USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Insanity was once described by Albert Einstein as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. That makes sense. Why would you expect a different result if you aren’t going to change the process? That’s insane. So, what if you were getting the result you wanted? And, you decided you didn’t need to change the process? Would that be the definition of sanity? I recently asked the legendary Bill Snyder how his Kansas State Wildcats have modeled such consistency over the past three decades. His response, “Probably because I’m not smart enough to be any different from one day, to the next.”
In the history of college football, you could argue that no man has meant more to a college football program than Bill Snyder. In his 26 years leading the Wildcats, Coach Snyder is 204-106-1. He’s produced 34 All-Americans, 47 NFL Draft picks and he’s led K-State to 18 bowl appearances. With names like Bob Stoops and Bret Bielema, his coaching tree looks more like a coaching forest. The very stadium his Wildcats compete in is named after him and, oh by the way, he was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
This week, I had the great privilege of speaking with Coach Snyder. From making a good impression to understanding what a successful recruiting experience looks like, here are his thoughts.
Q: How can a recruit make a great impression on you?
A: A young man doesn’t make an impression on me so much as a recruit as he does a person. My level of impression, regardless of football, is based on the kind of person he is. How he conducts himself, the value system he exhibits and how he interacts with others is what makes an impression on me. As it relates to the recruiting process, one of the major elements that I’m concerned about, and one that we do a good amount of research on, is the character of a young man. What do people say about him? Principals, secretaries, teachers, classmates, custodians; what do these people have to say about him? The quality of an individual is revealed through his/her daily interactions. When you boil it down, being a good person is what genuinely impresses others.
Q: For the high school player struggling to get exposure, what would your advice be?
A: I think it goes back to making an impression on people, in general. Make an impact where you are. Be that kind of person, be that kind of leader and certainly be that player on the field that people will want to be interested in. That’s the first part.
It’s also very important for young people to understand the degree of talent they must possess to play at the collegiate level. So often, young people just aren’t aware of what it takes. So, to better navigate the process, I strongly encourage student-athletes to solicit the aid of their coaches, as it relates to college recruiting. Ask them to get involved in this process with you. Request their feedback on identifying schools that you may have interest in and ask for support. Coach involvement is a significant piece to this puzzle. And as I’m sure most programs do, we listen to what high school coaches tell us about their players.
Q: What would a successful outcome to the recruiting process be for a student-athlete?
A: When a young person can go to a university and it turns out to be exactly what they expected, I believe that’s when you can consider the recruiting process a success. The university is exactly how it was portrayed. The athletic program is the same. The people are the same and the day-to-day life is the same. Anytime a student-athlete makes a college commitment based on a certain standard and that standard is met, I would say that’s the best possible turnout.
One of the things that happens, as a byproduct of the recruiting process, is you see an athlete settle on a place only to find out it’s not what they thought it was going to be. That’s when you end up with an unhappy player. For that reason, it’s so significant for us to be who we are. As quality of a program as we feel we have, Kansas State football is not for everyone. Maybe it’s our style of coaching, the composition of our team or even certain elements of the university. Whatever the reason might be, we wouldn’t want any young person to be unhappy as a part of our program. It doesn’t serve either side well and it’s what we try to avoid with any young person we’re recruiting.
Q: How can parents support their children through the recruiting process?
A: I hear so often parents telling me that it’s their son’s choice to make when he’s deciding on which school he will attend. They tell me they aren’t going to have anything to do with his decision. To me, that’s not the right course of action for a parent to take. A parent(s) plays a major role in the development of their child up to the very point of being recruited to play college football. They’ve brought that young man up and have been the prominent element in his life for the first 17 or 18 years of existence. To suddenly divorce themselves from that doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m not encouraging parents to decide for their children, but they should certainly be involved in the process. Just based on life experiences, help them distinguish between factual, appropriate and what’s right. That’s the support they need.
Q: What was the recruiting philosophy behind the greatest turnaround in college football history?
A: Our first year in Manhattan, the goal was to do a better job here than has ever been done before. We were going to do that by recruiting the best; just get the top players in the country here on campus and we would start winning. Well, I learned pretty quickly that although that might be the best way for other programs to recruit, it probably wasn’t the best way for Kansas State to recruit. Because, what I found was that we were working as hard as anybody else in the country at getting those 5-star guys on campus and when we started looking at the rewards, they were very minimal.
So, we adjusted our strategy on the type of player we were going to recruit. Instead of spending time on the high-profile players, we started investing our time on the guys that maybe weren’t quite as well-known. Our goal was to be the best in the country at getting that player because if we could, our opportunity to do special things would become exponentially greater. Consequently, that’s how Kansas State football evolved into what we have today.