The easy availability of digital video clips through video-sharing web sites such as YouTube and others is changing the nature of recruiting for college athletics, something that has both positive and negative aspects.
Over the past few years, more and more high-school athletes have begun to post game footage and highlight reels on the internet in hopes of gaining more attention from recruiters–and more college coaches are paying attention.
Sean Ryan, who has been the men’s lacrosse coach at Ohio Wesleyan University for the past 10 years, said he has seen an increase in student athletes sending links to their highlight clips on different internet sites.
"There are some pros and some cons," he said. "A pro is that it gives me an opportunity to see a young man play [who] I wouldn’t usually be able to see play. However, sometimes I only see highlights, so I only see the good plays. Coaches usually want to see both the good plays and the bad plays."
Ryan admits that being able to access videos of potential players online makes his job a little easier.
"It opens up the horizon and helps us see young men we wouldn’t usually get to see," he said.
That’s a key reason the web site Scout.com has grown so much over the last few years, said Scott Kennedy, the site’s director of online scouting. In 2005, it was acquired by Fox Interactive Co. Kennedy’s division is in charge of finding, reporting on, and ranking football recruits.
"One of the advantages of our site is that it gives coaches a first look when they have limited resources. It narrows it down for coaches," he said. "The highlight reels help coaches decide if they want to recruit players or not."
Kennedy said many athletes submit videos to the site themselves.
"If they send us a video, we post it and create a profile for them [at no charge]," he said. There is, however, a subscription charge for users who would like to see in-depth coverage and watch videos online, though Kennedy said he doubts that’s a deterrent for coaches. "I would be shocked if [all coaches] didn’t subscribe," he said.
He also said he would be surprised if coaches based their recruiting decisions solely on online videos.
"It’s just another tool to make this easier for coaches. You’re not offering players scholarships based [only] on these videos, though," he said.
Kennedy said the trend of students publishing highlight clips online is growing every year.
"It’s more mainstream than it’s ever been, and it’s only becoming more so," he said.
Stewart Brown, author of The Student Athlete’s Guide to Getting Recruited, said he sees how students posting their videos online can help ease the recruiting process–especially with the financial restraints that both colleges and parents are experiencing.
"The use of video during the recruitment process is likely to increase as colleges, both private and state-run, look to consolidate their financial resources through this recession. If college coaches can utilize technology to see and make a subjective analysis of college prospects, I believe they will help their budgets. Additionally, there will likely be less travel for competitive athletes [owing] to the financial restraints of parents–again leading to alternative ways of gaining the attention of college coaches," he said.
But Brown said there are a few things students need to be aware of when posting these videos on online sites like YouTube.
"The student must make a video that is attractive and relays the right information and projects the correct image for the college coach. The student must know what the coach wants," he said. "Because coaches are looking for ‘clean’ student athletes [who] will represent their program and school well, it is important that prospective student athletes do not link or connect their recruiting video with other videos of youthful pranks or other off-putting behavior. Like Facebook and MySpace accounts, college coaches may look at other posted videos by prospects and make judgments on them–[and] if these are bad, the college coach could change his mind on the prospect."
Online videos also give coaches an advantage in scouting opponents. Ryan said he uses the videos to check out players on opposing teams.
"I will usually Google or YouTube a player of an opposing team [who is] maybe a freshman that we don’t know anything about," he said. "So we use it as a teaching tool for the team as well."
Here’s a tip from Ryan for students who post videos online: "Put up more game footage and less highlights. Coaches want to see mistakes. They want to see what you need to work on."