After understanding the importance of choosing a school first and an athletics program second, and consequently trying to find a school where the academics and the post-graduation career and alumni networking opportunities are bonafide, the second key pieces of advice in choosing correctly amongst your recruiting options involves the head coach.
One, choose a school where the head coach is likely to be there all 4 years of your playing career. It’s important to realize that many new head coaches, particularly coming into a program that has not been winning lately, will assume that the talent remaining in the program isn’t good enough, and will therefore have the pre-determined intention to clean house by revoking scholarships and bringing in a whole new roster. Sometimes, of course, head coaching changes are great for remaining student-athletes (in 1981, for example, basketball player Zambalist Frederick of South Carolina famously went from a little-used reserve to the leading scorer in the country after Bill Foster took the reigns of the Gamecocks); but most of the time, head coaching changes do not benefit the returning team members. As such, it makes sense to choose a school where the head coaching situation is as stable as possible.
Two, if possible, choose a school where the head coach was personally involved in your recruitment. In college athletics, a horrible sickness exists called, “The My Guy Syndrome.” An assistant coach will regularly describe a recruit as “my guy” if that assistant is the lead recruiter for that particular prospect. Once a recruit is on campus, that assistant coach will work hard to lobby and manipulate the head coach to ensure that his “guy” is receiving every possible opportunity for playing time, etc, because the assistant coach believes that post-season awards (all-rookie team, all-conference, etc) for his “guy” will advance his coaching career. So, what if the assistant coach who recruited you leaves to go to another school before you even set foot on campus? Now, you’re nobody’s “guy” and no one is fighting for you behind the scenes. So, what’s the answer? Choose a school where you’re the head coach’s “guy.”
Finally, and most importantly, choose a school where the head coach is likely to treat you with respect, during and especially after your career. It’s important to understand that a head coach is going to have a great deal of authority over your life in college, and you’re going to spend countless hours of time with your head coach. Given this fact, we’d recommend choosing a head coach who metaphorically resembles Arthur Shelby, not Simon Legree (use Facebook to ask former players what the head coach is really like – you can find kids from previous rosters online rather easily).
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