Welcome to Interview #87
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Coach of the University of Maine, Bob Walsh.
Bob Walsh has been at the University of Maine since 2014. He has been a successful Division 1 and Division 3 coach for 20 years. Prior to Maine Walsh was head coach at Division 3 power Rhode Island College for nine years and an assistant at Division 1 Providence for seven years.
What are some ways that recruits can get you to take an interest in them?
The best way for a recruit to garner some interest is to contact our staff. Email is generally best. Write a short email and a short highlight video showing what they can do.
You can also send a schedule of your upcoming games or events.
A group email sent to a number of coaches is not the way to go. Send a personal email to the head coach or an assistant that is specific to that school. It also works to have your coach send that email on your behalf. It may be best to send it to an assistant coach on staff as you may increase your chances of getting a response.
Keep it short and to the point, and don’t overdo it with the emails. You want to make coaches aware and get them to take a look at you. You don’t want to be annoying.
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the NCAA College recruiting process?
One mistake prospects often make is being unrealistic about their ability. Talk to coaches that you know and respect and ask them what level they think is the best fit for you. Just because you played against a D1 player in a summer league and had 10 points doesn’t mean you have the ability to play D1. Selling yourself to the wrong level won’t help you.
I also don’t think prospects ask enough questions. It’s okay to ask specific questions about where you stand in the recruiting process, are you being offered a scholarship, and how you fit into their plans. You can find out if you are just one of many, or if you are someone that school is really targeting. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions.
You have been very successful at the Division 1 level with Providence College and now the University of Maine. You also were incredibly successful at the Division 3 level with Rhode Island College. The most obvious difference between Division 1 and 3 are that Division 3 athletes are not offered athletic scholarships. You bring a unique perspective to understanding recruiting different levels of athletes.
What are the major differences in the type of athlete recruited by a Division 1 and 3 school?
The biggest difference between the athletes at D1 and D3 is size. At Rhode Island College my center was 6-5 or 6-6. My point guard was 5-7 or 5-8. Shooting guards were 5-9, 5-10. At the D1 level, the athletes are bigger across the board. Another difference is speed. D1 athletes can play faster at a comfortable pace. They are used to the speed of the game, and can play to their natural ability at that speed.
How early do athletes need to be noticed to have a chance to play at a Division 1 school? What are the indications a player should begin looking at D2, D3 and NAIA schools?
The most important time for a basketball player to be a D1 recruit is the spring and summer after his junior year. Certainly it helps to get noticed as a junior if you want to be a D1 player, and the higher level D1 schools tend to be interested in kids at a younger age. But most kids who are D1 players are on that radar by the end of their junior year.
There is no harm in any players looking at D2/D3/NAIA schools. If you aren’t getting a lot of interest from D1 schools heading into the summer before your senior year, you should definitely look into D2/D3. There are absolutely great options to play at that level. Finding the right fit is much more important than finding the highest level.
Should prospective athletes bring up scholarships with coaches or wait on the coach to initiate that discussion?
It’s certainly okay for prospects to ask about a scholarship. You may not want to do it the first time you have contact with a coach – if it’s an initial call and they just want to let you know they watched you play and they want to track your progress, they probably don’t have that answer. But moving forward it’s certainly proper for you to ask if you are being offered a scholarship or considered for a scholarship. Clarity is really important in the recruiting process, and you get that by asking the right questions. It’s ok to ask a coach where he sees you fitting into their recruiting class.
For a Division 1 school, how and when are scholarships offered?
Different schools will offer scholarships in different ways. We like to do it directly and it comes from the head coach. Usually it will be in the spring or summer after their junior year. But some schools may have assistants offer scholarships.
Also due to NCAA rules prohibiting contact during events, it will often be done through a coach. But scholarship offers are different from different schools. Some just do it as a way to say they are really interested in recruiting you. Others may want you to commit immediately.
How much time do athletes typically have to respond?
The back and forth after a scholarship is offered really depends on each school and each situation. It’s okay to ask “If I am ready to commit, are you ready to accept my commitment?” Every coach, every school does it differently. That’s why it’s important to ask questions.
Now I want to turn the interview a bit more personal. It is not often prospective college athletes and their parents have the opportunity to hear the wisdom of a coach who has been so long in the trenches and so successful.
Can you give us examples of how meeting the demands of collegiate athletics has prepared your former players in their lives after college?
We feel strongly that our culture will make you a better person, not just a better player. We really feel like the discipline and commitment it takes to be successful in our culture can change your life.
There are so many things you can take away from being a college athlete that will prepare you to be successful in the real world – accountability, commitment, discipline, time management, communication, learning how to succeed, learning how to fail, and handling adversity. You can learn how to be a successful member of a high-performing team as a college athlete. That’s going to help you for a long time.
What is the nature of your relationships with your current players?
My relationship with my current players is very direct, honest and open. It’s really important that we connect on things that are important off the court, so they recognize the impact our program can have on their life. That allows us to handle the difficult stuff that comes along with being a part of the team. There are a lot of demands that go along with being on a high-performing team, and often those demands aren’t easy and may not be fun. Our ability to communicate directly is essential to our success. We have to demand a lot out of them to be successful.
How does the relationship change over their lives as they move onto careers and families of their own?
I’d say the relationship changes over time with my players because they are no longer required to do things to be a part of the team. There are requirements to be a part of our program, and once they graduate those requirements no longer exist. Showing up to study hall, eating properly, getting rest, lifting at 6 AM, etc… So the relationship changes from being coach and player to being more of an adviser and a friend or confidant. The relationship after the graduate becomes less transactional, and that is really nice to see as it develops.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or basketball players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
The two most important things for me that kids need to know in the recruiting process are:
- Ask a lot of questions.
- Look at yourself in a realistic manner.
Be very honest with yourself about your abilities and what level you can play at. Ask a lot of direct yet respectful questions of everyone involved. Asking those questions will help you get an honest evaluation of yourself and help you find the right fit. What level do you think I can play at? Do I fit into your system or in your league? Am I someone under consideration for a scholarship?
Ask the right questions and be honest with yourself, and you’ll find a great fit to get your degree and have a great career.
Bob Walsh has been at the University of Maine since 2014. He has been a successful Division 1 and Division 3 coach for 20 years. Prior to Maine Walsh was head coach at Division 3 power Rhode Island College for nine years. Under Walsh’s leadership, the Anchormen posted an overall record of 204–63 (.764 winning percentage) and made eight straight trips to the NCAA Division 3 Tournament.
For a Full Bio go to University of Maine Basketball.
Next, check out: How Can I Get a College Coach to Notice Me?
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