Recruiting? Yes, recruiting kids in your own school system. Unless you’re in one of those rare situations where all you have to do is open the doors and you’ve got 80-100 prospective betmajic players in your program, you must increase the numbers by actively recruiting. Now, we’re not talking about recruiting kids from other school districts, but recruiting your own halls in your own school district.
Perhaps you have a junior high program or as most, a youth football league in town. It is important to ensure that these kids have a positive experience. At this level we want to keep kids involved and develop a love for the sport. Today’s third string twelve year old could be an all conference player as a senior. Believe me, we’ve had them! It’s my opinion that it’s best to promote participation rather than competition throughout a young football player’s career. It is sad to lose a young grade school athlete to frustration. The American Coaches Educational Program says that 70% of all boys who participate in youth football drop out by the time they get to high school. Now, I don’t know if that’s accurate but if it is, that’s unacceptable. Ease them into competition by their seventh and eighth grade year. By the time they are freshmen they are ready to compete and win.
Try to be active in your youth program even if you do not have much influence on the coaches. If they see that you are genuinely interested in their program and your program at the high school level has earned respect, the youth coaches will usually be glad to learn from you. Be visible to the youth program and organize coaching clinics for the youth coaches to introduce them to your offensive and defensive systems. Let them know they are a crucial part of your program. Also, organize player camps in the summer. Make sure to have plenty of help from your most popular varsity players to work the camps so the young boys are exposed to their heroes and role models.
Recruit eighth graders hard. We liked to talking to all eighth grade boys in May and encourage them to participate in SOMETHING when coming to high school in the fall. Then, as a football coach, we make our pitch to them why they should play football. We don’t care if a youngster has never played football in his life. Ask kids to give high school football a try.
One year we had a young man come out for the high school football team who had never played organized football in his life. He had never had pads on. On top of that, he stood about 5’2″, weighed 107 pounds and ran a 5.4 forty. But, he was a good athlete. We wanted him to try football and he was eager to join. His father had not allowed him to play youth football because he wasn’t sure he was ready for football yet. We knew he was a good athlete because he excelled at baseball, qualified for state in junior high cross country and had placed fifth in state in wrestling. We knew he would grow because ALL boys grow in high school. He was very tentative as a freshman and played a little wide receiver and defensive back. Mainly he was a rotation player. His sophomore year he was forced to be the quarterback because the starter got moved up to the varsity. By then he weighed all of 120 pounds.
He did okay at QB and was starting to show signs he could play. His junior year he was in our varsity rotation at wide receiver, was our backup safety and became our starting safety in game eight when our starting senior went down with a broken ankle. He played well in that role and had grown to about 133 pounds. Then came his senior year. Wow! He wasn’t big, but big enough. He had grown to about 5-10 and weighed 150. He had developed strength in the weight room and ran about a 4.75 forty. He immediately became the leader of our team starting at wide receiver and safety. He led the team in pass receiving, touchdowns, scoring and interceptions on defense and made great plays every Friday night. After the season he was a unanimous all conference pick and was named to the all area team. This from a kid who his freshman season was brand new and just finding his way.
Another area to recruit is the kid who is already in high school but has never come out for football. Now, I know this is not an area we want to spend too much time recruiting, but it can turn up an occasional gem. In addition, we are in the business of helping kids and I always made sure I was giving kids that final opportunity.