Here’s an interesting situation presented by a college coach.

I’m in year one of a three year old program at a small Christian NAIA school. I’ve been told it’s my program as long as I get my roster number and run it clean and have good kids who are graduating and making strides in the community.

There’s a current group of juniors who have endured a couple of really bad seasons (this season should be our best in program history). As I’m reviewing my recruiting and commitments to the team next year, some player will lose significant playing time to newcomers. My question: do you recruit to replace your current players, add depth, get warm bodies, etc? I love for depth and people to compete for their time at this level but don’t want to make this first large class of seniors last year a bench warming experience. Thoughts?

This is from a Facebook group and got some interesting responses. One of them was, “Your job is to recruit better players than the ones you currently have. Full stop.”

I have a couple problems with that statement, but I’ll focus on the one related to priorities.

First, the priority

Review what the posting coach said the priorities are for their program. Make the roster number (some minimum squad size). Run a clean program. Have good student-athletes who graduate on time and are active in the community. I didn’t see anything about winning, or even being competitive, in there. Did you?

By the way, this type of attitude from the administration is not uncommon at the college level. There are many schools where competitiveness is not a priority. Some blame that on volleyball being a second tier (or lower) sport, which is certainly often true. There are colleges, however, that simply see athletics as part of the student experience – across all sports. Winning for them is just not that important.

It’s all fine and good to want to win. If, however, your boss doesn’t care about wins and losses, you have other priorities to consider. If you think you want to move on some day, you may think the winning and losing will matter to future employers. That’s probably true, but who is going to be on top of your list of references for future jobs. Your current boss (Athletic Director), right? If you don’t do the job they want, do you think they’ll give you a good reference? That’s assuming you don’t simply get fired.

So, for this coach the first recruiting priority is bringing enough players in to make the number. They need to be good students, as well as good citizens.

Of course, I’m not saying you can’t recruit good players and fulfill the above criteria. It’s just that when it comes to favoring one side or the other, the bias has to be toward the above.

Team chemistry

While it’s not specifically on the priority list outlined, you know at least a reasonably positive team chemistry is desirable. No Athletic Director wants to hear about disharmony in a team, especially if it means players (and perhaps parents) calling them to complain. Having a bunch of upperclassmen riding the pine is a quick way to having serious chemistry issues.

That is unless those seniors buy in.

Some times you get players who have suffered so long with the losing and poor performance they just want to be part of something good. They might be willing to sacrifice their own playing time for better overall team performance.

Of course sometimes they say that, then don’t actually live up to it.

So the question is whether you think you can keep those players “recruited over” reasonably happy. They won’t get the playing time, but are there other ways they can still have a role in the team that’s meaningful to them?

One way to go

If you think lack of playing time for upperclassmen is going to cause problems, maybe the best approach is to gradually trickle in higher quality athletes. Instead of bringing in five new players who could start, maybe you bring in 1-2 this year and then build things up over time. That also lets you build toward the type of team culture you want.

The bottom line is it isn’t always good to just go out and recruit the best players you can find.

6 Steps to Better Practices - Free Guide

Join my mailing list today and get this free guide to making your practices the best, along with loads more coaching tips and information.

No spam ever. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

John Forman
John Forman

John is currently Technical Director for Charleston Academy. His previous experience includes the college and university level in the US and UK, professional coaching in Sweden, and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. Learn more on his bio page.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.