It is difficult to go more than a few days on Albion’s campus without seeing a wide-eyed high school senior walking in stride with an athletic coach or in the midst of a cluster of athletes. As a division three school with eighteen varsity sports teams, student-athlete recruit visits to campus take place on a daily basis. Despite the frequency with which such visits occur, each recruiting visit is a coordinated effort that requires a substantial amount of work from coaches, students, and admissions staff alike both before and after the actual visit takes place.
For coaches, the recruiting process is constant. Even when their sports are out of season, most coaches can be found researching and scouting potential recruits on a regular basis, attending high school and club games, meets and matches.
Men’s basketball head coach Jody May says that he attends an average of four to six high school basketball games per week during the high school basketball season.
“What we’re doing there is we’re watching players that we’re actively recruiting as seniors,” May said. “But we also keep an eye out for players that are younger and we’ll make a note if we see a pretty good player.”
Swimming and diving head coach Jake Taber attends meets on a regular basis as well, as a way to gauge how a prospective student-athlete will fit into the depth chart of his team.
“The nice thing about swimming is that a lot of the subjectivity and evaluating is done for me,” said Jake Taber, head swimming and diving coach. “The event, type of pool, and their time tell me quite a bit about how they [a recruit] would fit athletically into our team.”
The process of scouting out potential recruits is not quite as straightforward for other sports, though. Women’s soccer head coach Eric Scott says that he often will return to watch a potential recruit multiple times before even making contact to be certain of their skill.
“If they’re consistent over two times of seeing them, I try to make contact after that point. I want to make sure I didn’t catch them on a good day,” Scott said.
Scott also pays special attention to how a potential recruit acts off the field, before and after the game, as he believes he can learn a lot from their pre and post game routines, as well as how they interact with their team.
“I try to get there early and watch them in the pregame. Are they goofing around or warming up properly?” Scott said. “After the game, if I can watch them, I see how they interact with their parents. Are they sore losers or do they hate losing? There’s a line there, and you certainly want kids who want to win, but not enough to embarrass your program.”
Athletic programs like basketball and football often seek out recruits through summer camps, as well, and coaches will travel to camps throughout the state during the summer months.
Importance of Initial Contact and Campus Visits
Although much of their time is spent scouting out potential recruits, once coaches have made contact with the student, their jobs have only begun.
If the student seems to be receptive and interested in Albion, a relationship between the coach and the recruit begins to develop. Usually, the student schedules a visit to campus and during that visit will meet with the coach and team in addition to the standard tour.
Swimming coach Taber believes that on this initial campus visit, transparency is of utmost importance.
“When recruits are on campus or talking to anyone that is a representative of Albion College, my hope is that they are as honest with them as they can be,” Taber said. “The more accurate the information and visit experience about Albion College, the easier it is for the recruit to evaluate Albion on the right information and determine whether or not this is the right fit for them.”
Dustin Beurer, offensive and recruiting coordinator for the football team, also notes that is important for recruits to visit during a time when campus is bustling, as it gives students a more realistic, and thus more positive, impression of the school. To do this, he often has recruits visit on weekdays, as opposed to weekends.
“The weekends are tough because, number one, I think college students want to sleep in, and so if they’re here in the morning they don’t get a great feel for what campus is like when its buzzing and kids are walking to class and those types of things,” Beurer said. “So I think that’s important for them to be here when people are out and about and doing those things.”
Women’s soccer coach Scott believes that the team can often times be the most effective aspect of the recruiting process because they can showcase their passion for the sport and their desire to improve.
“When the coach is recruiting you, it feels like you’re being recruited,” Scott said. “But I think when the current athletes get involved and they [the athletes] buy into wanting more good players in the program, then I think that recruit understands that this is a program that wants to get better.”
The Scholarship and Financial Aid Issue
As a division three school, Albion is prohibited from awarding athletic scholarships to athletes, which makes it more difficult for coaches to draw potential recruits to the school. Football Offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator Dustin Beurer believes that financial aide is especially important in the recruiting process for this reason.
“Financial aid is huge in landing a recruit,” said Dustin Beurer. “We’re dealing with schools that are typically cheaper and we’ve got to sell the value of Albion College.”
Basketball coach May agrees with Beurer, and says that in his experience, money is usually the number one factor in every decision.
“Albion is not going to be their only choice, and so the finances play a lot into it,” May said. “Especially now with the economy and Michigan being so tough, the biggest factor is the finances and we’re not going to be the cheapest option for them, but we try to have them understand why we’re not going to be the cheapest option.”
It is not uncommon for students to be offered more financial aid or scholarships from other schools, something that Beurer believes is a determining factor when recruits make their final college decision, even despite the fact that they might have had a positive experience with Albion.
“I’ve had a lot of recruits I feel like I’ve had a good chance at and have had a really good relationship with, but they just can’t make it happen financially,” Beurer said.
The Ultimate Reward
While the recruiting process can be exhausting, stressful and sometimes heartbreaking, Beurer says that the relationships he develops along the way are often times rewarding.
“Once these guys get on campus, you tend to stay close with the guys you recruited, and they seek your advice and then you stay close with them for the rest of your life,” Beurer said.
Not only do coaches develop relationships with their players through the recruiting process, but other coaches as well, something that Taber finds equally rewarding.
“As easy as it would be to say that receiving a commitment is my favorite part [of the recruiting process], I really appreciate the relationships that I am able to develop as a part of the process,” Taber said. “The student athletes, their families and, a lot of times, club and high school coaches as well. Over the years I’ve become good friends with coaches who have sent a swimmer or diver my way–it’s very rewarding.”
Photo courtesy of Albion Chamber of Commerce
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