Describe the qualities that your program is looking for in a potential student-athlete?
For me, the biggest, most important and really only quality I am looking for is “mentality.” I recognize this covers a number of things, but fact is that your specific sports skill(for my sport soccer) is what is going to get the recruits foot in the door — you are either good enough or you aren’t and you fit in to what we do.
So, mentality. The athletic world is littered with incredibly talented people that only last 1 or 2 years in college athletics and “less” talented people that play 4 years and are very successful. What I mean by “mentality” mainly is: are you a good kid, willing to work hard, coachable(this is HUGE-because generally what you did in high school won’t work in college – your game needs to evolve), get your work done in and out of the class room, stay out of trouble, have a craving to win, ultimately being someone that adds something to the team. As a member of any team, you are never neutral. You are either a positive influence on the team or a negative. Difference between high school/club and college is we spend a big part of our time together…players/coaches/staff. Last thing anybody wants is to spend that time with an idiot or a negative person.
Lastly, it is making the decision every morning to be a college athlete. Then going out to make yourself and your team better. It is not a onetime decision it is the same decision made, many times.
Could you give us an example of a current or former player who exceeded your expectations, highlighting the reasons that player excelled?
In my first job I was head coach at an NAIA school. My first recruiting class, was not stellar talent wise as I was still learning a bit on the job. But we had some good kids in it. Joanie was one of them. I picked her up because she was a big kid, who could strike(kick) a ball very well, and had a great attitude(and when I visited her in her high school…she knew EVERYONE. Not just students, but teachers, staff, everyone) She came to my school and in the first 3 years, never started a game and played sparingly. Athletically she wasn’t gifted, but she worked hard and wanted to win. So much so, that even as a reserve player, her teammates voted her captain. July before her senior year(one month till we report) our only goalkeeper transferred out of our school. We were left without a goalkeeper for the upcoming season. Joanie called me on the phone and asked if what she had heard was true. I said yes, and she said she would play goalkeeper-having never played there before! So we trained her once she hit campus in the preseason as a goalkeeper. Bloodied, black and blue and costing me significant amount of my budget tape and wraps…but she brought the mentality that I seek. We were very successful that year and she set the success of the following years where team won conference and went to National Tournament. Her skill isn’t what got us there, but her setting the mentality for the more skillful players to follow did.
With about 4 games left in the season, she was in a collision in the goal mouth. Came off the field and got looked at…said she could return and the trainers said ok. She played the final 30 minutes of the game, only to find out following the game, she had broken her leg! So another freshmen walk on(non goalkeeper) stepped up to play. That freshmen ended up playing the next 3 years as a goalkeeper, and won conference championships. As I mentioned, Joanie set the stage.