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Recruiting primer on male and female sports

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Let’s talk recruiting

National Signing Day Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Recruiting is the life blood of college athletics. Therefore it is natural and necessary for a lot of time and energy to be spent by coaches on securing the best athletes. Because recruiting is so important fans are very interested in how well their schools are doing on the recruiting front. This has led to the proliferation of many recruiting sites or services that rate prospective recruits as well as providing information on their recruitment. As college sports have become more popular (and profitable) the interest in recruiting has continued to increase. This is true for both men’s and women’s sports.

However, there are important differences in how the rankings are done in men’s sports relative to women’s sports. The differences basically come down to resources. Men’s college athletics are far more lucrative than women’s college athletics so naturally more resources are provided for men’s sports in general and that includes recruiting. Men’s sports are a bigger business so more resources are devoted to recruiting by websites and other sports news organizations. For men’s football and basketball there are many sites or publications that do recruiting rankings (247, ESPN, Rivals, etc.). For women’s sports there are far fewer reputable services and the ones that exist don’t have the resources that are devoted to men’s sports. Therefore, the rankings are often a bit more suspect on the women’s side. Coaches in all women’s sports generally think that the recruiting rankings are improving but they still aren’t as good as on the men’s side.

In order to be a good recruiting evaluator you need to meet a few basic criteria:

  1. The evaluators need to have knowledge about the sport that they are evaluating. If you don’t know about the sport then you obviously won’t be able to make knowledgeable evaluations about the prospects playing that sport.
  2. The evaluators need to be able to watch many prospects multiple times. It’s important to watch as many prospects as possible so that good players don’t fall through the cracks. It’s also important to see the prospects multiple times so that you can have more confidence that you aren’t just catching a player on a good (or bad) day.
  3. The evaluators need to be able to account for different competition levels. Some prospects play against weaker competition so they look better than they really are. The reverse is also true as prospects who always play against strong competition can be underrated. This is why in basketball leagues such as Nike’s EYBL and the Under Armour circuit have become so important. They have these leagues for girls as well as boys and this is an important factor in why girls basketball recruiting rankings have improved.
  4. The evaluators also need to be able to project where they think players will be in future years. In other words they need to be able to ascertain how the recruits will grow and develop. This means their bodies (will they get stronger, faster, etc.) and their skills. Good evaluators will be able to infer floors and ceilings. In other words they will be able to project how good a player will be in the best case scenario and how good they will be in the worst case scenario.
  5. The evaluations may be a bit different for girls relative to boys as girls and boys mature at different rates.

As you can see from the above criteria, it can be expensive to cover recruiting. This is why it is harder to get reputable information on women’s sports recruiting. There isn’t much of it out there due to budget constraints. It is always wise to take any recruiting rankings with a grain of salt but that is especially true for the rankings in women’s sports.