Coaches exercise creativity in recruitment

There are many ways that an athlete can play for John Brown University.

The methods the University’s sports programs use to recruit their players are “as varied as there are coaches,” Ken Carver, volleyball coach, said.

Golden Eagles coaches employ a wide variety of methods to bring talent to their teams and ensure that the players they bring in are a good fit for the University. An athlete that wears a Golden Eagles uniform can come from anywhere—17 states and 10 countries are represented through the University’s athletic programs. Though statistics on recruiting are strictly confidential, the stories of how each athlete ended up at the University are worth being told.

“It’s kind of a treasure hunt,” Scott Schochler, cross country coach, said. “Once we’ve got someone on our list that we’re looking at, we check them out, ask about their character, ask them if they’re interested in a place like JBU and go from there.”

When looking for a player, coaches take the athlete’s character into consideration along with their athletic ability, as Schochler pointed out.

As far as convincing an athlete to play at the University, the coaches use many different methods when trying to lock in a commitment with an athlete. Carver said that he lets his team and the University itself serve as his recruiting tool.

“JBU, in terms of the quality of university that it is, sells itself,” Carver said. “The girls in our volleyball program do a very good job of telling the student athletes and their families, ‘hey, this is what our program is about.’ [The recruits are] hearing it straight from the kids, so they really have a great idea of what the expectation for a student-athlete is with our particular program.”

Some programs, like the Golden Eagles men’s basketball program, are fortunate enough to  have an exciting tradition that could entice students. Jason Beschta, men’s basketball coach, uses the University’s acclaimed TP Game as a recruiting tool. During this game, over 2,000 rolls of toilet paper are hurled onto the court following the Golden Eagles’ first home basket.

“Just getting someone to even look at [the TP Game] on YouTube is huge,” Beschta said. “But if we can get someone to come here and experience it, I don’t think anyone would ever say, ‘eh, I don’t want to be a part of something like this.’ They’re saying, ‘I want to be in there. I want to be the guy who hits that shot.’”

When it comes to scholarships, each program has a different amount it can spend on its athletes. Both Carver and Schochler pointed out that because of this, they try to land athletes who would do well at school.

“[It] makes the recruiting a little trickier,” Schochler said. “We look for students who are going to get the academic money, too. Those are the ones that usually come here.”

Beschta mentioned that though today’s technology makes it easy to find potential recruits, the process of finding athletes that would fit well at the University is a daunting task.

“We’re able to find them, whether it’s through former players, alumni of the University,  coaches we know, emails or YouTube videos,” Beschta said. “Everybody’s got a recruiting service helping them get their word out there. It’s so much easier to come across players. It’s just a lot more of them to have to sift through.”

Though technology makes the process more efficient, going to games is still an important tool in the recruiting process. Kathleen Paulsen, women’s soccer coach, expressed a preference for personal viewership in any style of recruitment.

“They’ll send me an email and I’ll go watch them play,” Paulsen said. “I [also] find players myself. I watch games, find kids that are a good fit for our team on and off the field and contact them.”

Though no coach knows exactly how they’ll land their players, the most important aspect of recruitment is being proactive.

“You just never know,” Beschta said. “You just always have to be looking and talking to people. The more you do that, the more you’ll find someone out there that’s a good fit for you.”