January recruiting tips from #AFCA19

More than Football, Recruiting Tips & Tricks

For a second year, I had the opportunity to go to the AFCA’s annual convention – a gathering of some of the top high school, college and professional football minds – to expand my knowledge, network and reflect on my passion for the game.

Between my conversations with coaches in San Antonio and my experience with athletes who’ve been part of the process and moved on to huge college / pro careers, I put together a few good recruiting tips that build on – surprise – things football teaches:

Always present yourself to the best of your ability and follow up with polite persistence and gratitude. Do the little things better than anyone.

One of those is to use social media for recruiting. Most players know they should have an account with their actual name, which can help coaches find out more about them. Most programs and coaches now have social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Follow ones of interest as a first step.

One coach told me using direct messages can be effective in recruiting. While sliding into DM’s on social media have proven risky for some, NCAA D1 and D2 coaches can direct message recruits during a prospect’s junior year. This may also give you another opportunity to contact a coach or program and for them to see your pitch.

As with texting, if you send a few messages and you don’t hear anything … re-evaluate your strategy. Send an email, call the recruiting office, text, mail a letter, google and find someone you know who knows someone on the coaching staff, go on an unofficial visit.

Assuming you are a good fit (or could be) for that program and school, your PERSISTENCE might pay off. I got my first coaching job simply by making the effort to follow up with a guy who told me to call him. Who knows how this will pay off for you.

Directly from FBS coaches at AFCA … here are three other gems: 

  1. Pin your best one play from a varsity game, not your full hudl recruiting link, to your twitter account and send coaches a link to this one play.  Demand their attention. Keep it short. Make those seconds count.Use this link in emails, texts, DM’s, Instagram stories, Facebook, Twitter … present your case fast.
  2. Use photos and quick quality videos to capture measurables.We are a “see to believe” society and in recruiting that’s because anyone can and does try to get an advantage … and coaches have been burned.

    Examples could be: height, weight, weightroom big lifts or achivements, transcript, test scores, 40 time. You don’t have to post everything publicly, but think about using these assets to pitch yourself in a DM or put them together in a short YouTube link in your profile.

    Showcase on your social account or find ways to pitch to coaches what otherwise makes you unique – volunteer work, leadership, hobbies, personal stories, references who might vouch for you and know them well, etc. Keep it short, but often, you can catch a break by going the extra mile. Sound familiar?

    Even if you’re the prototypical recruit on the field, remember academics MUST stay a priority. Often, just a few points difference in your GPA is thousands of dollars in scholarships … or the difference between you and someone else with better grades even being evaluated.

  3. Be careful with social media. We all know the horror stories, but there are subtle things to keep in mind to make social work for you.As you post as a prospective college football player, think about these questions:

    What is your personal brand as a recruit? How does your social media reflect it?
    How can you be authentic, but positive, with what you post, like and share?
    What would help coaches / future teammates determine if you were a good fit?
    How does your account make you a better teammate / leader to your current team?
    How does what you post add value to the world and tell your story?

    In this vein, the smartest observation from a college football coach I heard was about time of day for recruits to post.  If you are up on Twitter or Instagram in the wee hours of the morning or during school … what does that say about your commitment to rest / recover? What does that say about your commitment to your grades and ability to focus?

    As Coach Derek Jones so aptly points out: “Everything you do in life is an interview … you never know who is watching or what they are looking for.” 

Share your recruiting tips … everyone wins when dreams come true in the form of college scholarships, playing opportunities, expanded worldviews, and the love of the game. Best of luck to all!

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Family ties

Gratitude Improves Attitude, More than Football

I started coaching football in 2010.

As with many things in life, it was a headfirst leap. I was hired at the end of the week and reported to practice on Monday.

That year was full of highlights: great kids, important mentors and stories I’ll never forget, but one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned was off the field.

We were fortunate to have a booster club who wanted to provide team meals on Wednesday nights after practice. Like clockwork, a spread of hot lasagna and garlic bread and cold salad, drinks and dessert appeared in the field house. Just as quickly, it disappeared.

During this time, I learned that the same stupid fart jokes that were funny 20 years ago were still pretty relevant. I tried to keep conversation more productive as I met with the offensive line to look at plays or quiz them on assignments.

…….

One day, one conversation ended with an off-handed comment from a freshman: “Thanks mom.”

Taken a bit by surprise, I fired back: “You know I’m not your mom, and I’m sure she’d be disappointed to hear you said that.”

I’ll never forget his response: “Well, she died … so I’m not really sure what she’d think.”

 

Talk about a gut punch.

 

I’m not sure what weak apology I managed to blurt out, but I felt like I ran the jerk store.

I still do when I think about moment.

…….

Football creates a family for all of us, in different ways.

As a young coach, I fought the idea that kids would look at me like a parent.

Now I understand that they need it sometimes … for different reasons. All of us come from different circumstances and start with a unique mix of support, dynamics, resources and challenges.

Our job as coaches varies … but rarely is it just how to play a game. We give advice, create relationships, help set standards, build a leadership mindset, share in tough times, celebrate big life moments, and many crazy and wonderful things in between.

The educators I work with do the same thing for hundreds daily.

 

I could never apologize enough for my flippant remark, but I have used that experience to get to know my players, by listening more and talking less.

This moment helped crystallize the great advice I saw once on a church billboard: “be kind, for everyone is fighting a tough battle.”

Football is family, after all.

Lessons in Gratitude

Gratitude Improves Attitude, More than Football

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In October, I spoke during a morning character education class about gratitude and why I’m grateful to coach (catch up on the story in my post about this website).

At the end of class, I asked the players to write a thank-you note to someone who has influenced their lives, and include what the opportunity to play football has meant to them.

Early this week, I picked these notes up and am again moved by their contents.

 

We absolutely must stay focused on the critical developmental role we have in our players’ lives — as coaches, and as a community. Here are just a few of the most powerful player sentiments:

“I’m the first one in my family to play football. I will remember all the coaches. Each has impacted me in some way – I don’t think I can ever pay them back, other than becoming the football player and the man they hope I will be.”

“Without football, I feel like I would be with the wrong people, going down the wrong road in life. This team is my life.”

“What I love about the game is that I can escape from everything. I go through a lot, and the few hours I have of football makes me forget everything else.”

“Football is a release. It give me a chance to leave all my problems behind, and to just go have fun. This team has given me more than I imagined I would ever receive. It has given me a family I can trust, and that means so much to me.”

“Playing football this year has given me an experience I didn’t have before in my life. I’ve never felt so close to a group of people in my life – where we grew together to better ourselves.”

Feel free to use the idea to get to know your players better, or by making cards available to help players spread the love by giving cards to teachers, parents, supporters, program sponsors, other coaches.

In my experience, sharing our gratitude can be our most powerful opportunity to connect.

(On that note …. Email me if you need help with a thank-you note template. Pro tip: print on heavy cardstock and cut with a paper cutter. No need to buy retail cards, and you can do something great for your community while continuing to build programs that support life skills and a closer family culture.)

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