How to Recruit Better Athletes

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Sydney Williams April 16, 2021 Founders Corner

A rowing coach told us that he does whatever he can to remove ambiguity. That got our attention. More than 50 years of experience shaped his viewpoint. He had worked with several of the sport’s best athletes, including many Olympians.

Ambiguity, he warned, tears teams apart. At different points in a season, he would seat race rowers over an entire week (not just a day or two) so that each person clearly understood his ranking, which he believed could change—sometimes often.

“Put me in, coach!”

“Okay,” he would say. “Prove you deserve it.”

Stride supports this kind of transparency. Athletes write down goals and measure progress. Coaches emphasize purpose in training regimens. Supervisors keep an eye on interaction.

Coachability, Teamwork, Leadership, Work Ethic

But there’s more. The same coach described how ambiguity complicates the college recruiting process. Throughout his career he had led top-level programs. At most, he was allowed to fill eight slots a year. He knew that not every recruit panned out. Many simply couldn’t handle the increased physical and mental workload, or had peaked in high school.

Still, he had to get most recruits right to keep his team competitive.

His greatest challenge: ascertaining a prospect’s intangibles—coachability, teamwork, leadership, work ethic, etc. Physical ability can’t be your only metric, he discovered early on. You have to be able to assess other harder-to-quantify factors.

He described how a high school coach once told him that if he recruited one particular person who wasn’t a standout talent, he’d go on to become his team captain. Sure enough that athlete did. As captain, he galvanized his best team ever, a national champion.

Athlete Transcript

Stride’s transcript feature offers recruiters a detailed account of an athlete’s comportment. Formatted similarly to an academic transcript, it displays data in three categories: involvement, commitment and performance. Recruiters gain a truer sense of what happens between competitions, outside highlight videos.

Maybe the recruiter is considering an athlete from an unknown school or the school has an unfamiliar coach. The transcript shows attendance, hours spent training with and away from a team, and whether and to what extent an athlete sets goals.

The transcript paves the way for deeper due diligence. It removes ambiguity in college recruiting.

And the reverse is true, too. Athletes, by having learned to evaluate themselves, approach their recruiting more efficiently. They ask pertinent questions, conduct a more focused search, and lessen negative surprises when they arrive on campus.

Depending on the sport as many as 14% of D1 college athletes transfer schools. A recent NCAA rule change paves the way for higher transfer rates. Even adjusting for people moving from two year to four year programs, the number exceeds what normally occurs among the student body. That’s a lot of instability.

If coaches and athletes were to have a greater understanding of each other, then teams and organizations could reduce the cost in time and money of managing rosters.

Stride’s transcript feature helps people match mindsets and capabilities, because it improves decision-making.

Just as important, the transcript provides athletes who don’t expect to advance to the next level a thorough representation of their hard work, which they can share with college admissions officers or a prospective employer.

The transcript clarifies that portion of the day when so many young people learn lasting lessons in interdependence and common goals.


Sydney is Stride’s Founder.