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Hamline course dissects art and science of recruiting

By Greg Johnson

Any collegiate coach will tell you it isn’t always about the Xs and Os. It’s more about the Rexes and the Joes. That’s right – recruiting prospective student-athletes is the life blood of any college athletics program.

To help develop that aspect of the job, Stephen Brennan has created an 11-week, online graduate class through Hamline University called “The Art and Science of College Athletic Recruiting.”

As many recruiting services as there are out there, Brennan is one of the few people who preaches the practice. The class targets high school coaches who aspire to coach in college, and current men’s and women’s collegiate assistant and head coaches who are seeking postgraduate degrees.

Brennan has specialized in developing best practices in recruiting since 1993. That’s when he started the Recruiters Institute, which offers seminars on ways to build a recruiting philosophy. In those tutorials, coaches are enlightened to best-practice concepts in recruiting and updated on rules changes by compliance personnel from college campuses.

He is also the founder and president of Peak Performance Consultants, which specializes in motivation and education, including teaching mental preparation and performance-enhancement strategies to coaches, athletes, educators and business people.

Speakers at Brennan’s seminars have included Indiana head men’s basketball coach Tom Crean, Nebraska head women’s volleyball coach John Cook, Florida head women’s volleyball coach Mary Wise and Connecticut assistant women’s basketball coach Chris Dailey. Seth Greenberg (Virginia Tech men’s basketball) and Mel Tjeerdsma (Northwest Missouri State football) also have made appearances.

“I thought a class like this would be of great interest to coaches,” said Brennan, who also teaches a class called “Behavioral Aspects of Coaching” at Nebraska-Omaha.

Students taking the class face a multi-tasking curriculum. Brennan said the toughest part of developing the idea was finding graduate-level reading.

“When I broke it down, I decided on readings that focused on research findings, personality, persuasion, communication, gender, psychology, organization, leadership, sociology, family dynamics and writing skills,” Brennan said.

Brennan assigns readings every week and has his students involved in practical applications in different areas of recruiting. At the end of the class, students must put together their own recruiting manual. It isn’t so much about rules and regulations as it is about developing techniques to connect with people.

“Each week they would be working on a little part of the final project,” Brennan said. “Of course, we have some tests throughout the course. But most of all, I want someone taking this class to have something written down that they can go back and reference when they are coaching.”

During his nearly two decades of working on recruiting, Brennan knows there is no cookie-cutter approach. Coaches have to develop a style that fits them individually.

“Recruiting is eclectic, and there are a lot of ideas out there,” Brennan said. “I want people in the class to think about the ways they would find the athletes they choose to recruit and what their phone conversations would entail during different points in the recruiting process.”