Monday, March 10, 2008

Recruiting Revisited

My last post on recruiting practices got its fair share of dialog, a lot of it around 5 year college students.

Just to make it clear - i absolutely believe that players can and should make all decisions regarding their lives and futures; my primary concern is that we have zero ...ZERO.... ethical guidelines for recruiting. My concern is that we, as coaches, control the bulk of the information that enables players to make sound, rational, informed decisions .... and some times we don't do the right thing with either the information, OR the responsibility we have.

At the club level I personally feel there is a lot bigger gray area, and a lot more is kosher (if only with a big K instead of an OU) - simply because the colleges and universities, athletic departments and rec sports offices - are not involved. There are still ethical issues, but without the oversight of a major institution, there is less accountability, so really less to base any standards on.

To the reader who commented that, if a players wants to stay in school 5 years just so they can play more college rugby, or doesn't want to finish college at all (and is around just for rugby), that's totally cool (cuz it's his or her money), I have a question. Would you be willing to take that stand with the university sports or recreation officials? How do you think the university would respond to the player who says "Well, I'm paying the bill, and I've decided my priority is rugby. I'll graduate when I graduate, if I graduate. School is less important than rugby". How do you think the university would respond to the coach who echo's those sentiments? Keep in mind, while the player may in fact be footing the bill, most universities get some sort of public subsidy, and most university clubs are at least, in part, funded by student fees. So while it's mostly YOUR money, some of it is my money.

One reader commented that the sketchy event is rare. It's not as rare as we'd like to think. There are IN FACT college coaches telling players, as freshman, they they need to get on the five year plan. There are IN FACT college coaches who pay the "special" player's expenses for them, to entice them to stay around longer. There are IN FACT coaches who promise players that, if they stay with them, or if they move, they will make this or that all star team.

So the debate isn't about the player's choice, it's about the coaches actions. It's about what we, as a community, think is OK. Its about what our employers (and sorry, even if you are a volunteer you are accountable to the school) think is OK.

Just looking through a range of NCAA documents on recruiting, it's clear that they have had to put boundaries in place. Very little of the documentation describes a minimum, it describes boundaries and limits.

NCAA rules describe things like how often a coach can make phone contact with a player, over what period of time, and starting how early. How often a coach can make face-to-face contact. Even, yes, how often a coach can use text messaging, chat, IM, and email. Their guidelines specify WHERE contact can take place, and its in almost all situations it is school grounds, practice fields, sports locations. These rules are incredibly detailed, and specific for sport and division. They discuss exactly what "deals" a coach can make with a prospective player, and how these "deals" must be documented in writing and reviewed.

Now granted, we're not NCAA. But do we really believe as a community, that there's no need to discuss ethics? That to question what's ethical and what's not is the equivalent of complaining?

I don't think so.


Anonymous said...

If you are so concerned with rules and regulations, why don't you come up with a proposal outlining the type and quantity of recruiting allowed and submit it to USARugby?

And part of me thinks that you as a coach are assuming that your players are stupid and it is up to you and only you to educate them about their options regarding staying 5 years in college. Yes, EVERYBODY in the world I think has moral and ethical responsibilities to themselves and others. Some people choose to adhere to them, some don't, and they vary depending on what you are involved in. I think the best thing you can do is set an example with your own actions. It does no good to complain about what others are doing or not doing.

Just call me coach.... said...

Maybe I'm actually interested in having a dialog with others in the community before saying what exactly should and shouldn't happen? Maybe, just maybe, I think the best solutions come out only after open intellectual discourse.

Maybe I'd like to hear your ideas, and not be insulted? This is, after all, my blog, and YOU, are insulting me, making assumptions about how I view my players, behind the anonymous tag.

If you have something worthwhile to say, please share. If not ...

Emily said...

I really frown upon staying (and planning to) be in school for additional time to play rugby. I went to one of these large universities where about half of the graduates are finishing a "victory lap", and its IS often motivated by extracurricular reasons (though just as often by the need to work or other personel committments). I really think redshirting in the NCAA and the extra, non redshirt year in club sports should be banned and that 5th year of elgibility should be limited to those who need it for personal circumstances. Maybe it is something worth bringing up with the governing bodies...but man what a fight that'd be!

In regards to ethical recruiting, I have a lot of issues with the "carrots" too. Dangle the benefits of your program, how good your team is rugby-wise and socially, the playing opportunities, etc...not financial stuff, which almost always is going to leave OTHER players of less "value"/skill of the club out in the cold (disclaimer: I think all collegiate athletic scholarships should be banned, ala the Ivys, but that's a whole other sidebar). I certainly think it is wrong to actively recruit players from "across the river" or other teams in general if they have not FIRST expressed an issue in changing teams to you...

Kentucky said...

I cringe at the idea of any governing body telling me who I can talk to and who can talk to me at any time for any sport that neither I - nor my coaches - are getting paid to participate in. I believe we all need to use our own personal ethics when it comes to recruiting, making the "5-year decision" and otherwise.

There will always be shady dealings and coaches who aren't so much focused on the best interest of their players. As a player, there have been more than a few times that I have questioned a coach's motives and have had to make difficult decisions where "carrots" (subtle ones) were being dangled in either direction. However, I would much prefer to deal with those situations on a personal level, rather than having someone from the outside tell me who I can talk to and when, what they can offer me, how long I should stay in school, or whatever. Sometimes what might seem shady turns out to be a mere misunderstanding, as has been the case for me in the past.

This is a sport we play for fun - though some of us, including myself, choose to make it much more. We make that choice knowing that we are going to have to make difficult decisions about our future in our sport, our careers, and with regards to our interpersonal relationships surrounding those activities. One thing I love about rugby is that it allows the players to take their fate into their own hands to a greater degree that those governed by the NCAA or professional organizations. When we have a problem with our coaches, we can talk to them, and vice versa. If we want to leave to play somewhere bigger, better, or otherwise - we can do that at any time, no contracts to sign or break. In reality, we should all encourage this movement, because it allows for the transfer of ideas from place to place, and, especially for younger players, allows them to see that there is no one "right way" to do anything in rugby.

Rugby is a great game. It is great no matter where you play it. There will always be sleaze balls and shady dealings. The only thing we can do is to try to be the best players and coaches we can possibly be, and seek to find a balance between the best decisions for ourselves and the game as a whole.

Em said...

I think anonymous is defensive b/c they stayed a fifth year to play rugby.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kentucky, in so much that one of the great features of rugby, particullarly in America, is that we play/coach/support in a small community... which does not encompass contracts, or promises beyond a season at a time. We all know players who develop the reputation as a team hoppers, some for seasons (15 v 7s) and other becauase of personality-- lets face it, teams change from year to year. If you look across your own clubs, how many players can you say "S/He is a true Philly player, or NoVA or Whitemarsh!" And COACHES too make changes based upon carrots, just not players.

Meredith said...

The anonymous post at the top here is yet another reason I believe anonymous comments should be prohibited.

This person asks us to trust people to behave responsibly while cowardly hiding behind anonymity.

Wonders never cease.