A Day in the Life
by Katelyn Leonard
Teams across the nation are working day in and day out to get their bodies in the best physical condition. Sometimes three sessions a day including track workouts, agility workouts, circuit training, lifting, individual workouts, etc., coaches are trying to best prepare their teams for the start of the season. While all this is going on, coaching staffs are also preparing strategies for their teams, figuring out the personnel they have to work with, and coming up with a way to use the team’s strengths while masking the team’s weaknesses. This will keep a head coach busy six out of the seven days in a week.
Since preparing for the upcoming season will only take six days a week, what are coaches doing with that last, precious day? Recruiting. You may think that recruiting happens only in the off-season, but that assumption is wrong. Recruiting happens all year round in a cycle, each year getting out there and trying to improve the current team with the new talent. Currently we are in the fall recruiting season. During the fall there are a number of AAU tournaments and basketball showcases. This is a time for high school seniors to make a last effort to try and be seen by a school that may be scrounging for a walk-on or in need of a player in order to fill a scholarship. These are girls that may have been overlooked during the summer season, and could turn out to be a steal for a college. Also, this is the prime time for schools to start planning for further in the future. Since women’s basketball has become such a popular sport, almost all Division I and most Division II schools can offer some sort of scholarship. Hundreds of high school juniors, sophomores and even freshmen our out trying to gain the attention of these college coaches.
Going out to a tournament to hopefully catch that next star for the team, is a frantic day for a coach. First you must check with your NCAA handbook and make sure you have sanctioned permission to evaluate players. (Normally these tournaments do not run during a dead period, but you can never be too sure). The date is October 12, which is during an evaluation period. Coach can make off campus evaluations of players, but can have no contact with them. Now, if they are seniors, Coach may have talked to them over the phone, have probably sent them a form letter and received a completed questionnaire. Juniors and sophomores may have received general information from the coach, but phone calls cannot be made until July 1st before a player’s senior year – another little rule courtesy of the NCAA. Usually the night before Coach will go through the database of all high school players who have either contacted the school, or have been contacted by the coach, and will make a list of players she wants to see at this tournament.
Saturday morning Coach must get herself out of bed at 6 AM, for she has a three-hour drive to the college hosting the tournament. She throws on the latest college gear, brushes teeth and hair, grabs the recruiting bag and heads out the door at 6:20 AM. The first games start at 9:00 AM, but missing the first half-hour won’t matter at the end of the day. So, before really getting on the road, Coach stops off at Dunkin Donuts, grabs a cup of coffee and muffin, and never forgets a receipt. There is no traffic on any of the six highways that must be traveled, so Coach arrives promptly at 9:30 AM. After getting a recruiting packet (again, not forgetting to get a receipt), she finds a spot in the bleachers in the main gym and gets ready for an afternoon of poor posture and early on-set osteoporosis.
Coach figures out which teams the players she is trying to see are on, and tries to find a way to see every one of those teams. There are eight games throughout the day, on five different courts – 40 games in all. There are 14 teams in the tournament. After planning a strategy, it is time to start watching. The gym is madness, with four games going on simultaneously. Coach heads over to Court 4, where the blue team is playing the white team. There are two prospects on blue, and one on white. On Court 3, it is yellow playing green. There is a player on yellow that is a potential sophomore star. She positions her chair so she can see both courts. The games have already begun, so now she must locate the players she has come to see. While watching the games, Coach takes notes on players she finds good, and also the ones that could never play for the program. She tries to absorb as much information about each player as possible, strengths and weakness, so there is an overall sense of how well the prospect will fit in with the program, if at all.
As we all know, some parents are brutal and want their child to earn a scholarship, sometimes more than the player actually wants it. It can prove to be a difficult task to take notes, and not let the parents peer over your shoulder and read. The last think a coach wants is a proud father checking over your shoulder only to find a big “NO” next to his daughters name. So the notes must be discrete. Often times coaches will have their own code words for good ball-handling, tough defense, and not on your life.
Occasionally there will be that parent who will approach Coach to promote his/her daughter’s ability. Although any coach would love to put this parent in his/her place and say “get the hell out of my way, your daughter is not worth s**t” (yes, after a long day, no food and 5 hours in an uncomfortable chair this is how a coach may feel). However, the NCAA regulations allow you to give a standard, more subdued response such as “I’m sorry, the NCAA does not allow personal contact at this time.” This is the one of the few times when coaches really appreciate the NCAA.
The process of court hopping goes on for hours, most coaches staying until the end of the day. There is no break for lunch, so unless Coach wants to miss a game, she must hit up the snack bar for a Snickers and Coke. All day long Coach preaches nutrition to her team, yet rarely eats a balanced meal herself. After an eight hour marathon of watching high school girls show off their talent, McDonald’s is usually on tap for dinner on the ride home. The last thing a coach wants to do is cook or sit down at a restaurant alone, the couch is about the only thing that keeps her at a steady 75 mile per hour pace. Coach arrives home at 8 o’clock with a sore posterior, a few pounds gained and some exciting new prospects for the next few years.
On Sunday, Coach must enter all the information, good and bad, into the database of prospects. The good AND bad are recorded, so when a student athlete pursues the school, they can be found with the big “NO” next to their name, saving the coach time with letters, phone calls and viewing tapes. After all data is entered, a list is made of the players that were on the top of the list, letters are sent out and possibly phone calls are made. The phone calls lead to unofficial visits, then official visits and more phone calls that will hopefully lead to the school’s top prospect signing the letter of intent. Do not worry; the NCAA gives a whole eight-day (this year, November 13th-20th) to sign this letter. Once recruits are locked in for the following year, it is on to the next year.
The process never stops. Coaches are always out looking for the next best thing for their school. Whether you are a prospect yourself, a parent or a fan, know the sacrifices coaches make every weekend to better the program. Saturday afternoons (and most of the time evenings since it is difficult to pry a coach from the couch once the day is done) and a perfect body are just some of the things a coach gives up to give help a girl’s future.
Now, it’s Monday, the week long cycle of preparation and recruiting has ended, just to start back up again. The cycle just keeps on going.