Guest column: Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal on the dilemmas of recruiting

DestinationVolleyball.com is happy to introduce the first column for this site by 16th-year Lipscomb University head coach Brandon Rosenthal. The Pepperdine graduate has taken Lipscomb to the NCAA Tournament six times in the last nine years. This time of year, as all coaches do, it seems, is hit the recruiting trail. This column is about recruiting and how Rosenthal approaches the maddening venture:

For the past 15 years one of the biggest challenges that I face every year is how/who we are going to recruit in that next class. Well, let me take a step back and tell you something that I tell everyone when they ask how do you do it:

“The moment you think you fully understand recruiting and the recruiting world, something happens that slaps you in the face and reminds me that I still don’t have a clue.” 

And what I mean by that is the recruiting world has an usual ebb and flow. One of the toughest challenges that we face is the tricky balance of the principles that we believe are important and the ever-changing world of recruiting.

When I got the job as head coach at Lipscomb University I was young with relatively no coaching experience.

What’s more, my first recruiting opportunity was also the first club event that I ever attended.

Imagine: I was named head coach just days before in the summer of 2003 and I drive to Atlanta to see what this USAV National Championship thing is all about. Needless to say I was blown away when I got to the bay doors to the Georgia World Congress Center and saw 100+ courts going on all at the same time. I literally just stood in the doorway and stared for a good five minutes.

I had no idea where to start, what or who to look for. and thought simply, welcome to college coaching.

I’m often asked, “How do know who you are looking for when it comes to recruiting, what does the process look like …? ” In short the answer is always THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

So over the next thousand or so words let me take you through some of our processes that we go through when recruiting. My disclaimer is this, that this is our way and by no means do I believe that this is the only way.

It’s all about relationships

Over the past 15 years I have worked very hard to build relationships with people that I truly enjoy working with on a daily basis. One thing that I remind young coaches is being genuine and recognizing that there is a person on the other side. I spend quite a bit of time getting to know the people that we are working with for more than just their coaching abilities. In most cases club coaches, club directors and recruiting coordinators all have lives outside of volleyball. Take an interest in their lives. If all your contact with those people is when YOU need something, it gets old. Take the time to get to know about their family, their jobs (yes, most of them have other jobs), and their goals.

Your word is everything

One of the main principles that I started with and continue to make a priority is be honest, real, and trustworthy. We have all heard the stories of someone being slighted because of a dishonest coach. The truth of the matter is the volleyball world is way smaller than people think and word travels very quickly. People on the other side (club directors and coaches) respect the people out there who are trying to do it the right way and are more than willing to help those people.

Lipscomb head coach Brandon Rosenthal
Lipscomb head coach Brandon Rosenthal

Do your homework

College coaches are BOMBARDED by emails from potential recruits. Each staff deals with these emails differently. We go through each email and tag that they have contacted us and do our best to look up video on the internet or see them play live at one of the many club events we attend every year. Before we attend an event we have a good idea who will be there and who we need to see. As a staff we have a plan of who is going to see who and when at each event. My staff and I try to get into the gym around 7-7:15 a.m. every morning. I feel this is a great time to speak with coaches because they aren’t about to start their matches. It is also a great time to get your head around the layout of the gym and mentally map out the different courts you are going to have to see throughout the day. One of the biggest keys to doing your homework is reaching out to the club coaches and directors in the week leading up to the event.

UA: A recruiter’s best friend

University Athlete, more commonly known as UA, was a game-changer. When I started in 2003, UA was just coming onto the scene and truly this is all I know. The “old-schoolers” tell stories of huge paper packets that were almost always 50% correct and, to be honest, just a pain. UA is our database and ranking vehicle. Contrary to popular belief we are not checking emails, texts, or the latest scores in the big game of the day. We stand there watching courts and using our laser focus in typing our rankings, notes, and comments into these devices. Just watch a college coach when he/she is entering notes and a ball comes within five feet of them. Without fail they continue to type their notes away and flinch at the same time. This becomes really funny when that ball isn’t 10 feet near them. Needless to say we all become a little gun shy.

UA keeps us up to the hour on the schedules and rosters. It is our lifeline to the recruiting world. Trust me, you will know when there is a horrible wi-fi signal in whatever convention center we are at, because college coaches are left scratching their heads and wandering aimlessly around due to wrong schedules. All this to say there is no better vehicle out there for any other sport. Trust me when I say that every other sport is jealous of what we have through UA.

Just when you think …

Every day we are on the phone calling, texting, emailing coaches, club directors, club owners, and athletes.

It’s an endless journey.

Sure there are celebrations when we land that coveted recruit for a certain year, but the problem lies in the fact that the very next day you begin to focus on another need or another year. And the one thing that I tell everyone about recruiting is, “ Just when you think you understand recruiting, inevitably something happens that you didn’t see coming and leaves you scratching your head as it completely changes the ball game and you have to once again come up with a new strategy or game plan.’

In the end, recruiting is what our game is all about. It is our way to be competitive with each other. Your “circle of trust” when it comes to information that you share recruiting-wise with other coaches is very small. Recruiting to coaches is a love/hate relationship, one that never ends and has more twists and turns than The Hunger Game. And for that matter, recruiting is in a figurative sense like The Hunger Games.

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To read Brandon Rosenthal’s bio, click on this link for Lipscomb volleyball.

Follow him on Twitter @RosenthalLUVor email him at brandon.rosenthal@lipscomb.edu

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