Welcome to Interview #46.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NAIA Women’s Basketball Coach of Missouri Valley College, Timothy Dixon.
Coach Dixon has coached at the collegiate level since 2000. He has had the opportunity to coach within the NCAA Division 1 and 2 levels, NJCAA, and now NAIA.
He has a wealth of knowledge and experience from every level except NCAA Division 3. Coach Dixon has graciously given of his time to give you a well rounded insight into the recruiting process.
Why do you think athletes should consider an NAIA college? What are the benefits of an NAIA school specifically?
Coming previously from a few NCAA programs, the benefits in my mind are very clear on why student athletes should look at a NAIA school.
I think the biggest advantage is the time you can spend with the athlete once they get on campus. The NAIA doesn’t have the strict rules regarding weekly contact hours in helping a student athlete work on their game once they arrive on campus and so, if the athlete chooses, she can ask for help from any member of the coaching staff whether that involves improving quickness in the weight room, or just things as simple as shooting.
I think another advantage to the NAIA is the level of play. People just do not realize that the NAIA is very competitive, and quite a few teams at this level, can and have beaten NCAA teams.
If you are looking for a school to really grow at both academically and athletically, there are a lot of great NAIA schools to choose from across the country.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen? If a basketball player personally contacts you by phone or email, what will you do next?
BE PROACTIVE in your recruiting!! That is the number one thing. But the most important thing is to remember, the POTENTIAL STUDENT-ATHLETE (PSA) should be pro-active!!
When we get interest from a PSA w/out film, we immediately look at a few things. We are looking at their online presence (social media, YouTube, Facebook) to not only see if there is any game footage, but to also see what type of person they are. We have dropped quite a few kids in recruiting because of their social media accounts.
Secondly, we begin to dig into the background as much as possible. We call teachers, coaches, and other people involved in their inner-circle to really find out about them as a person and as a player.
If things check out, we definitely move towards the academic side and make sure they will be successful at school.
If everything looks great, we make contact with the PSA and start talking to them to get them excited about being recruited! I love that I can call anytime during the year (another perk of NAIA schools) and get to know them, because that is most important to me. Will they succeed here in school? Will they be a great fit for my current team, and my coaching style? It’s all about relationships that we build with them!
What are a few of the most common mistakes that prospective-student athletes make in the college recruiting process?
Only considering schools based on status, I feel is the biggest mistake, or who has the better facilities or image. I promise you this and have seen it from personal experience. GO WHERE YOU ARE WANTED, and where you know YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Check into the coaches, and see if they can develop you both as a Student Athlete (SA) and as a PLAYER!
You should have long-term goals both as a student and as a player, and then see if the school and the coaching staff can help you develop into what you want to be. Ask them how they plan on developing you as a SA to reach your goal, and ask them how they will help you to reach your goal AFTER school!
For an NAIA school, how and when are scholarships offered? How much time do athletes typically have to respond?
This depends on each school and so this is a tough question to answer! I know that if I see a player that I truly want and know they can succeed with me both at school and as a player, I will offer them a scholarship right away! I know that I have a timeline in how long I want them to make a decision, and we let our PSA’s know right from the beginning as early as one of the few first calls, when we are expecting them to make a decision. It usually is a few months in advance, so the PSA knows they can make an informed decision when they need to decide what school to attend and where they feel the most comfortable at.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
Should prospective athletes bring up scholarships with coaches or wait on the coach to initiate that discussion?
PSA’s should ALWAYS bring this up. That is part of being proactive in your recruiting process. It helps them decide if the school is sincerely interested in them from the beginning.
Most, if not all schools, know exactly what they have scholarship wise, and by asking early, this can help them decide whether or not it is feasible to attend the school or not. I will say this, and be very upfront about this.
There is no wiggle room in what the scholarship offer is. Due to budget issues, most schools have to be creative in how they scholarship their PSA’s and with what amount.
How do you use social media when recruiting? What is your advice to recruits about social media?
Social Media is very important in recruiting! My advice to potential PSA’s is to be very self-aware of what you put out there, and how you present it. Even adults, (myself included!) have made simple mistakes, which may have put themselves in a bad light. As I mentioned earlier, Social Media is one of the very first things I look at when recruiting a PSA, and have seen scholarships pulled by a tweet or photo.
What are some things that would keep you from recruiting a player?
This is a tough one, because we have to remember as coaches, sometimes we don’t fully understand what exactly our PSA has gone through up to the point in life when we start recruiting them, or for a lack of a better word, we haven’t walked a mile in their shoes. However, if we do our research and really check into them, we can learn a lot about them.
Usually the things that may turn off coaches in recruiting a PSA are: Selfishness, & Attitude. The great Michigan Football Coach, Bo Schembechler once said, “When you lose out on a recruit – that player may beat you once, maybe twice, a year. Recruit the wrong person who doesn’t fit your culture and they will beat you every day.”
What a great quote! What I truly look for in PSA’s are:
- Passion and drive for the game (because at the college level, it’s truly a “Grind”).
- Confidence in being able to handle constructive criticism.
- Discipline in what they do and what the coaches ask them to do and trying to do it right, even if they fail.
- A “FIT” to my personality (Can you be coached hard?)
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
A good coach will recruit the parent just as hard as or harder than the PSA! With that being said, as a parent of 3 teenagers, I would want to know my child is going to a safe place, and that the coaching staff has the same values, as my family.
Finally, the parent should never be the decision maker, but only offer advice and then be proud of whatever decision your child makes.
The most important step, is to let your child grow once they get on campus. Be there to support whatever they do and truly take a step back and watch how they blossom as they start to make their own decisions in life.
Remember, for a lot of young people in this day and age, they haven’t been challenged yet and college is a great opportunity to be challenged academically and athletically. What better place to grow!! One important thing to be knowledgeable about is the NCAA and NAIA clearinghouses. Get a head start on submitting the necessary information
Can you give us examples of how meeting the demands of collegiate athletics has prepared your former players in their lives after college?
I think any good coach and program will prepare (and have prepared) many former players for what lies ahead in their life. Sometimes discipline in a young student athlete’s life may come for the very first time from their college coach!
As a coach, I have 5 core values I try to emulate for my student athlete’s:
- I try to be a nurturer and create a successful environment.
- I try to protect them from themselves and others.
- I try to challenge them, by pushing them through their comfort levels, by making them uncomfortable, especially in regards to basketball IQ and in life.
- I try to teach them daily, and help them grow to love the game.
- I try to treat them and/or discipline them like I would my own child.
By doing those 5 things, regardless of what happens I think any student athlete can definitely be prepared for whatever comes after college.
You have had the opportunity in your career to coach at the NCAA Division 1 and 2 levels, NJCAA, and now NAIA. For high school athletes, it is overwhelming to know where they belong and how to proceed. What would be your advice for prospective college athletes to find the appropriate level of play?
My advice is simple. GO WHERE YOU ARE WANTED and be PROACTIVE in your own recruiting. There are many great schools who, with you being proactive, will either decide you are a great fit for their program, or not.
If you are not a good fit, keep looking! You will find one! One important thing is to know at the outset that while “recruiting” might follow a general pattern, your particular experience will be different from everyone else. The manner in which one is recruited depends on:
- Your academic side (grades and test scores).
- Your drive, passion, quality of performance, and visibility in your sport.
- The availability (or lack of) depth in your position at a college in a particular year.
I can tell you from experience that there are many great schools across the country looking for PSA’s who are committed to growing and learning at EVERY level. All it takes is a little leg-work by both parties to find each other!
Can you share any stories or examples how playing college athletics has impacted a former player or players?
One of the best things is hearing from former players as they grow older, who are getting married, having children, having life events such as new careers, etc., and have them share stories of things that were hard on them then, that they truly appreciate now. That’s what coaching is about. We are preparing our student athlete’s for what is ahead in life. We as coaches need to show them, Where They’ve Been — Where They are — Where They’re Going ……Those are the coaches that student athlete’s should want to play for.
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?
- Make a list of schools that fit into three categories: 1) Ideal Colleges 2) Realistic Colleges 3) Back-Up colleges
- Academics – Take your academics SERIOUSLY. Take ACT/SAT preparation courses to improve your score!
- Base the recruiting process on honesty, both YOURS and the College Coach. Always be up front with Coaches if you decide the program is not for you. We have been told “NO” before. We won’t be mad.
- NAIA and NCAA Clearinghouse items! Get those in ASAP!
- YOU KNOW YOU ARE A SERIOUS RECRUIT WHEN: 1) The Head Coach becomes pro-active in CALLING you. 2) You are offered an Official Visit. (NAIA & NCAA III schools usually don’t pay for transportation for visits)
- Make an unofficial visit! Get to see the school when your visit is not planned, to see things in possibly a different light and watch a practice during the season.
- Make sure you ARE COACHABLE. Always hustle. NEVER display any negative emotion. Be willing to LEARN and accept constructive criticism to your game.
- Finally find out the most important answers you should be asking the coaching staff, which is “How can you help me reach my short and long term goals both Academically and Athletically?” and have them lay out the groundwork for you.
- HAVE FUN. You only get recruited (most likely) once in your lifetime. Enjoy it and thank your parents and coaches for helping you get this opportunity.
Timothy Dixon took over as the new head coach of the Viking women’s basketball program in the summer of 2014. He guided the Vikings to a top half finish in the Heart standings his first season after being picked in the bottom half of the conference, and with his tutelage produced an all-American (Kieanna Wharton) in one year.
Dixon came to Missouri Valley after spending the 2013-2014 season as an assistant coach on the NCAA Division I Idaho State University women’s basketball staff. There, he served as the recruiting coordinator and guard position coach.
Prior to his time at Idaho State, Dixon spent the 2012-2013 season as head coach of the Lamar (Colo.) Community College women’s basketball team, taking over the head coaching position three weeks prior to the season starting with no returners or signees, and led them to a school season high of 18 wins. Dixon led Lamar, a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) program, to an 18-12 overall record and was named the NJCAA Region IX Coach of the Year runner-up.
Dixon has coached at the collegiate level since 2000 and, prior to his stops at Idaho State and Lamar, was an assistant coach at Pima (Ariz.) Community College, Glendale (Ariz.) Community College, Arizona State University, South Mountain (Ariz.) Community College and Grand Canyon (Ariz.) University. At Grand Canyon, Dixon recruited and coached Samantha Murphy, the NCAA Division II National Player of the Year in 2011.
Dixon has a Master of Education in Special Education degree from Grand Canyon (Ariz.) University.
Next, take a look No Fear of the Recruiting Process: 2 Tips.