After finishing my collegiate athletic career and moving on to my first college coaching position I was eager to take on the new challenges that come with being a coach that I had not yet experienced from a player perspective. Recruiting was a part of the job that I was particularly eager to participate in. As I applied and interviewed for coaching positions a crucial question I asked was, “as a graduate assistant, will I be active in the recruiting process?” Rachel Smith, the inaugural head coach at DeSales University responded with exactly what I needed to hear to know that DSU was the place I wanted to be. She was excited to add me to her coaching staff and get me started watching, finding, and communicating with current and new prospective student-athletes.
I was familiar with some of the recruiting process as a collegiate player aspiring to coach. I worked with my college head coach to meet with, tour, and host recruits looking to join our program. As an assistant coach I was able to take on more of the process from start to finish. However, I soon found that the biggest struggle came when recruits “ghosted” me. Why did this happen? What could I do to change it?
I use the term “ghosting” to exemplify the action from recruits who suddenly cease contact, leave emails and texts unread, and calls unanswered. Today, “ghosting” is a term commonly used in relationships when one partner stops all communication suddenly, without warning. As coaches we have a relationship with each recruit and when ghosted, find ourselves at a loss. Something I question is why recruits today find it ok to cease all communication suddenly with no warning? With today’s recruiting mainly done using technology; texts, emails, phone calls, etc. does the lack of face to face contact create a culture that leaves recruits feeling that ghosting is the norm and ok? This action seems to display the inability to handle conflict and face uncomfortable situations. The biggest example is a recruit deciding on a school that may not be ours. It is part of the job, we understand, and expect that not all recruits will find us the perfect fit for their needs. What we do hope is that they let us know. As coaches, we all take the time and make large efforts to maintain relationships with all of our recruits. The least we would like to receive is an email, text, or call to let us know; seeing or hearing the news from other outside sources is not ideal.
Do recruits think we are scary? We won’t bite (at least not most of us!). Those prospective players that call or email and are open with us about their process and decisions are the ones we all want to add to our programs as coaches. These are the well-rounded individuals we seek out. I can recall my own recruiting process being difficult and there were plenty unknowns. I had little guidance from my high school and club coaches at the time, which is now unusual with today’s club programs, however I still recall alerting all the coaches I was in contact with of my decision while thanking them for all that they did for me. Some were kind and wished me luck on my endeavors while others were more upset and didn’t hide it. This was difficult, but it was a life lesson.
My hope is that coaches and parents guide recruits to avoid the ghosting route and instead be upfront and honest. Technology is the future and will continue to be the way in which coaches and prospective student-athletes communicate. Not all conversations will be easy, however it doesn’t mean that they can be ignored. The hard conversations are the ones that will shape a student-athlete and prepare them for the future not just on the field but off it too.