Coaches, players form first opinions of each other during recruiting process

Rob Burkett / Washburn Review

Building a winning collegiate sports athletics program is no small task. For Washburn this is especially the case as the university is coming off one of its most successful years overall.

The Washburn football team has been able to continually build on its success by putting increasingly elite athletes on the field. How that occurs however is another story entirely. As part of the process, Washburn coaches head out periodically to evaluate, meet and hopefully sign athletes from around the nation.

In the case of sophomore wide receiver Ronnell Garner, the recruiting process was a trial as the Raytown, Mo., product struggled to come to terms with what he wanted from a prospective school.

“I had a few schools who were interested in me,” said Garner. “The main thing I took to heart was, who was I comfortable with. I wanted to play for sure but I also wanted to go somewhere I felt I could trust the coaches to be fair with me.”

Garner’s recruitment was a competitive one for the Washburn staff. As an all-state pick and Kansas City metro star, Washburn indentified him early as a player they were interested in.

“We knew we were interested in getting to know him,” said Washburn head football coach Craig Schurig. “Obviously we recruit talented players but we also want to know the young man we are talking to, getting to know them and their family. Its important to us to get the right kind of person to.”

With a larger staff than most sports, Schurig trusts in his coaches under him to help lead the charge in bringing in talent as well. According to Schurig the task of identifying players is a team effort.

While football has a large roster and thus a need to recruit players on a larger scale, some sports are looking to become more selective at Washburn.

Washburn soccer head coach Tim Collins is a lone talent sleuth on the hunt. With recruitment rules allowing him to spend a large amount of time on the road constantly, Collins is always busy looking to bring in quality athletes to compete at Washburn.

“I’m on the road constantly,” said Collins. “Once the season ends, I enter a whole new season with a lot of miles put on the odometer. It can be exhausting, but it’s worth it when you are able to bring a player to Washburn, because you know they are going to contribute while they are here.”

While the coaches are always looking for talent, some talent can come to Washburn in odd ways outside of the traditional recruitment route.

In the case of junior forward Sierra Moeller of the Lady Blues basketball team, the recruitment process was an almost seemingly unending process. With an initial year spent at Boise State University Moeller had a recruitment encounter completely by accident.

“I was working at a golf course in Lawrence when I met [Washburn Head Coach Ron McHenry],” said Moeller. “He and I started talking, and we just hit it off well. I started looking at Washburn after that and saw the kind of winning tradition that was here so I knew I wanted to give this is a shot.”

Since her arrival Moeller has been one of the intregral parts of a team that won the MIAA crown this past year.

Regardless of how an athlete comes to Washburn, one thing is certain, Washburn coaches and athletics administration are on a mission to build one of the best programs in the nation by bringing in unparalleled talent.

“The coaches here care about the players they recruit so its a win-win for everyone,” said Collins. “We know that our mission is to get successful athletes, but we all want to make sure we get our players ready for life after school also.”