Using the Internet for Athletic Recruiting
Fielitz, Lynn R., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
In the business world, companies are always looking to get ahead of their competitors in the marketplace, often by exploiting technological innovations. College coaches are no different. They want to know what new methods they can use to obtain the top recruits and build nationally respected programs. Many of today's business leaders are successfully using the Internet to recruit the best employees, and this strategy can work in athletics as well. Many athletic departments already use the Internet to assess potential recruits and determine those factors that are most likely to influence their choice of school. In addition, many coaches correspond with recruits via e-mail. Yet this is usually the extent of Internet use in athletic recruiting.
Businesses, however, use the Internet to gather far more in-depth background information on each job applicant. Currently, Internet use is ranked fourth among effective strategies for filling positions in the business world (Brooke, 1998, p. 68), even though is has not yet "matched its potential" (Schreyer & McCarter, 1999, p. S9). The goal of business recruiting is to create a "better match" and thus gain a competitive advantage (Moncada & Sanders, 1999, p. 41). College coaches should adopt a similar mindset. The purpose of this article is to introduce several Internet tools that can help college coaches gain their own competitive advantage in recruiting.
Joe Dysart (1999) has listed several innovative ways of harnessing this effective tool in business recruiting, which I have applied to athletic recruiting. First, web site search engines provide information to the college coach and to the recruits themselves. Second, recruits can complete interactive questionnaires directly over the Internet. Third, e-mail utoresponders can provide information using the same principles as fax-on-demand. Fourth, personalized mailing lists can facilitate personal e-mail correspondence with recruits. Fifth, chat rooms can be created to facilitate the communication between recruits who have committed to the same university (e.g., they can discuss common concerns and anxieties during their transition to the university). Sixth, data-mining can provide information on specific recruits and sport-specific trends. Each of these strategies is discussed in greater detail in the following sections. The purpose of all of them is to help coaches develop better relationships with individual recruits while finding out information that will aid in the recruiting process and yield a "better match" for both athletes and universities.
Web Site Search Engines
Almost everyone who uses the Internet has employed various search engines to search the World Wide Web. Web sites such as search.com, lycos.com, altavista.com, and yahoo.com are devoted exclusively to conducting searches over the Internet. More and more colleges and universities are placing search engines on their own web sites so that visitors can search them for particular information (e.g., the U.S. Military Academy's www.usma.edu). Many recruits use the information they obtain from web sites in formulating their opinions of potential colleges, and search engines lead them to information that is tailored to them.
In addition, the use of university web site search engines by recruits can provide information to the college coach. Such use "can be monitored by web-tracking software" (Dysart, 1999, P. 107). Recruits can be asked to enter their e-mail addresses before conducting their searches, and the information they request can thus be tracked and stored in a database that can later be used by the coach. The web-tracking software can help coaches determine not only what type of information each recruit is searching for, but also what information is generally important to a given sport.
Coaches are always looking for additional insight into what makes each recruit "tick," and search-engine tracking can be an excellent source of such insight. …