Many parts of the recruiting process are difficult to understand and explain but a coach’s “gut feeling” is definitely one of the toughest, especially in my role with a player and parent who are trying to figure out if and what they may have done wrong.
I recently asked a college coach to share her thoughts on that “gut feeling” and this is what she had to say:
“Last year I tried to soul search for the best way to answer that because I realized I haven’t ever signed two players for the same reason. The only thing they all had in common was a feeling I got at some point along the way that told me I need her on my team! And now I just own it because it really is true. No resume stands out for being great, the only ones that “stand out” are for the wrong reasons. They always ask what the number thing I look for is and I say that feeling in my gut which is frustrating I know but then I say there may not be one clear way to give me that intuition but there are 100 ways to make sure I don’t get it.
I would just tell them it’s very similar to how they break down schools – I just lost two of my top girls and both were in tears telling me…sometimes your heart just knows what your brain can’t explain! But it’s a two-way street they need to stop pinning it all on us 😉
[A player] came for a visit I had no intention of making an offer today, only knew about her through another coach and only passively watched her while recruiting [another player]. Got that gut feeling an hour in, offered after lunch, accepted on the spot. Kids I’ve talked to for 18 months will get a no with no real explanation they didn’t do anything wrong”
– DI Women’s Head Coach
So, as you can see, even the coaches themselves many times have no explanation for it. While the numbers (scores, academics, length, etc) obviously play a big factor in their decision, the gut feeling is usually what leads them to pick one player of similar caliber over another. It may not make sense and it’s usually not personal, it’s just human nature. Even if the visit goes well and you’ve built a good relationship through phone/email sometimes another player out of nowhere can sit down in front of a coach and make a totally different impression.
This is the main reason I try to remind players to keep their options open and don’t narrow down to quick. You may think you are on the right track with a coach only to find out at the last minute something changes.
And many times that gut feeling happens with a player just as often as it does with a coach. Maybe you can’t explain why one school just feels right over the other, even if you have led a coach to believe you really want to play for them.
While everyone needs to be honest and open through this whole process in order to be fair and respectful, both players and coaches have to rely on their gut feelings at times even if it doesn’t make sense on paper.