Recruiting technology: Internet changes off-field game dramatically for coaches, players

SCOTT KANIEWSKI Published: January 31, 2013

Lou Sagastume has been on both sides of the fence. Plus a third side.

The former Air Force men’s soccer coach has been recruited, has recruited his own players and has helped his own players get recruited.

And none of it came via the Internet.

But Sagastume, the AFA coach for 28 seasons who now coaches St. Mary’s boys’ soccer team, wouldn’t mind having the benefits of social media and web-based scouting tools if he were a college coach today.

“The new technology has been incredible,” Sagastume said. “Some of the NCAA rules have changed as a result of that. Some of those (high school) players are identified way before we used to (at the academy).”

High school players with hopes of earning some sort of athletic scholarship are using the Internet to get their names and abilities out to colleges. Many of those sites allow for free use, but also promise more when a fee is proffered.

Jacob Calhoun, St. Mary’s starting goalie last season, used CaptainU.com to run his name out across college soccer coaches’ computers.

“It was a good tool,” said Calhoun, who paid to use the site.

At least eight coaches viewed Calhoun’s profile, he said. He didn’t get in touch with all of them, but he did with a couple. Turns out, he might not have needed the site.

The Colorado Rush Academy player verbally committed to Colorado Christian in the fall thanks to a tried-and-true method: word of mouth.

CCU coach Gary Evans inquired about Calhoun via Sagastume. The legendary coach – when he retired from Air Force, Sagastume was one of just 25 men’s soccer coaches to record 300 wins — vouched for Calhoun, which was good enough for Evans.

While a reference worked best, the thought of an earlier time period without the Internet would've made his recruiting tougher.

“I would only have been seen by state schools,” he said. “The Internet helps you find out about schools in different states.”

At Air Academy, athletic director Diane Shuck focuses more on educating the Kadets' student-athletes about the rigors of recruiting and the value of a college education, pointing out that college athletics is almost a profession.

TCU’s Sarah Schweiss, an Air Academy graduate, agrees.

“It’s definitely a job,” said Schweiss, who recently finished her first season with the Horned Frogs. “Thankfully I love playing the sport, so I love the job. It’s definitely a different level than you’ve ever played before.”

Shuck would also know. She ended up at George Mason on a women’s soccer scholarship when she was expecting to go to Colorado College.

In her four years at the school, only one incoming freshman was handed a full-ride scholarship, Shuck said.

“We do a big, long process of picking out what they want,” Shuck said. “If your sport doesn’t work out, do you like the school? I saw so many kids come and go in college.”

How did Shuck end up on the East Coast in the mid-’80s? Same way Calhoun ended up at CCU in the 2000s: word of mouth.

“I also believe that coaches at the collegiate level talk ... that’s how I became known back in 1985-86,” Shuck said. “I still believe today that has something to do with it. There’s recruits they find out about, and there’s some reason people are talking about them.”

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