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AGC #013 - Maximizing your recruiting tournament potential

5 PSAs to help PSAs be at their best in front of college coaches

I watched 52 halves of field hockey last weekend at Shooting Star Thanksgiving, and saw over 60 teams play.

A majority of players present were doing so for recruiting reasons - hoping to catch the eye of hundreds of onlooking NCAA coaches.

Here are my top 5 PSAs for PSAs at recruiting tournaments; please feel free to forward this to any athletes you coach who are in this season of life!

(Spoiler: all the advice relates to things you can control!)

1. Have a presence

The most memorable players I saw this weekend went looking for the ball. They used their eyes, voice, and stick to demand it when it was appropriate.

I was struck by how many players were missing this (very controllable) attribute, especially when they were the obvious next pass.

Passivity won’t get you noticed; too many of my notes end up being “did not see her do anything of note” or “made no impact on the game”. If you can’t make an impact here, how can we trust that you’ll make one at the next level?

You’re a participant in the game, not a spectator - so play like one.

And if you won’t take it from me, take it from Abby Wambach, one of the greatest women’s soccer players of all time:

2. Maximize your other 98%

You’ll be on the ball for 2% of the game if you’re lucky - that’s the nature of team sports. So what are you doing with the other 98%?

My favorite player I saw this weekend wasn’t the most technically gifted athlete I watched, but she was constantly working to be an option for her teammates. When others were jogging back on defense, she was sprinting. She told other people where to position themselves, and where she had positioned herself to be able to back them up.

It’s easier to make you better at hockey than it is to change your personality. If the desire and effort aren’t there when you’re meant to be trying to impress coaches, we will wonder if it ever will be.

What are you doing with your 98%?

3. Mistakes matter less than how you respond to them

Coaches love to say that field hockey (and all invasion sports, really) is a game of mistakes.

In the NCAA, each team will turn the ball over 90-100 times a game.

So mistakes are inevitable - and coaches worth their salt are paying attention not to the error itself, but how you respond in the few seconds after the setback.

Do you throw your hands in the air? Do you stop running? Shout at the team-mate who gave you the pass you mistrapped?

Or do you immediately sprint back to try to recover the ball, or at least get between the ball and your goal? Do you shrug it off and focus on the next play?

The short clip below shows former Liberty Field Hockey player Charlotte Vaanhold losing the ball in a 1 v 1, but her immediate reaction is to work hard to win it back, and be part of the next attack.

You can’t fully control whether your shots go in the goal, whether you complete all your passes or whether you win all your defensive duels.

But you do get to control your response to the mistake; choose wisely.

4. Treat others as you would like to be treated

The “98%” player I mentioned earlier did multiple other things to differentiate herself - and none of it had anything to do with hockey.

When a teammate fluffed a gilt-edged chance, she was the only one to go to her, high-five her, and tell her she’ll get the next one.

When she was subbed out, she spent her time on the sideline yelling encouragement to those on the field.

These are energy-giving behaviors, which have been proven to be hallmarks of successful teams and players.

Pumping others up benefits you, too - it gets you out of your own head and is something you can draw strength and inspiration from even when you’re having a bad game.

Everyone loves to feel seen. So celebrate the successes of others, and support them when things go wrong. It says a lot about you!

 5. Write well, and write on time

Finally, an off-field tip.

We get a few hundred emails from players before these tournaments. About 90% of them are almost identical - here’s my biographical info, these are my accomplishments, I like your school due to the great balance of academics and athletics, this is my game schedule etc.

If you want to stand out from that crowd, be more original and specific:

  • Tell us about a highlight and a hardship from your high school season

  • Let us know what you noticed from watching us play this year

  • Share your life goals, your hopes, and dreams beyond sports

And whatever you write, please do it in a timely manner. A lot of planning is needed to figure out who we are going to see when there are 12 hours of games across 12 fields.

That’s our job to figure out, but if your email arrives the morning of a tournament you’ve known you’re going to for the past two months, it makes you less likely to be seen. It also doesn’t tell a great story about your organizational abilities!

That’s it! I hope these tips were useful; good luck implementing your favorite one at your next tournament! 🫡

Whenever you’re ready, here are a few ways I can help you:

1. Efficient Practice Design: My multi-step system for creating practice plans that will flow smoothly, stretch your players appropriately, and save coaches of all team sports dozens of hours a year, on and off the field.

2. Premium Practice Planner:  A Notion template to help sports coaches plan, deliver and review their sessions with maximum efficiency - then smartly archive everything.

3. Coach’s Dozen: An ebook of 12 small-sided games with diagrams and animations to help you train goalscoring in field hockey, co-authored with Mark Egner.