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What Coaches Think About Recruiting

One college coach summarized it best when he said, “Off the ice, recruiting is by far the most important part of college hockey.” And yet recruiting remains a frustrating, time-consuming, and disorganized process for players and college coaches.

Good players are being missed. Just because you’re good enough doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. Too much of recruiting is about being in the right place at the right time.

Finding the right players is like searching for a needle in a haystack. There are so many players out there; it’s a daunting task for any program.

There are four main reasons that many qualified players are missed:
- College coaches don’t have enough time to watch each individual for enough time. An athlete who has one bad game may unfairly be ruled out.

- Youth teams can’t participate in all the “right events.”

- Even players who get to play at the right events, aren’t necessarily going to get seen by the right coach.

- Players don’t promote themselves enough to college coaches. As a result, coaches don’t know which players are serious.

Too much about recruiting is being in the right place at right time. Coaches watch for such a small amount of time and have to decide based on that. It's unfair to evaluate a player on just one game. That one game could be your make or break, but often that’s all some coaches can get.

Some college teams have as many as 800 players in their databases.

You have to market yourself. To succeed, take control of the process. The single most important thing for aspiring college players is to actively market themselves to the college coaches. Players shouldn’t wait around hoping to be contacted by coaches. Instead, players can actually take control of the process by introducing themselves to the team's staff and providing regular updates. When coaches start the process, the sheer number of potential recruits often overwhelms them. Those who take it upon themselves to communicate and convince them that the player is serious, inevitably get more attention from coaches.

At a tournament, coaches are obligated to see the players who have really reached out to them. That personal touch is what gets coaches to go see a player. Players need to be the assertive one in the relationship early on in the process. They need to make sure that school recruits them. Players never get seen enough at tournaments. It’s all about persistence in contacting the coaches and convincing them that you’re serious about the program. Even the best players need to promote themselves.

It’s hard to “over-communicate” with coaches. Simply put, they want to hear from qualified players. It makes their job easier.

“Scholarships are few & far between”
Don’t believe the hype about athletic scholarships. Players and parents should develop a better understanding of the fundamentals of athletic scholarships.

Know how many scholarships are available and what it means to be fully funded. Ask informed questions that demonstrate an understanding of the realities of scholarships -- namely that they are not as common as most people think and sensitivity to the “political” challenges coaches encounter in awarding them.

Parents who negotiate hard for every last dollar can actually do themselves a disservice. College coaches say that parents who are difficult during the recruiting process are often difficult over the next four years. Coaches will often evade those relationships, even if it means focusing on other recruits.

Everyone thinks it’s all about the scholarship, but they don’t realize how little money schools actually have. Even some of the best players don’t have full scholarships. Players on some teams get more money from academic and need-based financial aid than they do from hockey scholarships. Hockey scholarships have this mystique, which comes from DI basketball and football. But the scholarship situation in those sports is completely different from how it is in hockey.

“Find the right fit”
Balance academics and athletics. College hockey should be about college first and hockey second. College coaches stress that finding the right fit is the most important part of recruiting.

What constitutes the “right fit?” It’s a combination of academics and hockey that fits the players’ profile. Coaches get too much correspondence from players who clearly haven’t done any research on the college. More often than not, those emails get deleted. Players who spend time at the outset learning about the college are the ones getting a serious look.

Don't pick the school just because of the team. It’s easy to tell which players have actually learned something about the team before they contact the coaches. Those are the players who are most likely to get a response.

What are you going to do after your college career is done? What if the coach leaves after your first season there? What if you get injured and can’t play anymore? It’s about more than hockey.

Coaches don't want kids to unless they see the campus. The best way to find out if a college is the right fit is to visit. Stay overnight with a member of the team, watch practice, sit in on a class, and meet with the coach. Then answer the question: “Do I want to spend four years here?”

Recruiting is starting progressively earlier in high school. Players are making commitments as early as the sophomore year. This is a major concern. Players aren’t able to go on official visits before they commit. Players often make a commitment before they have even seen the campus and spent time with the team and coach. Players who can’t afford to take unofficial visits can’t make well-informed decisions about where they’re going to go. Some players change dramatically from when they are recruited to when they enter college. Even if they don’t change as players, they often change as people. As a result, a school that seemed right two years ago may no longer be a good fit. A lot of early commitments are driven by fear. When one player commits early, the pressure mounts on the other players on the team.

There’s a financial incentive to get players to commit early. College programs that get early commitments don’t have to pay for official visits.

Players and coaches are being forced into situations that they're not completely comfortable with. But colleges have to because by not getting someone early, it may be detrimental to the rest of his recruiting. There’s a domino effect. Fear spreads among players and parents very quickly. One player will sign and then within a couple of months everyone on the team has signed. This is a disservice to the kids. Asking for verbal commitments out of sophomores is a real concern.
Opportunities for Improvement
Many college coaches drag their feet as they wait for other players to commit. College coaches should instead suggest that the player look elsewhere. This is more straightforward and would help players.

It all starts with an honest self-evaluation. Coaches say players should be honest with themselves so they don’t spend a lot of time promoting themselves to schools where they’ll never be able to play. Similarly, players should represent themselves honestly to coaches. Exaggerations always get found out – usually down the line, after both the athlete and college coach have invested a lot of time. If a coach contacts an athlete who isn’t interested, the athlete should tell the coach as much. This will save the coach time because he has one less player to worry about.

Players should be forthright with coaches about how serious they are about a given college. Coaches accept the fact that players need backup plans. But players shouldn’t lead coaches on when there is no genuine interest on the athlete’s side.

College coaches spend 50% of their time on recruiting. Recruiting is incredibly time consuming. The challenge of honing in on 5-6 players out of as many as 800 is a daunting task for even the most organized college coaches.

The good news is, on the whole, college coaches enjoy recruiting. More than anything, coaches enjoy meeting and building relationships with young players.

Coaches also enjoy watching games and trying to identify the right players. This is all driven by an intense competitive fire. Many coaches relish the marketing challenge of trying get the message out and attract the right kids.

There are, however, considerable drawbacks to recruiting. Time spent recruiting is time away from family. Recruiting requires coaches to travel constantly and make phone calls during the evening. College coaches also spend a lot of time organizing recruiting information, which often consists of tedious data entry.

It's an amazing thing to think how much time spent trying to find 5-6 guys. Players should recognize how much time college coaches invest in recruiting.

Coaches like it when players take the time to educate themselves about recruiting and the team. The biggest challenge is finding the best matches, not just random players, but kids who want what the team has to offer.

Overall, coaches enjoy recruiting because they like meeting motivated young players. This presents a huge opportunity for players who take an active role in the recruiting process.

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