Technology is impacting every level of athletics from tee-ball to the big leagues, but there is one major area in sports that has been primed for a technological overhaul: the recruiting process.
Players are getting brought up through different levels of competition with tech at their sides and in their hands, and it keeps popping up in places it’s really never been used before. It’s even common today to see tablet computers being used on the sideline during an NFL game. There are missile tracking cameras in the rafters at NBA games that record data on player movement. Even goal-line technology is something being used at this year’s World Cup.
Now we’re seeing technology get pushed beyond the game and into finding and recruiting future star athletes.
For the most part, recruiting has remained untouched by the technological revolution that is taking place across most sports. Sure, coaches evaluate players with advanced technologies to gather data on all sorts of measurables. But the overall process of recruiting, which is largely based on communication and the ability to be discovered, has not evolved like the rest of society has with the implementation of technology and social networks shrinking the world and making our population just a few clicks apart.
That is until now.
On April 22, 2014, Anthony Romualdo accepted a scholarship to play football nearly 2,000 miles away at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa. Romualdo is a 6’1” offensive lineman from Los Angeles, and he had never even heard of Waldorf College prior to April 8th. But thanks to FieldLevel, a social network recently launched for football recruiting, he became a scholarship athlete after a mere two weeks.
Since the February launch, nearly 500 college football teams have joined FieldLevel to streamline their recruiting efforts, equating to over 50% of all college football programs in the US. Active teams include all levels of collegiate play, ranging from small junior colleges to powerhouses in conferences like the SEC, BIG10, PAC12 and ACC.
“This is exactly what college football recruiting has needed,” exclaimed Ventura College head football coach Steve Mooshagian, one of the first coaches to join FieldLevel. A veteran college coach, Mooshagian is no stranger to football recruiting and has even coached in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
FieldLevel is a social network for discovering athletic talent, akin to LinkedIn, but its structure makes it unique.
First, it’s private. The network’s benefits often spread via word of mouth throughout the coaching and recruiting communities, and the profiles are only visible to other active users.
Second, not just anyone can join. Coaches are verified before they can gain access, and athletes can join only after they’ve been invited by a verified coach. The exclusivity of the network helps to ensure that all coaches and players are authentic recruiters and recruits who will add value to the FieldLevel platform.
Once on, college coaches can network with high school coaches across the country. They can also filter for prospective athletes that match their specific needs and review comprehensive profiles that include video highlights and transcripts.
“As Facebook showed in overcoming MySpace, the key to social networks is incorporating the right ‘social rules,’ like who can contact whom and how they can interact with each other. FieldLevel brings the offline recruiting rules online, so it’s authentic while also enabling users to leverage the power of technology,” says FieldLevel’s CEO, Brenton Sullivan. “With the right rules in place, FieldLevel simultaneously helps college coaches, high school coaches and prospective student-athletes.”
As a company, FieldLevel has been around for several years, but only recently expanded into college football. After NCAA sanctions were imposed on USC in 2010, FieldLevel was hired by USC’s Athletics Department as the primary software provider for all recruiting and NCAA compliance. This allowed the FieldLevel team not only to see firsthand how technologies like Facebook and Twitter were helpful in recruiting, but also how they were severely missing the mark.
The problem was that existing social networks weren’t designed for sports recruiting and were only being used by default. For example, if a college coach searched for “defensive lineman” on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, it didn’t help him identify a potential recruit, and fans and overzealous parents bombarded many college coaches who used those networks. College and high school coaches needed their own private social network to connect with each other, better ensuring that worthy prospects were discovered by the right colleges.
With college coaches as its focus, FieldLevel first launched a private social network for baseball in 2011. Within a couple of months, it was recognized as a leading innovation by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Today, over 90% of all college baseball teams and a slew of MLB teams use FieldLevel, allowing teams to overcome time and budgetary constraints while creating playing opportunities for athletes. It has facilitated more than 2 million connections between coaches and even enabled an NCAA DI school in Arkansas to recruit a player from the Netherlands.
The results in football have been even more instantaneous.
“Immediately after taking my new position at the University of Northern Colorado, I was able to connect with the junior colleges and high schools in California and learn about their players” said Larry Kerr, a 35-year college coaching veteran with stops at UCLA, Stanford and Colorado State.
Aided by FieldLevel’s launch in football, Anthony Romualdo is on his way to a new football future and, most importantly, continuing his education. And each day, FieldLevel is creating similar opportunities for coaches and athletes alike. Romualdo said, “When my coach first invited me to join, I didn’t know what to think of FieldLevel, but then I started hearing from college coaches across the country. I’ve told my teammates to take it very seriously.”