College Squash Coaches: If you are going to recruit: Dan Tudor is Your Man

If you read my previous post – you will have discerned that I do not believe  in recruiting junior squash players to play for a college team.

I just want to explain my rationale a bit further – and give you a great lead if you are hell bent on establishing a great team through recruiting.

First, some background.  Where I come from (Canada), “losers” go to the states to play Division I sports! If you are any good in racquet sports you go straight out onto the tour.  When I arrived at Smith College in 1994 for a part-time (.25FTE – so $9,000 to coach a 15 week season) Head Squash Coaching position I could not believe how win-oriented everyone was. At such a low-level of competition – since 1987 I had been doing mental training consulting with three different National Team Programs:  Squash Canada, Tennis Canada, and Racquetball Canada.  The teams and athletes I was with had a lot of success:

  • in 1989 Sebastien Lareau and  Leblanc won the Sunshine Cup (world champs Jr. Tennis) and the Jr. doubles at the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open (Lareau went on to a successful pro career and win Olympic Gold a few years later) – most of the other kids in the Quebec Elite training groups tried the satellite tour – and when it became clear they were not going to make it, they went to top Division I college programs in the states;
  • I coached the Canadian Jr. National Squash Team and consulted at the Toronto National Training Center – Jonathon Power went on to be World #1 – Graham Ryding top 15 on the pro tour – the ones with lesser ability went off to college.  Note: on the women’s side some of the top Canadian women were able to successfully combine University with the pro tour:  notably Melanie Jans (#25) and Marnie Baizley (#30).  Again those top juniors unable to play pro often went to the states (Chris Stevens played #1 for Princeton, Jeremy Fraiberg played #1 for Harvard, etc.);
  • Racquetball was a bit different – we had quite a few world champions during the time I worked with the team – they all went to University in Canada:  Ross Harvey (and played #1 for the University of Guelph Squash Team while attending Vet School – at the OUAA squash champs I played racquetball with him as he had the world championships a week later); Heather Stupp went to McGill; Sherman Greenfield (who attributed his mid-career success as an unheard of “defensive style” to his squash playing – he was a solid “A” player.

So I do not think I can be blamed for thinking “what is all this fuss about college squash”.  Although the level of play has improved, due in part to both the growth in U.S. Junior Squash and an influx of foreign players to the “recruited” ranks, very few college players have gone on to play in the upper echelons of the pro tour – Demer Holleran had a good career on the women’s side and Julian Illingworth is still giving it a go on the men’s.

Note on the use of the term “loser”: I support any person at any level of athletic ability giving their all to improve in their sport of choice – this includes all levels of university and college competition.  What bothers me is the often “cuthroat” decisions made by self-important coaches and sport administrators concerning sportsmanship issues (including recruiting violations and athlete sport injuries ).

I really do believe that high school squash players should chose a college based on its academic suitability, and that squash coaches should work with the players they are presented with.

However, if you want to recruit, I highly recommend the approach of  Dan Tudor, and his company Tudor Collegiate Strategies.

Our AD, Lynn Oberbillig (a former Div. I coach – so big on recruiting) invited Dan in to run a workshop for our Smith College coaches.  What I took away from Dan’s workshop was two very simple strategies:

  1. Develop a team blog with video and photos so that recruits can see what your program has to offer;
  2. Be very clear on what you are “selling” – and consistently sell those “themes”.
  3. I addition to the workshop, if you follow Dan on Twitter and subscribe to his website and e-mails, you get regular information for free!

Two years after Dan’s workshop, I have had our best recruiting year ever – more than a dozen applications (our best previous year was 3), two ED recruits admitted, one regular decision admitted (we are still waiting to here if she accepts our offer), and one more top prospect still a possibility.  I am attributing all of this success to Dan’s approach since I have made no cold calls, written zero letters, and not attended a single junior tournament.

What I have done is simply make regular posts about our team’s activities and approach to squash – simply as Dan puts it (below), “trying to help the student determine if Smith College is the “right fit”.  If you Google “college squash” our Smith College Squash team site has come up as #2 – right behind the College Squash Association official website (the old site SquashTalk.com still sticks around at #2 occasionally???).

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