5 Things Coaches Should Know About Recruiting in a Virtual World

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5 Things Coaches Should Know About Recruiting in a Virtual World

A swarm of butterflies flutters through your stomach and your heart races. You tap on your spiral notebook and scan your checklist one last time. Why are you so nervous? You’ve done your research and more importantly, no one can see you sweat. After all, you’re sitting behind a computer screen in the comfiest corner of your room. You take a few breaths and remind yourself to stay calm and focused. It’s time to interview the team.

That’s right, it’s the swimmer’s and diver’s interview, too. And this year, it’s on Zoom. 

We’re so used to hearing about the expectations coaches have of recruits when they come for campus visits. It can be very nerve-wracking. Recruits have to check all of the coaches’ boxes aside from talent: Did they do their homework about our college? Do they follow our program? How well do they blend in with the team? Would they be a good leader? How clean is their social media? Would they be coachable? How big are their feet? 

The official campus visit for the recruit, whether it be for the day or for an overnight, is absolutely important. At the same time, the recruits are recruiting the colleges. One foot on campus can immediately tell a recruit if the college could be their second home or not. This should come as news to no one. But this year, given that most contact has to be remote, coaches should recognize that the flipper may be on the other foot. And recruits, who live their lives online, may have a slight advantage in the process.

Here are five remote recruiting tips for coaches:

Don’t Ghost

The first form of contact to a recruit is crucial. When you set up a time for you to call the recruit, you better follow through. If you have to reschedule, do it before the call. A recruit should not have to wait, worry, dial and go straight to voicemail. And please: no lame excuses as to why you didn’t pick up the phone. How to lose a recruit in one day. As a coach, you should know: there are no excuses. And recruits will spread the word. It’s an unspoken “you ditch, we snitch rule” in the Gen Z world. If you ghost, take the recruit off the email list instead of sending an email to them a month later promoting your school. 

Do Your Research

This should be a no brainer, but it can get ignored. A recruit serious about the college will have gone on the school’s website, checked out student organizations and as much information as they can. The same goes for a coach serious about a recruit. Beyond a scan of times and scores on databases, coaches should get to know something about their recruits before the recruiting call. Maybe even educate the team about the recruit. If they both lived in the same state, connect the team member to the recruit. It’s respectful and it’s polite. It will impress. 

Schedule Team Time

All coaches describe their teams as amazing, supportive, a “family.” But recruits are hungry to learn the truth from people like them. Every single coach will describe their team as amazing, but the recruits are the ones who will find out the truth. It can be harder to determine the “behavior” of team members over a Zoom call. Invite recruits to zoom calls whether it’s one or even 11 to talk to the team. So, set recruiting calls with the team. Let recruits hear and see first-hand what the team is about. Encourage the team to talk directly and honestly to recruits about the college, campus vibe, organizations they belong to outside of swimming and diving, team traditions, types of workouts and so on. This will let the recruit decide: is this the kind of family I want to be part of for the next four years of my life?

Beyond the Pool 

While it is important to know how the team acts on deck, it is just as important to know what happens off deck. Assuming there are plenty of other sports and activities across campus, recruits will take note of what the swim and dive team does in terms of contributing to school spirit. Does the team support other teams and school organizations? Do they get geared up for their fellow sports teams, concerts, theatrical productions? Are they involved?

Stay “Social”

Last March, college students and coaches transferred to Zoom University. How can swim and dive teams continue to promote their “brand” remotely? The answer is honestly simple: social media. While the in-person college visits have been scrapped, the spirit of the team should stay alive. Get team members to do some teammate takeovers and perhaps make some creative TikTok videos. They’re doing a project with stained glass art, doing exercises with their pets, or have a remote internship at Swimming World, that’s so cool. It will bring some normalcy and light to a messy situation. Recruits could gain insight into their future teammates and get excited about the team. 

On the surface, it does seem to be a tough time to make the kind of connection that is so important to coaches and to swimmers and divers during the recruiting process. The best way to accomplish all of these tips is to plan. Even during our quarantine living arrangements, all it takes is one “hiccup” from a coach or teammate to ruin the college. After all, a happy team will make for a happy recruit.  

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