4 Decision Making Methods to Guide Your Recruiting Journey


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Looking into 2019, the recruiting landscape will definitely be 'different' in Division I with a later start for college coaches to get on the recruiting trail (February 15th, 2019) and most of the month of May cut short as an evaluation period = less time to see more athletes. This creates the need for prospective student-athletes (PSA), college coaches and parents to take advantage of the time allowed, and puts a larger emphasis on the process of decision-making. 

There is no need to accelerate verbal offers and commitments in light of the abbreviated recruiting periods or limitations of unofficial visits for Freshmen/Sophomores. Regardless of what the rule changes are in DI or at any level, the intent has been and should always be...build relationships, determine academic and athletic fit with the goal of building a foundation of trust between the PSA and college coach. 

If a change is needed, I firmly believe it is a 'mindset change' in regards to decision-making for both PSA's and college coaches alike. A 'mindset' is simply a person's fixed attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's response to and interpretations of decisions. The mind-set of 'I need it now' has permeated youth sports in all areas...from training and participation to college offers and commitments.

Fading are the days, where decisions are pondered, advice is sought and much thought is given to life-changing choices. A key factor in the skewed mindset of decision-making is the inordinate importance of social media. It has propelled us into a 'false' sense of what is authentic, and has become a strong impetus in the decision thought process for this generation. And yes, a great topic for another article, but I would be remiss in not including social media as a key factor in a skewed mindset for all of us, especially in today's prospective student-athlete.

Let's examine four key factors to consider as PSA's work through their recruiting process:

  1. Own your process
    o You determine the speed, communications and decisions
    o If you are not ready to own it, it is okay
    o Determine your priorities before your move forward

  2. Determine the key factors in making your decision; be honest with yourself & your parents
    o Athletic fit based upon your abilities and program level
    o Compatible coaching staff/culture
    o Academic opportunities for your long-term career path

  3. Decision Making – Take your time & evaluate what is best for you
    o If you are getting pressured to make a decision by anyone, STOP and consider why you are being pressured
    o Do they have your best interest in mind or theirs
    o How will your decision impact your life now, in 5 years, in 10 years
    o Seek advice – it's okay not to have all the answers

  4. False Mindset vs Reality
    o All the opportunities are gone is a myth – opportunities abound
    o Comparison mindsetyour journey is not going to be like anyone else
    o Panic Decision-Making - your decision-making should be based upon on deliberate consideration & time
    o It is owed to me – no room for entitlement mindset; your efforts determine your success

One of my favorite quotes on decision-making comes from Simon Sinek, "There is no decision that we can make that doesn't come with some sort of balance or sacrifice."

I pondered this quote for some time and created a list of my decisions in the past (both good and bad) and reviewed them with the tenets of this quote. When I made bad decisions there were common threads...no balance or sacrifice on my part, decisions made out of panic, undue pressure, lack of preparedness and definitely no advice-seeking. When I purveyed my 'good decisions', it was overwhelming to recall impactful wisdom I sought, the factors I considered, self-discovery, long-term planning and most importantly I took time. Time was the balance and the sacrifice which led to fruitful decisions that had positive impacts on not only my life but others around me.

Decision-making is not easy in the recruiting process and with the pace prospective student-athletes and their families partake in, sometimes understanding how to and what to consider gets passed by as they speed down the highway of practices, tournaments, phone calls and visits to colleges, understanding athletic & academic scholarships...etc.

So how does the PSA and their families choose the best decision-making approach for them? Some thoughts to consider as offered by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler in their book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High.

They write about the four most common decision making methods and how to choose the most effective approach.

  1. Command – decisions are made with no involvement.
  2. Consult – invite input from others.
  3. Vote – discuss options and then call for a vote.
  4. Consensus – talk until everyone agrees to one decision.

1. Command Style Decision Making – Where There's no Involvement by You

"Let's start with decisions that are made with no involvement whatsoever. This happens in one of two ways. Either outside forces place demands on us (demands that leave us no wiggle room), or we turn decisions over to others and then follow their lead. We don't care enough to be involved – let someone else do the work."

2. Consult Style Decision Making – When You ask for Input

"Consulting is a process whereby decision makers invite others to influence them before they make their choice. You can consult with experts, a representative population, or even everyone who wants to offer an opinion. Consulting can be an efficient way of gaining ideas and support without bogging down the decision making process. At least not too much. Wise leaders, parents, and even couples frequently make decisions in this way. They gather ideas, evaluate options, make a choice, and then inform the broader population."

3. Vote Style Decision Making – Using a vote when team members agree to support whatever decision is made:

"Voting is best suited to situations where efficiency is the highest value – and you're selecting from a number of good options. Members of the team realize they may not get their first choice, but frankly they don't want to waste time talking the issue to death. They may discuss options for a while and then call for a vote. When facing several decent options, voting is a great time saver but should never be used when team members don't agree to support whatever decision is made. In these cases, consensus is required."

4. Consensus Style Decision Making – Using consensus when there's high stakes or you need everyone to fully support the final decision:

This method can be both a great blessing and a frustrating curse. Consensus means that you talk until everyone honestly agrees to one decision. This method can produce tremendous unity and high-quality decisions. If misapplied, it can also be a horrible waste of time. It should only be used with (1) high-stakes and complex issues or (2) issues where everyone absolutely must support the final choice.

Understanding how and why we make decisions are key to any process. My take-away is to find the right combination that works for you, and to evaluate the decision-making process with sacrifice, balance, time and your values. Best put by Roy Disney, 'When your values are clear, making decisions becomes easier'. Ultimately, changing your decision-making mind-set from "I need it now' to 'I need time', will lead to a lifetime of rewards not only for you, but for your team, family, personal and business relationships and future endeavors in and outside of the sport.

For related reading on the volleyball recruiting process click HERE. For more education for junior volleyball athletes click HERE.

About the Author

Patty Costlow is heading into her third year as the Recruiting Coordinator for Munciana Volleyball, a long time JVA member club located in Muncie, Indiana. She has been involved in the sport of volleyball at various levels for over 30 years (club coach, program director, program development, semi-pro beach and indoor player). Utilizing her 30+ years of experience in both playing and coaching/teaching the sport of volleyball, it was a natural progression for her to transition into the recruiting arena. Patty brings her passion for developing leaders and helping young athletes pursue their life goals to all aspects of her responsibilities as the Recruiting Coordinator for one of the top clubs in the country. She developed a comprehensive program for Munciana VBC and speaks on a national level to parents/athletes in regards to collegiate recruiting. In addition, Patty consults with volleyball clubs on building their recruiting programs. Patty is a mother of four and resides in Carmel, Indiana with her husband, Chris. She is graduate of the University of Illinois.


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