Welcome to Interview #48.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 2 Wrestling Coach of Drury University, James Reynolds.
James Reynolds starts his tenure as Drury University’s first Head Wrestling Coach. The Panthers will begin their inaugural season during the 2016-2017 academic year.
What would a timeline look like for your recruiting of a typical player?
I am currently in the process of building a new team from the very beginning. I am paying close attention to many young men that are currently seniors in high school and at the same time looking to build relationships and trust with current juniors who will be looking to make a college decision earlier next Fall.
Should a wrestler personally contact you by phone, text or email? What will you do next if you are contacted by a high school athlete?
All three are preferred. Once they contact me I usually ask them about their experience and what they are interested in studying. I can usually get a feel for what they are interested in and how well they might fit in to my specific program by first speaking with them.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
I encourage parents to participate as much as possible. I definitely like having parents come on the recruiting trip and genuinely enjoy answering their questions as we go through the process. It’s important to build trust with a parent before they leave me ultimately responsible for their son his first time being away from home.
What are college coaches looking for in a recruiting video? What is the best way for recruits to format the video to be useful to the college coach? How should they get the video to you?
I usually like to watch entire matches and even watch wrestlers throughout the year both on video and at their matches in person. This usually gives me an idea of whether or not their wrestling can transition to college and if they can handle the level of competition both mentally and physically.
Strangely enough, I actually want to watch an athlete enough times to see them lose. That tells me a lot about their mental toughness. They need to be able to handle adversity if I am going ask them to wrestle for me at the college level. They may not win them all and when they do drop a match I want to know they will not melt down entirely.
It’s easiest to upload their matches online to YouTube and send me the link or there are other types of video software you can share video through.
What are some of the things that would keep you from recruiting a player?
If an athlete cannot handle adversity during and after a match. If they proceed to be a sore loser and throw a tantrum or become disrespectful to the referee, their coach, their opponent or the other wrestler’s coach. There is also the guy who excessively celebrates or becomes a terrible sport while winning the match. Those characteristics immediately raise a red flag in my mind and don’t reflect the type of athlete I want wrestling on my team.
What do you think about recruiting services and their usefulness for a player to find the right college and to get an athletic scholarship?
I think they serve a purpose for some athletes so they might be more visible to college coaches and help them to organize in a way that is more appealing to college coaches. I prefer to recruit as a coach the old fashioned way. I drive to tournaments and duals when I can during the season and make sure I catch every possible post-season and pre-season tournaments to get a feel for the guys that wrestle year-around as well as the coaches that are dedicated to their athletes.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
An athletic scholarship on my team can vary between a mostly academic scholarship to a mostly athletic scholarship depending on how good of a student they are and obviously how good of a wrestler they are.
Drury is a private school that incentivizes better students by awarding academic scholarship. I am also incentivized to recruit better students in terms of making school financially affordable for them. Currently I am in the process of building a team and scholarships will vary greatly.
There are so many positives about Title IX for women, but there have been unintended consequences on men’s sports, especially wrestling. Can you talk about the state of collegiate wrestling, how it has been impacted over the past few decades and what the future of collegiate wrestling looks like?
Title IX forced athletic departments to choose what kind of department they were going to be. Are you one that cuts programs to balance a budget and obey the law or do you look to expand and be more inclusive to accommodate laws? Some felt it was easier just to cut programs, rather than raise money and invest in woman’s programs.
I don’t hold Title IX responsible for programs dropping, rather, I hold the universities responsible in their decision making. It is essential to put in the work necessary to maintain the vitality of an athletic department. Over the past decade the ability of collegiate wrestling to expand and be inclusive to women has greatly secured its existence.
Often time’s program cuts are a result of an ongoing problem that has largely been neglected over time and a cut program is usually the final stage. Most of the time we don’t see behind the curtain and are only able to see the end result. A cut program is the result of an athletic department’s failure to either show meaningful progress toward expanding opportunities to women or balance a budget successfully.
What are the short term and long term benefits of being on a collegiate athletic team?
The short term benefits are having a rich and fulfilling college experience and accomplishing goals on the mat.
The long term benefits range from building lifelong relationships with coaches and teammates to developing characters tools that benefit the athlete for a lifetime.
I have found that the sport of wrestling carries a sense of comradery long after wrestlers are finished competing. I feel very fortunate to be part of such an elite brotherhood of former wrestlers and coaches that share such a common background. It is a great feeling that I am not so sure any other sport or profession can really say they have that same relationship. I could be wrong, but I can only speak through my own experience.
Can you share a story or two about wrestlers who have gone through your program that have been impacted by their time wrestling?
I recently had an athlete develop with me as a coach and a workout partner. I was able to see him structure his mentality and attach other tasks in life just as he did his training.
He is currently a teacher and coach and I know he develops his young men the same way he has developed over the years and does his very best to duplicate the results.
Wrestling had such a profound impact on his life that he has chosen to dedicate a considerable portion of his time trying to duplicate that with his athletes.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or wrestlers in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
As a message to high school athletes I would have to say to never underestimate the importance of being a good student.
Be coachable and respectful to your coaches, opponents and officials. College coaches aren’t just looking at the wins and losses but are much more interested in behavior and how you react to adversity.
I am currently recruiting young men that I am looking forward to building a program around and have found myself much more critical of character than ever before.
As a prospective college athlete I would say you should always look to join a program you believe you can progress in during your time there. Choose a school where you can get a meaningful education and one that prepares you to be successful after graduation.
James Reynolds starts his tenure as Drury University’s first Head Wrestling Coach. The Panthers will begin their inaugural season during the 2016-2017 academic year and will compete in NCAA Division 2 as a member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
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