Why is a powerful driver? Many times, it is the primary driver and decider into the level of success an undertaking achieves. A great quote I have always heard is that “if your why is great enough, then how will never matter.” So, with that said, below is a little bit of insight into why Emerge began!
Why We Decided to Pursue This
I formerly was an athlete with soccer being my sport of choice. I grew up playing, and like many other athletes fully invested, had aspirations of playing at the collegiate level. I enrolled early to play at Wofford University, where their coach ended up leaving before the season to address family needs. From there, I made a quick exit, as well as the situation, had changed and I ended up enrolling at Spartanburg Methodist College where we assembled an incredibly strong JUCO team during a surge of talent in South Carolina. I had little experience in the recruiting process as I had tunnel vision on my Wofford future at first, so for a quick turnaround to find a new “home,” I had weeks at best. There was no recruiting process for me at that point, just placement. I ultimately played for two years at SMC before transferring to the University of South Carolina (Columbia) to be a “student.”
During my tenure there, I ended up meeting numerous athletes that I befriended who played there, ranging from football to baseball to basketball. Just from dialogue, many of them while very gracious at the opportunity they found themselves in, but almost unanimously agreed that they did not get to maximize the opportunities or fully explore the recruiting process. It was then that I began to dig a little more into why they felt that way, and the concept for Emerge was born.
Obstacles to the Parties Involved
After doing some research from interviews, surveys conducted from present/former athletes (D1, D2, D3, Juco, Recreational, Semi pro) and comprehensive evaluation of the market we discovered the same batch of holes littering or impeding the recruiting process. They varied by individual or university, but some recurring themes could not be ignored.
Problems documented included, but were not limited to:
-Geography (I cannot get to where I need)
-Opportunity (this is not a sports “hotbed”)
-NCAA Compliance (I can only host or visit so many prospects/schools)
-Finances (We don’t have the financial flexibility to explore the recruiting process fully)
-Mindshare (I/We haven’t found a way to insert our self into the recruiting network)
-Opportunity (There were not many combines/camps/expos or general opportunities to showcase myself)
- Language (International students who did not utilize English, as the primary language were hesitant or less comfortable engaging in the recruiting process unless approached)
And so, we chewed on that as well as…
Other “Things” We Noticed
How overly public the recruiting process had become
If an athlete had said on one of the many social media available these days that they love XYZ school. Half of the world would be quick to acknowledge them and want to build them a monument. The other half showed some of the worse nature of people in that they insult, humiliate, berate at the end of the day, kids. This has become so prevalent that subscriptions exist just intending to bring in the general public for viewership (Scout.com, Rivals, among others). These are catered less around the process and more providing insight and ammunition to the public on the people tied to their favorite schools, sports, and others.
Information is being misrepresented.
We are in an age of data and statistics, and one exists for virtually everything. As granular as information has become, it is misrepresented. The famous story around Moneyball in baseball of taking statistics to quantifiably validate what “star power” may not provide as a return led to a revolution in the statistical analysis department. The problem is that people have/had begun shaping them within context to convey a misleading meaning detracting from the process.
Visuals trump numbers
It became more and more apparent as the pool of talent grew, and the misconception of numbers rose, that there needed to be a complimentary piece. Even in the final 1% of a pool of talent these days, there is still minimal ways to differentiate oneself as the pool is so large. That is why viral media and social media has become such a tool in recruiting. A coach may know XYZ measurables or traits about a person, but in the final 1% of your specified criteria, you are still staring at thousands of candidates. That is why many of them have turned to social media and verify skillsets with their eyes what they know to be true or potentially accurate on paper. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so how many was a viral video worth? To Jarron Gilbert, an unnoticed defensive end from San Jose State University had a video of him jumping out of a pool go viral and punch his ticket to the NFL combine (a pool, pardon the pun, of a total of 335 individuals).
There are roughly 8 million high school athletes participating each year domestically, so why do we only rank around 3,000? Only fragments of the pool get “ranked,” “evaluated” or ever even discovered. Many like to tell the story of the person who was ultimately off the radar and became a “blue chip” athlete. It is a fabulous story, and we love to tell it as well. However, not every person is looking for or determined to be a professional. Some people play for the love of the game, others have aspirations of the next level, some use it to escape a troubled life, or some use it as a way to pay for higher education. The lists are endless.
The takeaway was that the system was flawed, not broken, but flawed. The limitations imposed on institutions and individuals alike prevented the process from being everything that it was or is intended to be. Our goal, mission, and vision are to alleviate that as the standard in facilitating the recruitment process for both organization and individual alike regardless of whatever barriers inhibit the process for them individually.