The National Signing Day for high school athletes is almost upon us. ESPN will devote an entire day of coverage to the winners and losers. They will project what college football teams captured the most highly rated recruits. There will be the last minute drama and hysterics from the athletes who are undecided or have experienced a change of heart. They play Three-Card-Monte with ball caps, feigning turmoil in deciding which school will win the trophy of their services.
What I find to be most interesting, is the athlete that will leave the safe confines of their hometown and travel hundreds of miles to a college far from home and family. I often wonder, why? Was it a sense of adventure, or did they just want to bring some air under their wings and break out of the corral?
One Miami area recruit who chose the University of West Virginia, put it in the best terms. He had never seen snow and wanted to move north. For many others, it comes down to relationships established with assistant coaches. Good recruiters are in high demand at prominent schools. Upcoming changes in NCAA rules will allow coaches unlimited communication with recruits through social media. The rapport established and developed by the recruiters with the recruits will become even more important, as they have to cut through the barrage of social media white noise the recruits will experience.
In the book and the movie the Blind Side, Louisiana State University (LSU) football coach Nick Saben, was recruiting Michael Oher, a prized five star recruit in the home of his foster family, the Touheys’. At the time, Saben was coming off winning a national championship.
He knew the value of relationships and that those relationships included everyone that would have input into the decision-making process. He made a comment about how much he liked Mrs. Touhey’s window treatments. He could have just left it with, “You have a lovely home.” Saben was more specific and said the window treatments, not curtains. He used specificity and earned respect from Mrs. Touhey. Michael Oher did not choose LSU, but instead he chose to attend Mississippi. He is now playing for the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.
Meanwhile, Saben continues to stockpile prized recruits as the head coach at the University of Alabama, which won the last two National Championships. Talk about Roll Tide Roll. His recruiting coordinator is Mike Groh. Previously, Mike Groh was at the University of Louisville, where he helped to land Teddy Bridgewater. In an interview leading up to the Sugar Bowl win against Florida, the prized quarterback, was interviewed. Bridgewater was asked why he chose to spurn offers from local schools in the State of Florida and move north to Louisville, Kentucky. He said it was based on his relationship with assistant coach Mike Groh and head coach Charlie Strong. He added that the relationship was built upon trust.
Charlie Strong has demonstrated his trust and loyalty by remaining at a school, despite being tempted by much better compensation packages from other schools. Strong appears to practice what he preaches and from all indications, he is a man who is devout in integrity. Loyalty, trust and integrity are often rare commodities in sports.
There will be a lot of nail biting this week as the commitments are announced. Then they will quickly shift full attention on next year’s class. Coaches will have to focus on developing deeper rapport with their recruits for next year’s class. As those of us on Twitter understand, the social aspect for some coaches could be a challenge. It will still come down to demonstrating a genuine interest in the student athlete’s life and social influences. They have to demonstrate empathy to the recruit and stand in his cleats to view the world from his perspective. While working with a Division 1 coach, I stressed to recall the emotions they experienced when they endured the recruiting process. They needed to find commonality and uncover the passions and fears of the athlete.
Note – As a caveat, I did not attend any of the aforementioned schools. My heart is at the University of Arkansas and I will be anxiously awaiting the results from new head coach Brett Bielema.
For more tips on increasing and developing rapport, take a look at FACE 2 FACE : http://www.amazon.com/Face-2-ebook/dp/B009991BII/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354630000&sr=1-6