Jim Harbaugh has insisted for the duration of his nationwide satellite camp tour he’s not in it for the recruiting benefits. Harbaugh says it’s about what’s best for football and what’s best for the student-athletes — not what’s best for Michigan.
Thursday in Detroit, other coaches at Sound Mind Sound Body had no problem admitting the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
“Remember, we’re in a recruiting period,” said Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck. “We’re in a camp period, so when we do attend camps, one of the main objectives is to evaluate young people. But when we’re doing that, we’re educators, we’re teachers, we’re coaches. Our job, why we chose this, is to educate. So if we can do that beyond football, it’s a win-win.”
The two-day football academy at Wayne State, attended by roughly 600 high-school players, certainly went beyond football. Players spent the first afternoon learning about the risks that follow from not practicing safe sex, financial irresponsibility, head injuries, and other issues aspiring athletes often face.
“What I love about this camp is they’re educating kids way more than just football,” Fleck said. “The whole day today has nothing to do with football.”
Other coaches who attended a parents-only informational seminar Thursday included Central Michigan coach John Bonamego and Lou Esposito, the coach of Michigan’s newest program at Division II Davenport in Grand Rapids. Harbaugh, Mark Dantonio, Urban Meyer, and Brian Kelly are part of the long list of coaches scheduled to be in attendance today.
Participating in an evening panel discussion, Thursday’s slate of coaches struck a balance between their own needs and fielding questions from parents about the recruiting process, and what they look for in high-school prospects.
Bonamego made it clear to parents he was on a quest for character above all else. Esposito echoed the sentiment and went a step further, saying he and his coaching staff often check in with security guards and cafeteria workers on high-school campuses to learn a prospect’s reputation within a community.
Beyond describing the quality of athlete he’s looking for, Bonamego cautioned parents to look for consistency in the programs they pursue opportunities with, likening established programs to fast-food restaurants.
“The reason McDonald’s has made billions and billions of dollars is you can always know what you’re going to get,” Bonamego told a fixated lecture hall full of parents. “If you go into a McDonald’s down the street here and order a Big Mac or go into one in Tokyo, Japan, it’s going to be exactly the same.”
Fleck said he’s impressed by athletes who attend camps like Sound Mind Sound Body in part because of the dedication they display by simply showing up. The other side of the equation is Fleck’s own story.
“I’m a 5-foot-9 receiver, which doesn’t impress anybody,” Fleck said during the Q&A. “But I will say this: I went to a camp. And what the camp provided me was (the opportunity) to show myself my heart, my passion, my soul, my will, the way I could compete, my character, the way I respond to adversity. That’s what made me different from everybody else.”