HOW TO GET THE PLAYERS ON MY TEAM RECRUITED
By: Heidi Frietager-Kirkaldy
- Knowing who you are as a coach and choosing your coaching staff
What are my “Coaching Cornerstones”?
First and foremost, you have to figure out what it is that is important to you as a coach day in and day out. Consistency within these coaching cornerstones is going to be paramount in keeping your team & coaching staff together as you move through the season. The more your group trusts you as a leader, the more they will be willing to accept your assistance as needed in the recruiting process. We’re going to give you some examples of what we’ve used in the past, but make some that fit you and your style best.
Sample Coaching Cornerstones
· Make sure it’s a staff you can lose with first before you win
· If it were my daughter, how would I want her to be dealt with?
· What are your non-negotiables on & off the field?
· You cannot send a mixed message
· Be willing to say “I’m sorry” or “I made a mistake”
When you look to choose your staff (and yes, we realize options are very limited at the travel ball level at times), there’s a few questions to address and we highly suggest you write out the answers in black and white to go over with your staff – that way everyone can contribute to making the program work best:
· What am I good at as a head coach?
· What do my assistants need to be good at?
· What roles does the head coach want the assistants to fill?
· What roles do the assistants want to fill?
- Picking & coaching a team
The interesting part of choosing the members of your program is that the process is all VERY similar to that of a college coach. You want kids that are talented, coachable, smart, and don’t cause issues on and off the field. You also want the parents of those kids to be supportive of you, your staff, and the other players on the team. Being transparent about the goals of the program during the selection process will be important to keeping the ship sailing in the right direction.
For us, trying to pick up the best pitching available is a huge step in the team building process. Let’s face it: the easiest thing to view in terms of skill on the field is the pitcher because they are on the field handling the ball more than anyone else. So if you can get 2-3 kids that can develop into college prospects in the circle, that just means the rest of your team will get that much more exposure.
A recruiting network is just as important for a travel coach as it is for a college coach. Kids move out of the area, move up in age group, switch to another team, or leave for a myriad of other reasons – it just means you have to be prepared when that happens. Talking to local high school coaches, players’ parents, and even local college coaches can be helpful in trying to be prepared when your recruiting needs arise. Being ahead of the game in this area may be even more important for the futures of your players than anything else you bring to the table.
Determining what you do with those kids you have chosen is another big decision to make. Figuring out how much time they need to spend developing under your tutelage vs. going out and competing is important to answer early on. If everyone on the squad lives locally, your development options with you coaching them will be much broader than if the group is more spread out. College coaches want to see talent and then they want to see that those talented kids are being coached well so that by the time they get them, they are able to compete at the highest level.
- Setting a schedule
Figuring out exactly how good your squad is in relation to others in their same age group as well as in relation to the different college levels will be key in helping you construct a schedule. Finding a good balance of development level tournaments along with being able to show your squad the highest levels of competition is ideal. Obviously, a component of this will be figuring out what your team parents can afford to do in terms of travel.
Assuming your team consists of kids of recruitable age, you’ll want to figure out two things:
1. What schools are my athletes interested in attending?
2. Where do the coaches of those schools go recruiting?
There are SO many tournaments/showcases available today that doing your homework on these two questions is vital if you intend on best helping your kids get recruited. This step will involve communicating with your kids about their list of schools, calling those schools to find out if they have tournaments they typically attend, and potentially calling tournament directors to help answer any remaining questions you may have. Becoming someone that tournament directors and college coaches know will help in getting your team seen by more coaches.
- Contacting college coaches
One of our least favorite questions we often received as college coaches from travel coaches we just met was this: “What are you looking for?” Worse yet, having a coach trying to “sell” us every player in their program before they even knew what we were about made us feel like we were dealing with a used car salesman. College coaches are not shy; if they like one of your players, they will let you know. We often found that our favorite travel coaches would introduce themselves, hand us a team roster, and then allow their team’s play to speak for itself.
Knowing college logos, coaches, rosters, and their upcoming needs is a huge help in the process, especially at tournaments. Being able to greet a coach by name is really helpful in making them feel like you know a little something about their program. Now if you don’t have any of that information available, asking them who they are and about their school before you talk about softball related things can lead to a much more favorable conversation because hopefully you can do a better job of potentially matching players with specific attributes (GPA, majors, location interests) to their program.
In contacting college coaches, your allies are: honesty, brevity, and integrity. If you do what you say you will in an efficient manner when dealing with college coaches and always stay above board, you’ll get a good reputation and more coaches will be watching you in the future, whether a particular prospect goes to that college or not.
- Play Hard: Win some, lose some, but always leave it on the field
Believe it or not, your coaching style can often dictate which coaches attend your games. College coaches want kids that can play on their own and think for themselves, so coaching them in practice and allowing them to play free in games is often preferred by those coaches in attendance.
As much as you evaluate the kids during the season, we encourage you to evaluate your staff’s performances as well, including with the recruiting process. Do all of your coaches know what types of schools each player is interested in attending? Are they successfully talking to coaches about your program when the opportunity arises?
The important part of this process is to make sure your athletes are moving toward whatever their goals are.