Monday, December 8, 2014

#43 How College Coaches Should Use NCSA

I believe life is a series of near misses. A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It's seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It's seeing what other people don't see AND pursuing that vision.  --Howard Schultz

If you ask any college coach around the country what the most challenging part of being a college coach is, I would imagine that they would all say, emphatically, in unison:  "Recruiting!"  Very few coaches [and none that I know] got into coaching for the great joys of traveling the country, sitting in hot sweaty gyms to find one talented young person out of the 300 and then trying to convince that kid and their parents that their school was the best of the 50 schools recruiting them.  Most coaches are teachers at heart.  They are competitors by nature.  They love practices.  They thrive on teaching individuals to perform as a unit.  They strive to make the little things they are teaching end up being the difference on the scoreboard night in and night out.  

Recruiting, on the other hand, is simply an action that we have to do, so we can do what we want to do.  The best coaches love to recruit (at least they tell people that).  What they really love is the commitment that comes at the end of a long, daunting wooing process from the kid they know will change their program.  But, finding that kid,  or multiple kids, who are truly program changers is increasingly more difficult because more and more coaches are looking around and taking advantage of the unbelievable resources at their fingertips; not to mention the growing talent around the world.

Like most coaches, I was and still am very particular to who I recruit.  Grades, test scores, size, height, etc. are all very important, but that was never enough for me.  I wanted a particular personality, drive, attitude, resilience, vision.  I wanted a kid who would make me see the game differently and who would make every guy on the team love playing with him because he made them better.  I love the clothing stores that have those special mirrors that seem to take 15 lbs off of your reflection.  I walk-out of that store feeling like a new person.  That's what that special recruit does to you as a coach and their new teammates.

As I look back at my career, I now kick myself that NCSA was not a HUGE part of that process for me.  I had the usual small school problems:  very little staff (who made close to nothing), no recruitment budget (except for what I fundraised), and a very demanding Admissions/Financial Aid office (who very much limited who I could recruit financially, as much as academically).  What would I do differently,  if I could do it all over again, you ask?  How should I have used NCSA?  Great questions.  Below is exactly what I would do:

1.  I would have called 866-495-5172 and found out the name of the NCSA Head Recruiting Coach ("HRC") assigned to me.  I would tell that person that I would be calling once per month come rain or shine.  Keep in mind, these recruiting coaches are all former college athletes and/or coaches who are experts in your respective sport.
2.  I would give that person a detailed list of my recruiting needs for the next 3-4 years and ask them to begin sending me the resumes (including video) of kids that fit my EXACT requirements (grades/text scores, height/weight, ability, experience, etc.) for each of the classes I wanted to start evaluating and recruiting.
3.  On my monthly calls to my HRC (usually no more than 5 minutes long), I would explain the good and bad of what I was seeing in the resumes and ask them to tweak the type of player they were sending, so the HRC could learn exactly the type of player and person I was after.  Very quickly, I would only be looking at student-athletes who fit my needs and desires without wasting my time on prospects who would never be able to play at my level or find success in my college's classrooms.

You may ask "Is it really that easy?"  Yes!  And, you are crazy if you are not taking advantage of having a FREE service of highly qualified individuals with the best recruiting technology in the world serve as your full-time Head Recruiting Coordinator.  That's what NCSA strives to be, and we are knocking it OUT OF THE PARK for the coaches who have come to their senses and are using us in that very way.

Why is NCSA different?

1.  Only student-athletes who are qualified get evaluated by the Head Scouts (me).  If the kid is not recruit-able (doesn't have the grades, size, ability, commitment, character or experience), they are not activated to the network, and you will never, ever see them come up in your searches or be sent their resumes.  So, if a kid can't play or cut it in the classroom, they are not in our activated network.
2.  NCSA stands by our student-athletes throughout their recruitment helping them develop their social skills, athletic potential, and realistic self-worth.  We make them better without letting them float off into fantasy land.  We evaluate the film and resumes of every kid we activate, and we only introduce them to the college coach if they fit EVERY criteria that coach is looking for.
3.  We are a proven commodity.  In 2015, we placed over 20,000 student-athletes on college rosters with an average academic/athletic scholarship package of close to $19,000/year.  I don't remember ever giving a scholarship to a kid who couldn't play or because some recruiting company told me to.  These numbers are so outstanding because we put the best of the best in front of each coach and their respective criteria.  WE make the coaches life easy.  Would it not be nice to pick up the phone and say, "I want this, this and this," and then minutes later receive an email with 10-15 kids' profiles (including edited/verified/highlighted/annotated video) that fit exactly what you are looking for?

Why are 35,000 college coaches actively using NCSA?  The better question is "Why are you NOT?"  And, if you are one of the 35,000, "Why are you not using us the way you should be?"

Call the number above or email me with questions.  Let us help you make your program more efficient and your budget work a thousand times longer and farther.  It doesn't make sense not to!
Good luck and best wishes!  I hope it is a significant and healthy season for all of you!

Coach Matt Rogers
Phone:  (312) 610-6045
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary

Matt Rogers is an 18-year high school and college coach veteran.  He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to a High School State Championship.  His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels for 9 years. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Head National Scout for NCSA Athletic Recruiting where he has helped hundreds of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level.  Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 17 years and his two children. 

To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

#42 Rejuvenation

“We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves; otherwise we harden”  -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

First of all, I have been listening to all the nagging to write more.  You people must be very bored if you want more of this, but I am going to try and create more conversations over the next few months, as long as you promise to converse back and allow me to learn from you!

I recently celebrated my one year anniversary at NCSA.  It has been an amazing journey, and although I fought it for quite some time, I am learning to enjoy my role as a Head National Scout (i.e. mentor, teacher, coach, adviser, counselor, surrogate parent, confidant...).  When I started 13 months ago in this venture, I was simply a college recruiter.  My role, in my perspective, was to evaluate the academic and athletic prowess of  kids across the world who were committed to playing college athletics, and, if they were qualified, build a roadmap for them that would allow them to begin connecting to college coaches.  Rewarding in itself, right?

Progressively, my role has changed...significantly.  I am now my family's neighbor, their fellow parent, their friend who has a skill set that they are lacking...I'm Uncle Matt (the job I have been doing the longest and am most proud of, and depending on which of my unbelievably talented and wonderful 14 nieces and nephews you ask, the best at.)

Through the past 13 months I have laughed a lot.  I have cried with families during their evaluation and on my own after.   I have been the kick in the pants they sometimes desperately need and sometimes the lighthouse on a dark and foggy night they thought they would never find.  I have been treated as a life-altering savior and a piece of crap salesman...and everything in between...all on the same night.  I appreciate all of them.  I only wish I had done a better job of proving my care and concern for their child's future.  They all need it.  It is my job to make sure they accept it.

I have learned to give each of these families my very best and expect the very best of them.  For a long time, I believed that whether they chose to admit it or not, they needed me and my company's services more than I needed them.  This weekend, that changed for me.  I got to spend four days with the people I work with every day.  I have only known them by their voice on the phone or through the dozens of emails I receive from them daily.  This weekend I realized that these people were my life-line.  They are all wonderful...young, insecure, hungry, generous, capable...but all wonderful.  They reminded me that "Coach" isn't where I am, but who I am.  A coach is just a guy in a corner talking to himself without his students.  Pretty great perspective to receive, huh? 

As I reflected on this profound concept this morning, I realized how wrong I was about these young people (both my scouts and student-athletes), who I have been pre-defining as desperately in need of me.  I need them just as much...if not more.  They give me hope, purpose, pride, and self-worth.  They give me these gifts every time they call and say "Coach Rogers, it happened.  I did it!"

I don't think they truly understand how much their results, success, and joy defines mine.  What a truly amazing life to provide something that gives so much back.  As Thanksgiving quickly approaches, I will humbly give thanks for the life NCSA and these wonderful colleagues and families provide me.

Over the next few months, I will be providing an insight to where my path is headed, and I will be asking for your help to guide me and the direction of that path.  I feel rejuvenated today; even though, my body is exhausted.  When I was 22, my next step would be to start changing the world.  As I quickly near 40, I am going to fly home and love my two kids and wife, and try my darnedest to make one person's self-worth a little stronger and future a little clearer.  My colleagues did that for me this weekend, and it is now my turn to pass it on.

More to come...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#41 The Three-Legged Stool

The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.  -Oprah Winfrey

I talk to so many student-athletes every month desperate for any direction, advice or "road map" on how to get to college; and with much more urgency, how to get exposure to college coaches.  I have started using the 3-Legged Stool analogy with most of my student-athletes (SAs) because I think it is simple enough to believe in and significant enough to inspire and motivate each of the passionate young people to spend a little more time on their complete person and not so much just on their athletic acumen.

I always ask the student-athlete what happens when you knock a leg off of a 3-legged stool.  The answer of "it falls down" quickly comes out of their mouth.  I go on to explain that their respective recruitment works the very same way.  Without three very strong, stable legs, coaches will have a hard time making a genuine investment of time (let alone scholarship) in them.

Leg #1:  The first question I always asked of my assistants, a scout or a high school coach who may have reached out to me about a prospective player was "what is his/her grades and test scores?"  99% of the college coaches in the country are going to ask the same question verbatim.  Without strong grades and test scores, coaches know that they cannot get that student-athlete through the admissions process at their school.  They also know that it will be difficult, even if that SA does get admitted, for that family to receive a financial package that will suit the average family's needs.  So, without the grades/test scores, coaches will not waste their time recruiting you if they don't think it will be possible to admit you or help you financially.

Leg #2:  I also have SAs that reach out to me for an evaluation who have awesome grades and test scores and cannot understand why coaches or more coaches are not knocking on their door.  The second leg of that stool is obviously ability.  What most SAs and their families do not understand is that coaches do NOT need to recruit you.  Ability is much more than the natural gift to throw or shoot the ball.  Coaches are looking for size, experience, significant competition levels (HS and Club), and an athleticism and skill set that is unique to the other young men/women they are recruiting.  You have to be able to play, but you must have skills, size, and experience that sets you a part from your competition.  Even if you are the best player in your small community and are averaging 35 points per game, your 5"10" size may keep coaches from even considering you a viable recruit if you are not big enough nor playing against good enough competition.

Leg #3:  It is funny how Leg #3 often becomes the determining factor in the first 5 minutes of my evaluation with a SA.  The third leg often is treated like the black sheep of the recruitment checklist, but it is equally important to grades and ability.  A SA's character, values, humility, drive, determination, leadership...or lack of...can make or break a recruit's bid to get a scholarship or get recruited at all.  I often tell the story of the 6'8" center that my staff sent me 6 hours in a car to go see.  They were so impressed with his skill set, size, and grades that they assumed sending their boss on a 6-hour journey to see this "diamond in the rough" play would be a valuable use of my time and a feather in their cap in my evaluation of them as recruiters.  As I walked into the gym that night, sat down, and opened up my briefcase, that particular young man and his team ran onto the floor for warm-ups.  I knew who he was immediately because he was a giant compared to the other 25 young men on both ends of the floor.  Nevertheless, I didn't even get a chance to pull out my notebook before I was packing up and walking out of the gym to drive home.  In the first 2 minutes of being in this young man's presence, he lazily air-balled two lifeless finger-roll lay-ups, nonchalantly disregarded his teammates attempts to give him "five" as he passed them, and then brushed off his coach when the coach (as it seemed to me) asked him to put some true effort into warm-ups.  As you can imagine, I was quickly back in my car for the long journey home not watching one-second of that young man play in a game.  I then spent portions of the next 6 hours on my cell phone "educating" my young staff on the importance of doing their due diligence in researching a young man's character before putting me on the road to evaluate a young man who was not recruitable.

Like any strong stool, the legs cannot stand on their own.  A good stool needs a strong seat holding the legs together.  Keeping to this analogy, the seat of a SA's recruitment is commitment.  Believe it or not, I talk to a handful of kids each week with great grades, awesome ability, and tremendous character who are simply not sure if they want to continue to put this great effort into athletics after high school.  If you are not committed to continue to work to improve, compete for 4 more years and be recruited by coaches across your region or country, than you are an impossible prospect.  There is no such thing as "pretty committed" or "kinda committed."  You might as well tell a coach that you are "NOT Committed."

As you talk to yourself (student-athletes) or your players (coaches) about the recruitment process, stress to them the value of that 3-legged stool.  If they are serious about competing in college, they must be realistic about how sturdy their 3-legged stool really is.

Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about this or recruitment in general!

Have a great day!  Go make your dreams come true!

Coach Matt Rogers
Head National Scout
NCSA Athletic Recruiting
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary

Monday, April 21, 2014

#40 Coach for Life

“The job of an educator is to teach students to see vitality in themselves”  --Joseph Campbell

I recently received a wedding invitation and, then a few days later, a request for a letter of recommendation from two of my 5% (see Gift of Thanks).  I was truly honored to hear from both of them for the obvious reasons and for many of the not so obvious.  

Both young men were two very important recruits for me at the time they committed to my program.   The one who is getting married was one of the top shooters in the city when he graduated, and it was a big coup for me to get him at our school.  He was a genuine difference-maker that most schools in the area would have loved to have had on their roster.

The other was my first big recruit from a distance far enough away that it was relatively unheard of for our University to have someone choose us from such a distance.  There was simply no other reason for a talented kid from 1500 miles away to come to Missouri outside of the fact that he felt our program was the right fit for him.

Both kids finished their respective careers with injuries that derailed the possibility of reaching their ultimate potential.  Nevertheless, one ended up having games that were epic in regard to the history of the great games produced in the program and the other was a significant part of a National Tournament team and two-year Captain who ended up playing professionally overseas.  I am very happy that both boys had at least the opportunity to showcase their great skill and know there was a time when they were the best they could be.

When I recruited them both, I told them (like I do every young man or woman I recruit) that I wanted them to choose our school for the right reasons and not just for me.  I also wanted them to know that I didn't just want to be their coach for a year or four years, I wanted to be a part of their lives for as long as they wanted me and/or needed me.  No questions asked.  Once they chose to be a part of my family, my support would always be there through thick and thin...even if that meant I didn't hear from them for 10 years at a time. 

For both young men, they left my program with a broken relationship with me.  I didn't want it that way, but I have made it a point for 20 years to teach and coach with the same integrity of raising my children.  I will always love them, but sometimes the most important thing we do as a parent or a coach is to be honest when we know that honesty will hurt.  For both boys, the honesty hurt more than I expected it to, and I don't think either truly understood that it hurt me more to say the words than for them to hear it.  Whether I was right or wrong, I told them the truth from my perspective.

Therefore lies the meaning behind the title of today's blog.  It really has multiple meanings.  For me, the two most significant meanings of the phrase "Coach for Life" are:

1.  I see my job as a never-ending presence in my players' lives.  My services may lie dormant for years at a time or serve only from an observer's perspective, but it is my responsibility to be ready when those services are needed matter the time between "appointments."  [This blog is very much an opportunity to fill in the blanks in between.]

2.  The other is simply a rephrasing of the same words into "The Life Coach".  It is imperative to me that the lessons I teach are not just to be able to make a basket more consistently but to make sure the value of the discipline and work ethic that goes into learning to be a consistent shooter translates into learning to be a better person, spouse, parent, employee, and for many of my players, a better "Coach for Life".

So, the question I have for all of you coaches who read my words (sorry for the LONG delay between blogs, by the way), are you coaching your kids for life or for the next win?  And trust me, I know the harsh realities of those choices.

Many might say that I put my players' life needs ahead of winning too often and that I could have found better ways to do both.  Those people are probably more right than I want to admit.  Unfortunately, regrets are a real waste of time for me, and I know I can't go back in time to fix the decisions and choices I made years ago.  I can only live in the present and take advantage of every opportunity I am given to coach again.

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

#039 The System, Part II: Are You All In?

The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs.  The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.  
                                                                                                                                                                                                 --Martina Navratilova

I guess, as it pertains to the System, I am definitely the pig in this context.  No, I'm not afraid to say it.  I love the system.  I breathe it, and I'm not afraid to bleed it.  It definitely is not the right philosophy for every situation, but it tends to make poor situations a lot better on the basketball court.  I wasn't always the pig...I was the eggs for a lot of years, but now I understand that the System means I have to be All-in or I should try something else.

I have received many, many phone calls and emails over the past 8 months from high school coaches and college coaches looking for ways to improve their own version of the System.  I can definitely relate because I was and continue to be just like those coaches:  always looking for an edge to make my team better.

I had one of those calls this morning when a bright, young, dynamic high school coach out of New York reached out to me after reading one of my past blogs about the System.  He has gone so far as to begin teaching it to his middle school coaches and making sure they are running and learning it now with 11-13 year olds.  I loved the sound of this!  What a great way to learn the game and develop skills necessary toward being a very good high school player and improving the potential for making a college roster!

As I talked with this coach this morning, it became pretty obvious to me that he was going through what just about all of us go through in the beginning of attempting to run the System.  Doubt.  Hesitation.  Unwilling to fully commit.  Struggling to let players make mistakes and fail.  Not allowing or enabling players to be fast, fearless, and a little reckless.

As I have heard Coach Westhead say many times, "if you run the System, you are either going to win a championship or get fired."  When you are just getting started with this "crazy" philosophy, you very much feel what Coach is referring to.  It is so greatly different than what most people have seen on a basketball floor that it is tough to believe that anyone will ever truly embrace what you are trying to accomplish.

There are 4 keys to the System that enable you, the coach, to truly buy-in to what you hoped to accomplish in the first place:

1.  Pressure Defense=The System.  There is no System without full-court defensive pressure and trapping.  The main focus to running the System is to wear down an opponent who isn't used to being trapped for 32-40 minutes nor are they used to playing deep into their bench.  Every possession that you are not pressing them is an opportunity for their best players to rest.  The second most important focus of the System is creating more possessions than your opponent.  Creating turnovers is the best way to do this; followed by committing to offensive rebounding.  Grinnell College probably gives up 20-25 lay-ups per game because they are so committed to creating turnovers that they are willing to give up the easy 2 to get a chance to get a quick 3 coming back.

2.  Offensive Sets=Slow Down.  The coaches who are not truly bought into the System ended up working hard early in the process to hedge their bets.  They put in 5-10 offensive half court sets for their team to learn just in case the running and the gunning doesn't go so well.  The problem is that now your kids know there are other options.  When there is a tough stretch of a game or a tough couple of games in a row, they will start slowing down to run one of those sets whether you ask them to or not.  To truly be a System team, you have to be committed to attacking what your opponent gives you each possession.  That means you play one way all the time.  Creating secondary movement and screens in the flow of what the defense gives you is great!  (See Grinnell).  Practicing sets that make you slow down...not so great.

3.  Let your PG Loose:  Teach your PG how to become the Tazmanian Devil.  The great System teams have a PG or two or three who are absolutely fearless and only know one speed:  Hair-on-fire-fast!  Your PG must want to get the ball and get to the paint every possession.  He or she must have your complete confidence that it is okay to turn the ball over and make mistakes.  He or she must know that speed will overcome all other obstacles. 

4.  Never Go Backwards:  Other coaches hate playing against the System.  Those coaches have worked so very hard to instill discipline and teach their well-thought-out and highly technical offensive sets that they think it is a joke that you are going to press and run and gun for the entire game taking the beauty of their art away from them.  HOGWASH!  Those are the coaches you want to destroy.  Basketball was born to be played fast.  Every time a team tries to slow you down, and you put in strategy to move the ball backwards instead of always moving the ball up the floor towards the basket, you are allowing your opponent to make you play their way.  You want to press us?  Great!  You want to zone us?  Even better!  You want to deny and double-team the PG?  THANK YOU! Give us more space to attack and move the ball up the court to our shooters, and you will only make us that much better!

Coaches, unfortunately, the System is something you CANNOT just dip your toe into.  You have to fully commit, or you will almost always get a result you do NOT desire.  As much as your kids will think this is fun and awesome, they will be the ones that will need the most convincing.  As much as players tell you they want to run, they don't really understand how much running they are about to do.  If YOU are not fully committed, you will never get the kids to fully commit.

In the end, like I said in an earlier blog, the System allows everybody on the team to have a role and make an impact.  The System allows you to play 10-17 kids per game.  The System allows every mom and dad in the stands to be happy about the opportunity their kid is getting.  If you were running the Flex, only about 5-8 of the kids on your roster would ever see the floor.  The System isn't easy.  It is tough to learn.  Tough to teach.  Tough to get outsiders to buy into.  When everything is taught properly and players are allowed to go, it won't take long for the stands to start filling up and records to start breaking!

Buy in for your kids.  Run for your teammates.  Make sure the opponent fears what is about to happen to them! :)

Coach Matt Rogers
Twitter:  @madcoachdiary