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.
Kurt Vlasich took over as the head volleyball coach for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in 2011. In his 7 seasons at CMS, he has an overall record of 169-49. Coach Vlasich’s Athenas have won the last three SCIAC Championships (2015, 2016 and 2017). And most recently, his CMS Volleyball team captured the 2017 NCAA Division III National Championship.
I asked Coach Vlasich what high school recruits should know about the NCAA Division III level, and more specifically, his Claremont-Mudd-Scripps volleyball program. His response, “There’s no reason why a kid should have to compromise on either academics or competitiveness. You should be able to compete for a National Championship every year and walk away with a degree that will set you up for the rest of your life. That’s what you’re going to do here.” At CMS, it’s safe to say Coach Vlasich has turned the D in D III from Division, to Destination.
This week, I was able to sit down and talk college recruiting with Coach Vlasich. From what he’s looking for in a highlight video, to his biggest recruiting pet-peeve, here is what he had to say.
Q: What advice do you have for the high school athlete not receiving much attention from college coaches?
A: The best advice I can give to a student-athlete, of any kind, is that recruiting is a two-way street. We’re out there looking for players, trying to fill the needs of our roster and our institution. And as good of a job as we do finding the talent, there’s always going to be the kid out there that we don’t know we’re looking for. Maybe there’s something we’ve missed or something that player could bring to our program that could put us over the top. As much as we try to find the players, the players should try to find us, too.
This year was a great example of that for us. We had a walk-on player, who was just a normal student in my P.E. class, that sent me an email asking if she could come try out for us. We invited her out and she makes the team. And, when you boil it down, this young lady ended up the leader in a locker room on a National Championship team. I think the value in this story is that you might be the player we don’t know we need. Just because we aren’t recruiting you, doesn’t mean you don’t belong here. It’s a two-way street!
Q: How can a recruit let you know she’s interested in your program?
A: Be yourself! It’s so easy to tell if you’re really interested in our program. I can tell if you’re leaving a voicemail and your parents are in the background coaching you on what to say. I can tell the email that dad sent with your name on it. Listen, I like the personal touch. I want to know that you’re human. I want to know that you aren’t perfect. It’s okay to have a typo, here and there! It means a lot to me that you have a genuine interest in our program. So, when you contact us, be yourself. Do a little bit of research on us and make sure you’re using my last name, not the coach down the street’s last name. Get the details right, because that’s what makes it personal.
What I don’t like are recruiting services. I don’t want somebody doing the work for you. While recruiting services can work for initial contact or introductions, to be honest, the only thing that’s going to catch my attention is what they put out on you, first. It’s how tall you are, what position you play and how high you jump. If a recruiting service sends me an email on a 6’4” kid that touches 10’6”, I’m going to open that email up. But, I would open that email up regardless of who sends it to me! Now, if I get an email from a recruiting service on a kid that has average measurables, I guarantee that won’t do the recruit any good. That just tells me it’s impersonal and you aren’t the one making the decisions on where you want to be.
Q: What does a good highlight/recruiting video include?
A: My attention span is pretty short. And it gets shorter, the more successful we are! Obviously, after winning a National Championship, we are getting slammed with emails and videos. That’s a good thing, but it means we have to be much more efficient with our recruiting efforts. That includes that initial evaluation of your film.
Specifically, make it easy for us to make an early assessment of you. What jersey number do you wear? What color jersey are you wearing and what side of the court do you play on? The video needs to be clear, too. I shouldn’t have to squint to see the action or feel like I’m watching a game from the nose-bleeds. Send us a video that shows an entire point, not just a highlight. We want to see the result of the play, the competition you’re playing against and how you interact with your teammates. Those things matter to us. We want to see the video that reveals as much of your character, as your athletic ability. Keep it about 5 minutes and if we need more film on you, we’ll ask for it.
Q: What’s your biggest pet-peeve while recruiting a student-athlete?
A: I want to deal with authentic people, especially in the recruiting process. My biggest pet-peeve is the lack of urgency in response from a student-athlete that reaches out to us saying she’s interested. If you send me an email telling me you want us to recruit you, I like what I see and promptly reply, I shouldn’t have to wait a week to hear back from you. If you send an email and genuinely care about our answer, it seems logical to me that you would be anxious to hear back. You would check your email! If you aren’t prompt with your responses, all that tells me is that you’ve sent out a hundred other emails or mom and dad sent the email for you. Either way, it shows you aren’t being genuine with us. And, how do you expect you’ll be handled, if that’s the impression you give off?
Q: What’s the biggest predictor of success for a player you recruit?
A: Character. I don’t need the 6-4 kid that touches 10-6, if I have a kid that’s going to run through a wall for her teammates. We have a gym full of kids that hate losing, more than they love winning. Those are the kind of kids we look for, period. When we’re recruiting you, we need to find out what drives you. What is it about you that makes us want to give you all our attention? For example, getting an email from a kid that wants to update us on her recent SAT scores or transcripts, that matters. That’s being competitive. You’re proud of your work and to me, that’s character. And, character translates onto the court.