Thursday, June 11, 2015

Recruiting: Tools or Character?

                                                                                                    (photo credit:

A professional scout asked me today, "which would you choose, tools or character?"

I paused. "Do I have to choose?"

"Well, are you willing to take someone who has baggage," he asked.

I have a lot of respect for this scout, and it was a well-intentioned question. He knows a former player of his (when he coached collegiately), that is transferring...with some baggage, and wants him to land in a place where can grow as a person and player.

I believe grace is important. Everyone needs a second chance at something at some point in their life. However, as I described to the scout friend of mine, I believe there is a difference between 1.) an attitude or energy problem and 2.) a choices or decision problem.

Players with bad attitudes and/or energy, in my experiences, don't often change their attitudes while they are in college. College offers more opportunities to make incorrect, immoral or just plain stupid choices. An attitude is not fixable by circumstance, provocation or by anything initiated by another. Attitude is a personal choice, and changing a bad one takes large personal change.

There are, of course, thousands of athletes who are good people with strong character backgrounds who are simply immature, sheltered, enabled or entitled. Often, these young men have made a stupid decision simply because they have been in an environment that has fostered bad choice/decision making. Give them an environment where they are surrounded by a team and coaching staff full of more disciplined, regimented and positively experienced people, and they will be led in a direction of better decision making.

We are all a compilation of the people we surround ourselves with. With so many distractions in college, it is important to choose wisely who we hang out, listen to and learn from.

Collegiate coaches clearly have the opportunity to build their programs through selection, i.e. recruiting. Intentionally inviting people into a culture that are unlikely or unwilling to change who they are as people is sheer lunacy.

So many coaches are allured by the talent, potential and other four letter words of a handsomely talented athlete. If an athlete has made a mistake, and clearly offers remorse, along with a plan of self-improvement and a passion for a fresh opportunity, without blame of others, he is clearly ready to receive grace. This athlete will be grateful for the opportunity presented to him and will be more coachable and energetic.

Let's not group all athletes with baggage into one boat. When recruiting, no one should choose talent over character, but coaches should understand and respect the difference between an athlete's flaw in decision and his lacking character.

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