COACHES’ CORNER: DON’T BURN BRIDGES WHEN KIDS CHANGE THEIR MINDS
Throughout your career, you will occasionally have great players fall into your lap with little or no work at all—signed, sealed and delivered with no stress. You will also have other players change their mind and sign elsewhere at the last minute after years of recruitment, travel and time invested.
Players are going to change their minds, sometimes at the last minute. Someone close to them may get in their head, for both good and questionable intentions: distance may be a factor, they may be having family issues—you just can never be 100% finished recruiting until the NLI is signed!
But since you are depending on 18-year-olds, making their first big “life” decision, it is part of the job! Undoubtedly, a player that you’ve built up a great relationship with, and spent a lot of time on, will flip on you and decommit. It’s happened to every coach that I can think of!
The only thing that you can try to do is: do your due diligence during the recruitment process and take the high road after the decision has been made.
In the end, know that it eventually evens out. You may face major frustration one day, then feel like you’ve hit the lotto the next day. You have to have a “big picture” attitude about your career and treat everyone with respect throughout the process, even if you feel disrespected or heartbroken.
If a top recruit decommits, especially late, you can’t overreact. This is a huge decision for these kids, and they have a lot of voices getting into their heads. Some players aren’t mature enough to handle recruitment, and fall apart at the end. I’ve seen it happen to every coach.
In other circumstances, their circle of family and friends may be illegally recruited, and offered impermissible benefits. Family starts heavily pressuring prospects to head in another direction. You always have to keep the big picture in mind, and remember that you need to deal with recruits, families and prep coaches with class. The decision is always out of your hands, you just have to work to put yourself in the best position possible year-round.
You never know, a year or two from now they may be unhappy where they signed and pick up the phone and contact you about transferring. Year after year, I’ve seen previous recruits change their mind and transfer to play for a coach that they nearly signed with out of high school.