Wednesday, March 14, 2018

It's Not You, It's Me - The Real Work in Recruiting

This post is a reflection on conversations I regularly have with parents, club coaches, and college coaches. It was inspired by attending an annual national tournament in my home town that leads to having those conversations again every year.

When we say "it's not you, it's me", it's usually code for "no, it's you". What we don't pay attention to is that to say such things, we still have to know what we want in order to know if "it's me" or if "it's you". If we want to sincerely know the answer to that, we have real work to do. In recruiting, we have to figure out who we are and what it is we are looking for before we can know what the right fit for us is. It is up to us to find the right fit. That process has two parts, figuring out who we are and what we want as well as finding and contacting the places that we think could fit best.

How do we figure out who we are and what we want? I recommend thinking about the types of settings and places that are attractive and interesting to us. What is it about certain settings that appeals to us? What types of people do we enjoy the company of? There's plenty of things to think about before we even begin to consider the aspects of a sports program (and that's as it should be, in my opinion).

How do we go about finding and contacting the places where we think we'd fit? We've got two great resources, high school guidance counselors and the internet. Guidance counselors are especially helpful because they specialize in knowing more about colleges than we do. Take advantage of that knowledge. Once we have a better handle on where to look, finding out who to contact and how is much easier.

We shouldn't wait for someone to do that work for us because they aren't us. We are the best people to discover what works best for us. Yes, there are recruiting services out there and they can serve an important role in recruiting. But if we think that they act as a personal shopper/genie in a bottle without input from us, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. (We'll then likely blame the service for what amounts to not reading our minds successfully.) Even with the benefit of a recruiting service, we still need to give them information about us so that they can do their jobs better. 

But why should we do all that work? Wasn't it enough to just get good at our sport and then show up to competitions and wait to be discovered? Jack London wrote, "don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club." There are thousands of athletes just like us out there so it's up to us to not only distinguish ourselves athletically and academically but to figure out what we are offering to schools as well. We expect schools and programs to show us why we would fit in well with them. Why don't we do the same? Why do we think that just being an above-average athlete is enough? While we are familiar with ways that we can separate ourselves from those thousands of other athletes, what are we doing to figure out what separates one school from another? More importantly, once we know what separates them, do we know if those differences mean anything to us?

Just being good players with great background music in our recruiting videos isn't enough. Programs want the right players and we want the right program. We still need to identify what works for us just like they have identified what works for them. When I ask a coach, "what are you looking for in a (insert a position here)?", they can tell me characteristics of that player that will fit into their program best. If we ask ourselves what we are looking for in a school, can we give me the same level of detail? If we can't, then we have work to do before we get carried away contacting schools. Programs don't contact us until after they've learned about we. Do we do the same? They aren't looking for just any player, they are looking for the right player for their program. If we are to do the same, then we must engage in the process to know what fits best.

Just as there are many players out there like us, there are many schools and programs out there that are similar to one another. If we want to know what makes them different from one another, we need to figure out what makes us different, we need to know what we are searching for first. That's when we've discovered the meaning of "it's not you, it's me."

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