My first year at Rhode Island College my assistant Matt O’Brien gave me a list of kids he saw that he wanted me to call on. The first call I made was a kid from New Jersey, and I spoke to his coach. He told me the kid just committed to George Washington. Matt and I laughed about it at the time and I still remember it. At least I knew we were recruiting good players. It seems that checking up on that kid was a waste of time, and by itself it was. We had no business calling on a kid who was an Atlantic 10 recruit at RIC. But it opened a larger discussion about recruiting efforts in general.
It’s can be frustrating for a coach to go on a recruiting trip and feel like you didn’t get much out of it. The kid didn’t play very well or you just don’t think he’s good enough, so you wish you had that day back to go see someone else play. Every coach at every level has felt it. You are bothered because you spent a full day going to watch this kid and he’s not even close to good enough to play for you.
One of the great takeaways from my time at Rhode Island College is that there are no wasted recruiting trips. Even the time spent in a gym watching someone who isn’t good enough is still time well spent. Granted, in a vacuum it may not seem that way, but it’s those trips that allow you to find the guys that maybe others are overlooking. For every trip where you see someone who isn’t good enough, there is likely a trip where you found someone who surprised you. The way I look at it, those trips wouldn’t happen if you weren’t willing to take the trips to see the kid who is on the border but might not be good enough. The total time you spend recruiting allows you to make the comparisons you need to make, it’s still quality time spent evaluating. It gives you the confidence in the evaluations you have made to feel good about what you are doing.
As a head coach you often rely on your assistants to line up the right players to see, and obviously you want to see guys that are good enough to help you. But if your assistant are concerned about sending you to see someone who might not be good enough, they might not send you to see that kid who is a steal at your level either.
We’ve all gone on recruiting trips that seem like a waste of time because the kid clearly isn’t good enough. Set alone, those trips probably don’t produce much. But the overall time you spend on the road watching kids play impacts all of your evaluations and your confidence in those kids you know are good enough.