Coaching Football's "Little Things"

Developing a Consistently Successful Football Program

Illegal Recruiting

Posted by admin March - 21 - 2017 - Tuesday

I talked with a local coach recently who expressed a lot of anger and frustration over rival schools actively recruiting his players. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, we are regulated by the Virginia High School League. It is quite clear in their by-laws that proselyting players from another VHSL school is strictly against the rules. Yet, some schools seem to feel that they have to go “cherry-pick” players from rival programs.

What I found out from this conversation is that the school or schools in question are now skirting the rules by having someone not directly connected to their program (like the parent of one of their players or a Youth League coach) contact the player or his parents about a possible transfer. What do they call it in the federal security agencies? Plausible Deniability??!!! Now, if the coach whose school is brought up for questioning about recruiting rival players, he can deny it because he (nor any of his staff) is not actively engaged in the recruiting.

In talking with this coach, he seemed to be at the point of throwing in the towel and just “letting him go!” I shared an idea as to how he can combat this illegal and unethical practice. He needs to “recruit” his own players!

Think of this scenario: you’ve got a stud on your team. Both Ohio State and Michigan are after him to commit to them. You come in as the recruiter for Ohio State and meet with the player. Are you going to tell him, “welllllllllllll, if you really want to, you oughta go to Michigan.” NO!!! You’re going into that meeting selling nothing but Buckeye football and how great your program, your stadium, your coaches, your facilities and your school are. You’re going to point out how going to your school is the best thing for him. It may be necessary to compare your program to Michigan (or any school who’s also interested in his services) but… keep the focus on YOUR program!

That seemed to strike a cord with the coach with whom I was talking. He was being stirred emotionally as I spoke. I explained that this is exactly what any good recruiter is taught to do— the same sales techniques that an insurance company or car dealership is going to teach their sales staff to close the deal. You need to create a situation where the “client” is moved emotionally. How do you achieve this? You appeal to his ego!

We’ve not talking about “blowing smoke up his butt” with a bunch of lies. What we are talking about is letting that player know how valued he is to you and your program. That’s the truth! You (as ficticious Ohio State recruiter) wouldn’t be recruiting him if you didn’t think he is going to help your program. It’s the same scenario when you are “recruiting” one of your own players. You need to make him feel (there’s that emotional thing!) that he is verrrrrrrry important to you and how successful your team will be with him playing for you. Everyone likes to have his ego stroked! Letting this player who may be tempted to jump ship and join another school’s football program know how important he is to you is critical in keeping him in the fold.

The other main factor that I shared was something that I learned from Lou Holtz years ago. It’s kinda like the Law of Reciprocity that the Bible talks about: be willing to help others and they will likely reciprocate. Show a player that you are there to help him achieve his goals (play college football or make all-state) and he will reciprocate by giving you everything he’s got. It’s a matter of loyalty. When players know that you care about them as people and you want to help them succeed, a bond is formed that is hard to break. Don’t do it if you don’t mean it! But… if you don’t mean it; i.e., your players’ well-being really isn’t important to you then, in my mind, you’re in coaching for the wrong reason. If you’re not in it for the kids, you should consider getting out!!!

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