Have you every wondered what coaches think and look at when it comes to recruiting? Look no longer! Milesplit has sat down with a few different coaches to talk to them about recruiting athletes. This is the first part in a multi part series. Brent Bailey grew up in Colorado where he earned a scholarship to run at McPherson College in Kansas. After a succeful career as an athlete and work as an assitant Brent became the head cross country and track coach at Kansas Wesleyan University. As a head coach he is in charge of recruiting athletes. Milesplit at the chance to sit down with him and chat about what he looks for in athletes coming out of high school.
(Coach Bailey encouraging his athletes on, Photo Courtesy of Brent Bailey)
Milesplit: What are some good things high school kids do to get noticed/"self-market" themselves?
Coach Bailey: Running fast times, of course, will get them noticed. However, if there is a certain program that an athlete is interested in, they should go to the athletic web page for that college program and fill out a questionnaire. Many recruiting agencies are out there, but instead, taking a couple hours and emailing coaches or filling out the questionnaires will help colleges notice them.
MS: What are some bad things high school kids have done to get noticed/"self-market" themselves?
Coach Bailey: Many athletes have twitter or facebook accounts. Even if they think these are private, coaches are very good at looking up information and seeing negative tweets or posts about their coaches, teammates, or life in general. This can be a big red flag. I have also had a few athletes call me back after I left them a message at extremely late hours past midnight. This does not show respect, and athletes should always think about what time it is where they are calling. I expect later calls from California, but there is a limit on what is appropriate or not, and it will cause the coach to wonder why the athlete is up so late.
MS: What amount of scholarship should kids expect? Do full rides really exist?
Coach Bailey: The number one way that athletes should pursue scholarships is academically. There are so many academic scholarships available, and coaches really like having intelligent athletes. Full rides do exist, but are extremely rare. When a full ride is given, it is almost always due to a combination of scholarships, of which the first one is academic. Therefore, it is someone with high scores and a high GPA. Second, would be financial aid from the government based off of their family's FAFSA results. Third, would be an athletic scholarship based on performance. I have heard many athletes say they were offered full tuition scholarships, but that is not a full ride, and athletes need to be careful to consider what other costs they will incur. Also, when it comes to scholarship money, athletes should look at the bottom line. One university may offer more total scholarship dollars, but it may be labeled as academic, and others may offer more athletic. This is where the bottom line total is important.
MS: When can high school athletes contact you? Is that helpful for them to contact you?
Coach Bailey: As a NAIA institution, I do not have the same restrictions as an NCAA program, so athletes can contact me as early as they would like, either by email, questionnaire, or by calling me. I tell athletes to focus on preparing for college the second they arrive in high school by keeping good grades and raising their test scores. However, contacting coaches before your junior year is pointless, in my opinion, because so much can happen in two years. I would tell athletes to start filling out questionnaires early in the fall of their junior years.
MS: When can high school athletes visit a college, will they be able to check out the program when they come?
Coach Bailey: Students can visit a college at a very young age. However, I would not recommend it until at least their junior year. Personally, I do not like juniors coming on visits to meet with me until later in their junior year just because my focus is on coaching my team and recruiting the current senior class in the first semester. Most programs will allow you to meet with a coach and players, but one will have a better chance and be taken more seriously if they wait till late in their junior year or early senior year.
MS: What are the differences between an official and unofficial visit? Do non D1 schools have official visits?
Coach Bailey: Official college visits are for Division 1 programs only, and you can take 5 of them. An official visit means the university is paying for transportation, meals, lodging, and so on. If you are paying to get there and so on, you can take as many as you would like. Different schools will offer hotel rooms, or meals, even plane tickets from time to time, but those are rare.
MS: What personality traits define the best kids you have coached?
Coach Bailey: I am always looking for athletes who are competitive, passionate, patient, and hard working. Coaching an athlete who is highly motivated makes life a lot easier on both of us.
MS: What are some personality traits that make kids harder to coach?
Coach Bailey: Athletes who are stubborn are the ones who are harder to coach. An athlete needs to realize they are not in high school anymore, and things WILL be different. The process of making the jump into college athletics is not always a fast one; so, having an athlete who is patient and trusting will be better than the opposite.
MS: Is it true that all the good runners, thus all the good competition, go to Division 1 schools?
Coach Bailey: Not even close. There are top runners at all college levels. I watched multiple NAIA athletes participating in many events including the 10,000 to the 1500 at the USA Championships this summer. In football or other team sports, the better athletes typically migrate to larger universities, but for running, we all use the same start line and same finish line. Nearly all meets will have athletes running together from multiple divisions, and I have beat several DII teams in cross country and even a DI team with my smaller NAIA program. At a smaller school, one will get more attention in the classroom, and therefore, many athletes who are highly driven in the classroom will choose a smaller school.
MS: What else do you tell kids to look for when thinking about school?
Coach Bailey: I want it to be a very easy decision. To be an easy decision, they need to visit and take several things into account, the first being how they felt throughout the visit. After that, I would encourage them to take into account multiple things based on their on interests. They might include many factors: proximity to home, facilities, dorms, cafeteria, coach, professors, future teammates, climate, and, of course, their finances.
MS: What are some questions for kids to ask any college coach they talk to?
Coach Bailey: What sets their program apart from others? Why do they want them to come join their team? What is the coach going to do for them with training to help them achieve their goals?