Welcome to Interview #19
I am excited to share a different kind of interview, one with all new questions. Today, Coach John Critzer will guide you through the recruiting video. Coach Critzer has eight years experience recruiting at the Division 1 level and a decade of helping club athletes to find a college program. He uses examples from volleyball, but the value of this interview is for every athlete in every sport. You cannot afford to skip this interview if you have any desire of getting yourself in front of college coaches. Athletes and parents, I think you will be wowed by the specific and practical information and tips you are about to receive.
Coaches out there: get this in the hands of every one of your prospective college players. There are even tips for high school and club coaches.
And so I will let John Critzer, the assistant volleyball coach at the University of Northern Colorado show you how to make a fabulous video that coaches will want to watch. As a bonus come back to the top and check out this two minute YouTube interview with Coach Critzer on YouTube from the UNC athletic department.
What is a recruiting video?
A recruiting video is kind of like your resume to get a coach interested. In any job search process, the applicant gives their resume to try to get to the first interview. First interview gets you a second one. Second one is meant to “seal the deal”. Same idea in recruiting. Sending a coach your profile and video is the resume. Something needs to stand out to get the coach interested enough to come watch you live. Watching you live is your “first interview”. If something is intriguing enough there, then they’ll invite you on campus for a visit. The visit (and subsequent visits) is kind of like your second interview. That’s when you’ve got to connect with them on a personal level, show them you are the right fit, and “seal the deal”.
There are two basic kinds of video, the highlight video and the game film. Can you talk about the benefit of each?
Highlight videos are all about efficiency. College coaches can see you “do your thing” a bunch of times in relatively little time. They also give you the opportunity to cut out the rough stuff and give us the best that you will have to offer to our program. These videos give us the easiest glimpse into your athletic gifts and how those might fit in with the current athletes in the program and the direction we are trying to take our program.
Game videos require more of a time commitment from the coach. But they give a deeper look into your whole game. How do you lead your team? How do you move off the ball? How bad are your worst errors? What is your reaction after a big play (by you OR one of your teammates)? How do you react after an error? How do you react at pressure times in a match? How do you respond to coaching?
How long should the highlight video be? The game film?
I believe that a highlight video should be no more than about 3-4 minutes. With the “meat” (i.e., your best stuff) at the beginning. If you’re a stud, that will be obvious very quickly. If you’re not quite what we are looking for, that’s also pretty obvious early on. If you play a position with a lot of subtleties (I’m talking to you, setters and liberos), those things will be harder to see in highlights. That’s where the game film comes in.
A game film will be as long as it needs to be. Feel free to trim out the dead time between rallies, during timeouts, between sets, etc. But leave the rest. If you come out for 3 rotations, trim the others out if you’d like, but let the coaches know that you’ve removed those parts. Some coaches will watch you for an hour and a half straight. Others only want to watch 10-15 points of your game play. So it’s really hard to say what an appropriate length is for your game video.
What do college coaches want a highlight video to look like?
It differs from coach to coach. I personally am not a bells and whistles guy. Just show me what you’ve got. I don’t need music. I typically turn the sound off anyway so I don’t distract my office-mates. I don’t need fancy transitions. I don’t need elaborate special effects. I really don’t even need your personal intro at the beginning (I usually fast-forward through that). I do appreciate a slide at the beginning saying who you are, who you play for, your number, your position, and your jump touch numbers. That’s always appreciated. I also like to see a slide with good contact information for you and for your coaches (REMEMBER: we can’t contact you directly ‘til your junior year, so your coaches’ info is more important than yours…for a lot of you).
Do you have some tips to help a highlight video be of use to a coach?
Tip 1: Put your best foot forward. Don’t start off with your least marketable skill. Start the video with whatever you’re most likely to do at the next level and what your most eye-catching skill is.
Tip 2: Wow the coach in the first 30 seconds. There has to be something in the first 30 seconds that stands out as impressive. Otherwise, most coaches will turn it off.
Tip 3: Don’t use highlights from the other side of the net. It’s too hard to see what’s happening over there. Show us highlights of what you’re doing when you’re on the near side of the net.
Tip 4: Highlights need to be HIGHlights. Not MEDIUMlights. And certainly not LOWlights. In other words, you should only include things that you’re doing that are uncommonly good. Things that stand out. Don’t show the coach that you can hit a ball up and over the net. Or that you can tip a ball in play. Or that you can hit with power…right into the tape over and over. Or that your serve just goes in. Or that you can pass a free ball or defend an easy roll shot. Just about every player can do those things. What do you do that sets you apart? When you are hitting, are you hitting higher or harder or to more angles than the average hitter? If so, show that. If you’re going to show us serving, show us how fast and tough you serve. If you’re a setter, show us how you can take a tough pass, track it down, and put it on the money where the block doesn’t expect it. As a defender, show us that you can “the heat”.
Tip 5: Do you like your video? Then let it do the talking. No matter how long your intro email is, most coaches will scan through until they find your video link. No need to tell us your life story. There will be time for that later. Just introduce yourself and give us the link!!
Tip 6: Get/Use a tripod. No matter how steady a hand you think you have, it’s not steady enough. Steady video = happy coach. Wobbly video = seasick coach = video turned off quickly.
Tip 7: Film in HD whenever possible. Most smartphones and tablets can do that. Almost all new camcorders do as well. Fuzzy video is hard to watch. (#firstworldcoachingproblems)
What are some common mistakes or annoying things that players send in that coaches don’t want to see? Can you give some funny examples of what you have seen?
Videos and communications that don’t tell us which player you are.
Videos that start out with you just serving in-bounds for 2 minutes.
Game film against a weak opponent. Nothing about your 9 straight aces and 7 kills in a 25-2 victory will translate to the college level. Pick a game you played well in a tough match against a quality opponent.
Videos with elaborate (and distracting) special effects. You want the coach watching the athlete…not the effects.
Parental commentary in the background of the video. Best to have the quiet parent do the filming. If you’re going to talk, keep it clean.
Should a professional be hired to film or edit the video?
This really depends on the family situation. If you are just trying to save yourself time and have some disposable income, then go for it. But it will be expensive. If you feel that you will get more return on your investment from a professional video than you will from your own, you are likely wasting your money. I don’t know of many of my friends in “the biz” who are dazzled so much more by a professional video than the one you put together with your own camera and tripod that it led them to make an offer.
What are some options if the player’s parents are not able to film games?
For teams with college-bound athletes, somebody needs to be filming the games. When I coached club, I had one parent assigned to be in charge of filming. All parents went to that one to get their video. That one person would organize different parents to “man the camera” so they could watch sometimes too, but they’d be in charge of keeping everything centralized. Whether on a portable hard drive or even on an online site like Vimeo, Dropbox, etc. If all else fails, there are plenty of services out there that you can pay to come out and film your games and also who will edit it for you. But keep in mind that these can get really expensive.
What is the best way to get a video to a coach? (DVD or YouTube)
We rarely get a DVD anymore. YouTube is by far the simplest and most cost effective. It’s free to make a profile and upload things to it, you can email that link out as much as you want whenever you want, and you can easily edit which videos are available.
YouTube Tip: Make sure your videos are set to “public”. Frustrating to get a link and then not be able to open it.
When should a recruit begin getting videos to coaches?
There’s no hard and fast rule here. If you aren’t standing out among your peers, then you’re probably not ready to start the recruiting process. If that’s you, I wouldn’t worry yet about getting video out. There will be time for that once you’ve developed a bit more. But if you are clearly doing some things better than your peers, then get it on video and start sending that out. A lot of recruiting decisions are based on how much you improve from one year to the next or even from the beginning of the season to the end. So we need to have a frame of reference showing where you are so that we can then see how far you’ve come.
Should recruits follow up after they have sent a video or link to a video? How long should they wait before following up?
Absolutely. Anything that gives you a good reason to email a coach is a good thing. Following up to see what a coach thought of your video gets you in that coach’s mind a little more and might just spark a strong conversation. It also shows that you are “on the ball” and really engaged in your recruiting process. I would give at least a week or two before you follow up.
Will a coach offer a scholarship based on a video or what’s next?
This depends on the coach and the situation. There are certainly coaches who have offered just based on video. If you are showing that you are doing some things higher, faster, more powerfully, smarter, etc. than their current athletes, they might go ahead and offer. But I wouldn’t expect that. What’s more likely if your video is that impressive is that the coach is going to hop on a plane and come see you ASAP (whether in a match or at a practice). Again, the video gets them out to see you live and your live play leads to the “big time”.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or volleyball players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
Recruiting is not a spectator sport. It’s a contact sport. Contact, contact, contact. Cast a wide net and get yourself out there. Those recruits who focus on only one or two programs often find themselves painted into a corner when it matters. Remember that this is a race. It’s competitive. Others want what you seek. You can’t afford to finish anywhere but first in this race. Being Top 3 at 5 different schools is great and it’s definitely flattering. But you have to be Top 1 somewhere to get the offer. Once you have that first offer, the whole world changes and THEN you can afford to be picky. Until then, work and work to learn about schools, get yourself in front of those schools, and pay particular attention to the schools who are already showing you interest.
My other piece of advice is to remember that you are always being recruited. You’re being recruited when you post on Facebook or Twitter (good or bad). You’re being recruited when you are in timeouts. When you’re warming up. When you’ve been subbed out after making several errors. When you’re being coached. Between matches when you’re interacting with your team. When you go sit with your boyfriend or your parents instead of with your team, you’re being recruited. When you give your parents attitude beside the court. When you go and thank the referee after a match (even if the team doesn’t). When you dismiss your high school coach because he/she doesn’t know as much as your club coach might. All of these things are a window into your character…into who you REALLY are. The best recruiters pay attention to all of it. One red flag is all it takes to bump you down their list or remove you from it altogether. So work on your character as much as your game…and be mindful of the character that you’re showing.
John Critzer is a Division 1 assistant volleyball coach at the University of Northern Colorado. In his 20 year coaching career, he has worn many hats at many levels. John has 8 years experience as a Division 1 coach and recruiter, 10 years experience coaching and mentoring high school athletes, and he has coached club continuously throughout his career. From 2012-2014, he served as the Recruiting Director for Madfrog Volleyball Club in Dallas, TX, successfully guiding nearly 50 athletes through the recruiting process to help them find the perfect fit.
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