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Recruiting technology: CC, UCCS coaches and ADs adapt with the times
The Gazette takes a look at how the Digital Age has added to the increasing competition to get noticed in the world of college athletics.
The series began Sunday and ends Wednesday, national signing day.
- Internet changes off-field game dramatically for coaches, players
- Hockey players go down different recruiting path
- Instant access helps Air Force in "intelligence gathering"
- Technology changes experience for AFA star Michael Lyons and younger brother
With advancements in technology and the explosion of social media into mainstream society, the way people communicate has changed drastically in recent years. As a result, college coaches have had to adjust the way they interact with and pursue prospects.
“Probably the biggest change I’ve seen in players is that it used to be that you’d actually call them and they’d answer the phone,” Colorado-Colorado Springs women’s basketball coach Corey Laster said. “Nowadays, I’ll call a player, and they won’t answer the phone. But if I text them, they’ll get right back to me.
“They just don’t communicate the same way, so to reach kids nowadays, you have to utilize texting.”
The NCAA has been making adjustments to its policies in recent years at all levels, loosening the restrictions on coaches who want to use social media to contact potential players. Beginning in 2014, coaches will be able to communicate with prospects via social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, a move that some view as a double-edged sword.
“Our coaches weren’t particularly in favor of it, because they believe there are certain boundaries you don’t want to cross with 16-year-old kids,” Colorado College athletic director Ken Ralph said. “They may have to make coaching-specific Facebook pages just to make sure certain boundaries aren’t crossed. You have to be careful with that.”
Social media, no doubt, has altered the landscape of college recruiting.
“The NCAA has, through the years, attempted to level the playing field,” said UCCS athletic director Steve Kirkham, who was the women’s basketball coach at Colorado Mesa in Grand Junction for 16 years. “Kids are so astute and have access to so much information at such an early age. With social media, the entire conversation had to change.”
The days of coaches spending hours locked in an office watching VHS tapes and DVDs are gone. They now receive emails with players’ self-made highlight videos that have been uploaded to websites or embedded on Facebook pages.
“One of the big things we’re seeing is students making their own recruiting videos and uploading them to YouTube, which is fantastic,” Ralph said. “It’s great in terms of keeping costs down and keeping clutter out of the office.”
Advancements in technology have helped coaches analyze a greater amount of information in a shorter period of time, speeding up the recruiting process.
“From our perspective, we can watch games on video and cultivate statistics on all the leagues in North America, and I think you have to, because you’re forced to make decisions quicker than you used to,” Colorado College hockey coach Scott Owens said. “There used to be long courtships and somebody taking four or five visits and all that kind of stuff. Nowadays, kids are 10th-graders who’ve already looked at schools, are tracking things online and are following everything.”
Most coaches and administrators prefer using a mix of technology, social media and traditional recruiting practices to sign players. In the end though, there’s no equivalent to face-to-face meetings.
“I still like the old-school method,” said Laster, in his third year at UCCS. “I really like recommendations from high school coaches. When a high school coach calls me about a kid, that piques my interest most. What technology has done has really given us access to more kids, but the follow-through still needs to be a little bit of the old way.”
“I still think it’s a people business,” said Owens, who is in his 14th year with the Tigers. “You still need to meet the mom and dad, look the guy in the eye, see what kind of build they have and what kind of person they are. You have to do that.”
Failing to use the tried-and-true methods could prove costly.
“Coaches who sign a kid without having a personal conversation with them or seeing them play in person are taking a big chance,” Kirkham said. “There are some coaches selling used cars now who tried that.”