BYU coach Chris Watkins talks recruiting
Chris Watkins has been a member of the BYU women’s soccer coaching staff for nearly 20 seasons and has helped the Cougars earn 16 trips to the NCAA Tournament during that time. An associate head coach who is part of a staff that makes recruiting trips to several youth events during the year, Chris took some time to talk about the current state of recruiting and some of his experiences at BYU.
Do you use any software for recruiting?
We’re fortunate we get a lot of people sending us things before we go, as a lot of schools are, of course. So, we add them to our BYU Athlete Manager, something that was created for our department that works a lot like the other tracking tools. It’s specific to things we look at and the items we value the most. It’s been great. We certainly wouldn’t hit the road without it. There are a lot of people to keep track of, and I don’t think any brain nowadays is capable of keeping track of all of these kids playing soccer.
Do you prefer players reaching out to you prior to an event and giving you information on when they play and so on?
Yes, definitely. For us, it’s really important. We want to know a kid has a specific interest in us and our program. If we get a specific email, that’s huge for us. It tells us we want to go watch that kid. If it’s more generic, they spell my name wrong, or you can see eight other coaches listed there, or it doesn’t talk about BYU in specific, that’s not nearly as interesting to us. I think there are other unique schools like us that want kids who have a specific interest and not a generic interest.
What kind of events does your coaching staff go to?
We go wherever there are kids that are interested in us are, who we think could be pretty good. I counted them up, and we went to 13 different recruiting trips out of state last year.
I love going to tournaments where there is a champion — tournaments like State Cups and Regionals, where they win and move on or lose and they’re out. Those are the most valuable opportunities to watch as a coach.
What about something like the National League, where teams are also playing for a spot in the National Championships?
Yep. There’s something on the line, so there’s value. You know kids are absolutely spending it all. You know coaches are putting in their top players at the key moments, so you really get a clear view of what their coach thinks of them, how they value them, and what position they really feel the player is most valuable in at those critical times.
When you go to events, do you mainly stick to that handful of players you specifically go to watch? Or do you keep an open mind and look for other players who stick out to you?
We mainly focus on those seven or eight, and that’s mainly because we know they have a specific interest in us. You’re a fan of the game, so you’re watching and people catch your eye, for sure. But, we’ve had great success with people who are really interested in who we are as a program and a school.
Do you see any difference between a girl who plays two or three sports growing up through high school as opposed to one who focuses solely on soccer? Is there any benefit to one or the other?
Years ago when that was more common, seven, eight, nine, 10 years ago — I’ve been doing this for 19 years now — we used to have great success with basketball players. Especially where we’re at — in the winter it’s cold — so a lot of players only had that option. Great basketball players were great soccer players. Great track athletes had some pace and endurance. Nowadays, we just rarely see it and it’s really a shame. We certainly would appreciate that. It would add value, as long as they can excel in soccer, of course. I think we value that as a program, for sure. More than one dimension in life is always a good thing.
Do you think it would a benefit for a multi-sport athlete using different movements and different muscle groups? Overuse is a topic, medical-wise, that comes up today.
Yeah. And being coached by multiple coaches with different styles. There are a lot of benefits. I think it’s a shame that it’s gotten so specialized. I think most coaches would agree, but now it’s hard to be as good as we want these kids to be if they’re not playing soccer every day. I don’t know if the trend will stop, but it would be nice if they could play another sport.
Are there any less obvious ways a potential recruit can grab your attention?
I think there are some things. One thing that is unique maybe to BYU — but I know other schools do it — we love when people come to camp. We get to know them so well during a five-day camp that it helps us make a great decision. We feel it sells our program, but more importantly, the student-athlete really has a good feel of what they’re getting into. If the coach works the camp, I think you get a great feel for who that coach is and what it will be like to play for them. I think that’s something that’s been lost. I think coming to camp should be more of a priority for a lot of kids. Getting to know the school and coaches you’d be playing for has a lot of value.