The recruitment process: What it takes to be a Laurier football player

File Photo/ by Garrison Oosterhof

For high school athletes in the United States, the first Wednesday in February is a day that they all have circled on their calendars each and every year.

That day is National Signing Day, where hopeful-collegiate athletes sign letters of commitment to their respective NCAA schools.This day is met with massive media coverage and fanfare, as college sports fans are introduced to the new crop of recruits that will be proudly wearing their school’s colours going forward. Up here, north of the border, university sports recruiting is a little more unique.

“The challenge we have in Canada as a football program with recruiting is that there is no exact signing day,” men’s football head coach Michael Faulds said.

“It makes it super challenging not having an exact timeline. Anywhere from Sept. 1 of the previous year, until we open training camp [in] August, we can have guys commit to our program.”

Not having a National Signing Day means that Canadian recruiting draws nowhere near the media attention that it does in the U.S., which leads to very few university sports’ fans having a real understanding of what truly goes into recruiting.

“There are a lot of things that come into play. First and foremost, they have to be good students. They have to be able to get into whatever program [they apply for].”

“Then obviously we are looking for football athletic ability, then one of the most common things you really look for is just good character young men.”

“I always say that every single year we lose roughly 25 per cent of the locker room, and every single year, 25 per cent of that locker room is [replaced by] new recruits. So very quickly you can have a positive impact in terms of character and culture, or just as equally, if you pick a couple bad apples, you could negatively affect the culture.”

In terms of actually finding the recruits that will sign on with Laurier, coach Faulds mentioned that the Canadian university football system, specifically in the province of Ontario, poses many challenges.

“We try to include their parents or family members, if possible, [with] a huge emphasis looking at the academics, looking at residence, looking at dining hall, all that stuff.”

“Kids these days have so many options. We’re one of 27 football playing schools in Canada; one of 11 just in the province of Ontario.”

“If you look at some provinces, like Alberta, they only have the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, so only two teams that play football in that province, for all of those high school players.”

“[In] Ontario, sure we have the largest population but we have to divide that amongst eleven teams. So recruiting here is very competitive.”

Due in part because of the competitiveness of recruiting, and partly due to preference, coach Faulds noted that Laurier usually has one of the smaller recruiting classes in the OUA each year.

“I would say 100 to 150 people we identify and then as you start to go through the recruiting process, kind of narrow that down to 25 to 30 guys.”

In order to gain an advantage over the 10 other football programs in the province, and to ensure that the limited recruits they sign are the best of the best, Laurier has a unique process they use to attract players.

“We usually have quite a few touch points. The first thing is an identification process, where our team of coaches and scouts need to see the player play. Then once we’ve identified a player that we want, we usually set them up with a game day visit in the fall, during their senior season.”

“If the interest is there, and say we are one of their top five schools that they are looking at, we’ll bring them on campus for a visit.”

“We try to include their parents or family members, if possible, [with] a huge emphasis looking at the academics, looking at residence, looking at dining hall, all that stuff.”

“The one thing we actually don’t do a ton of, is talk X’s and O’s. Ultimately what we tell most [recruits] is if we are to win a Vanier Cup, we’re going to play [at most] twelve football games.”

“So 353 days, they are going to wake up here on campus at Laurier and there is no football game. If they solely made a decision just based on football, it would be extremely silly.”

Although the entire recruiting process is not easy, Faulds says that he is always up for the challenge.

“[It’s] kind of a fun game in itself. Everyone’s looking for something different, everyone is evaluated differently, everyone commits at a different time.”

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