Screening Your Recruits for Character

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Tim Elmore provides insight into how a college athletic program might go about screening recruits. How might some of these same questions be applicable in your own leadership roles?

Nine Questions to Ask Prospective Athletes Before You Bring Them on Your Team

After years of helping athletic directors and coaches better connect with young athletes, we surveyed them to see what they’ve concluded about “Generation iY” players. Both NCAA and high school coaches noted they’ve seen a measurable drop in their youngest athlete’s life skills and virtues. The top seven diminishing ones are:

1. Resilience – Practice goes well, but even minor adversity defeats them.

2. Empathy – Parent’s often push them into individualism and self-expansion.

3. Ambition – Their internal drive to succeed has been replaced by external ones.

4. Work ethic – Because of short attention spans, the daily grind is a turn off.

5. Patience – Due to texts, microwaves and Google, its hard to delay gratification.

6. Academic Stamina – Their ability to stick with studies when the novelty is gone.

7. Self-awareness – Often no one has been honest with them about their blind spots.

I believe the kids born since 1990 are different than previous kids. I call them Generation iY because they’ve grown up on-line in an “i” world. Technology, culture, parenting styles and medications have harmed them. And now, you must coach them.

In a recent coaches training event, I was asked a great question: What should we ask a young “iY” athlete to signal a potential problem? Below are questions I recommend you ask to tip you off about recruits, ward off trouble with potential players, and help you when screening your recruits for character.

Questions to Ask a Potential Athlete:

1. Tell me about a difficult experience you’ve had with authority.

An honest answer to this one will reveal their attitude and respect for leaders, and how they tend to deal with submission to authority. A “rebel spirit” can be contagious.

2.  What’s your biggest frustration about being an athlete? What really gets you down?

Their answer may furnish insight into their resilience level—how much does it take to discourage them or cause them to give up. Can they handle adversity and obstacles?

3. What’s the longest amount of time you’ve gone without your cell phone?

Generation iY is aptly named because many are addicted to technology. Their answer to this one will signal how much they depend on screens to motivate them.

4. What has been your greatest challenge with teammates?

This will reveal their emotional intelligence and specifically how much empathy they possess for teammates. Their answer will tell you how well they see the big picture.

5. Talk about your three biggest habits that you’d like to break.

This answer could be huge. Are they in bondage to bad habits they cannot break? Can they delay gratification? Do they lead themselves well or are they a slave to addictions?

6. On a scale of 1-10, how much does criticism bother you from a teammate? A coach?

Many in this generation have never really been chastised or criticized, so their tolerance for it is low. Ask them to be candid, but listen to how they handle confrontation.

7. How much are you willing to compromise your personal standards?

Even if they try to give you answers you want, they may not know how to reply to this one. Do they possess strong personal values they won’t compromise? Are they ethical?

8. What word would your teammates use most to describe you? Your past coaches?

This question allows you to hear how others view the recruit. If you can get an honest answer, listen for key words that reveal what kind of teammate and leader they are.

9. Should fans leave you alone off the field and let you live however you see fit?

Some athletes don’t feel they must be a role-model, and do whatever they want off the field. The recruit’s answer to this one will let you peek into how self-absorbed they are.

Remember, the better your questions in the recruiting process, the better you can screen your players and get the right ones. You know the issues you need to cover to gain the right athletic abilities. Through the questions above, I’ve simply tried to help you get acquainted with a recruit… as a person.

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