Sam Ekstrom – Staff Writer
It’s currently the offseason for Dordt’s basketball teams. If you’re a player, that means rest, recuperation and a chance to catch up on schoolwork and How I Met Your Mother.
For the coaches, the work is just beginning.
The name of the game is recruiting, the year-round grind that every collegiate coaching staff must endure.
“This recruiting is just an absolute animal,” said men’s head coach Ross Douma. “It’s just a monster in and of itself.”
“There are things to do each day, each week, and it really never stops,” said women’s coach Craig Stiemsma.
Both men’s and women’s coaching staffs are in constant contact with high school athletes. Douma said he is already recruiting from the high school class of 2017 – current high school freshmen, in other words.
“There’s probably communication with about 175 to 200 kids at various times,” said Douma, who is in his fifth year of coaching. “Obviously, there’s contact with your top-tier kids a whole lot more, but that process is never ending.
Of those recruits, perhaps one-tenth of them wind up signing with the Defenders. Last season there were 22 freshmen between the men’s varsity and junior varsity rosters, which was considered a large class.
Stiemsma’s varsity and JV teams had 13 freshmen after losing only one senior the previous year. With six seniors leaving from this year’s team, Stiemsma has holes to fill on his roster.
“We really try to recruit by position,” said Stiemsma. “[We recruit] as to what things they can do well to help the program.”
On the men’s side, Douma said he has three basic criteria for examining a potential recruit.
“They have to be open to a Christian education, they have to be a very good student and they have to be able to play basketball very well,” said Douma.
Once a recruit meets those requirements, the coach becomes a salesman. Stiemsma mentioned all that a coach must pitch to a potential player.
“There is a lot to sell,” Stiemsma said. “We work on campus visit days, calls, emails and texts as well as notes to them to help them find out about Dordt, our program, our academic program, our campus and players.
Douma said that he and his staff conduct several preliminary measures before contacting a player directly. These steps include looking at online databases, contacting other coaches and checking out the recruit’s social media profiles.
The latter can often be a deal-breaker for Douma.
“Twitter is very revealing. Facebook is very revealing,” said Douma. “There’s been a lot of kids we’ve just been able to move away from simply because it’s not worth the hassle with the baggage that we’re going to get.”
Modern technology has changed recruiting in other ways, too. Douma said he sends text messages to two or three recruits per day, as opposed to the phone calls of old.
“Calling on the phone has taken a backseat to texting,” said Douma. “Kids are not nearly as comfortable with phone conversations as they were even six years ago.”
Because Dordt is a member of the NAIA, they are not bound by NCAA contact restrictions with recruits. This gives them leverage in recruiting some players that may have Division II or low-end Division I talent.
“If you don’t try to cast a big enough net and aren’t going to take the risk to try and get them in the first place, then you’ll never get them,” said Douma of upper-echelon recruits.
Sometimes coaches’ efforts are in vain. Not every cast reels in a big fish.
However, the rewards of the recruiting process are evident to Coach Stiemsma.
“I really enjoy recruiting a lot,” he said. “It is a lot of time and travel, but Dordt is a great place to recruit to. I find it a tremendously rewarding and interesting venture.”