thing with recruiting is that you have to go out, and you have to spend the time on the phone and you have to spend the time looking up the kids’ names,” said SIU men’s track and field head coach Cameron Wright. “If you’re going to win, if you’re going to be a successful program, you’re going to have to spend a lot of time on the phone.”

Each sport has a time when coaches can leave campus to evaluate a possible recruit. During this period, authorized athletic staff looks at the playing abilities of the student, along with his or her academic qualifications. At these evaluations, coaches are not allowed to talk to the athletes or their families.

This time spent observing a prospect is important to finding quality athletes.

“There are a lot of good players out there, but there are some that maybe you really wouldn’t want in your program because they would be more of a headache vs. a good teammate or player,” Locke said.

Many coaches have learned that it is important to look at more than just how someone plays the sport. Individual team needs are also important.

“It depends on what your needs are, and then when you are actually evaluating student-athletes, of course you are looking for athletic ability, skill-wise what they are capable of doing within your sport,” said SIU women’s basketball head coach Lori Opp.

Coaches also look at how the athletes work under pressure and how they communicate with people around them.

“I’m looking at their attitude, I’m looking at how they deal with their coaches, how they deal with their teammates and especially how they deal with their parents,” Blaylock said.

Academics are also important to coaches during recruiting. Student-athletes are held to a higher academic standard than students being admitted into the school as non-athletes. They need to meet a GPA requirement to stay in their sport.

Coaches spend a lot of recruiting time talking to high school counselors and teachers to see what the student has accomplished academically and if the student has the potential to succeed in college.

“There’s a lot of background checking that you have to do into the situation instead of just looking at a GPA and deciding that the kid is not going to make it,” Locke said.

Students who aren’t at the top of their game are still good candidates for a program if they show potential to be an accountable student, responsible athlete and quality person.

“Athleticism is important, but the other thing is that you want to get good people in your program,” Wright said, “people that come in and appreciate what they get, people that come in and don’t complain.”

Money also plays a large part in the amount of recruiting a coach can do. In a program’s budget, a coach is only allocated a certain amount of money to use for recruiting. This makes it especially important to find selling points about the team and the University.

“As long as the product you are selling is a good product, I don’t think that the money we could spend is going to be an issue, because there are all these rules that everybody has to abide by,” Locke said.

Many coaches have learned that smaller budgets for recruiting do not mean their programs cannot bring in talented athletes.

“You have to be smart enough to use the money that you have and use the resources you have and bring in the kids you are capable of bringing in and get the best talent that you can,” Opp said.

Coaches know that bringing in the right athletes to make a successful team is what keeps programs at universities flourishing.

“If you don’t bring in good quality kids, you’re not going to have a good quality program,” Wright said.

Reporter Kristina Dailing can be reached at [email protected]

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