How Ireland recruits college and club players
written by: Clara Byrne
Why is college recruitment important?
Recruitment is the first interaction players have with your team. So doing it right is essential. In Ireland, the majority of recruitment into ultimate occurs in colleges. During “freshers fairs” in the first week of term, clubs and societies recruit new members, many of whom would be new to the college. It’s a perfect opportunity to showcase your club and your sport to a large audience and can hugely impact your whole season. Newly recruited college players then filter into club teams when colleges close for summer, providing a source of new players to club teams.
How to recruit college players:
The first step should always be to talk to your existing players, specifically the women, and ask what worked when they were recruited and why they chose to stay. This will be an invaluable resource of information that will help you gain insight into what works best for your club. From this information, team leadership can formulate a plan that emphasises previous recruitment successes and edit any mistakes made in the past.
In my college team (Trinity College Dublin), recruitment mainly occurred during “freshers week”, which was the first week of term when all the new students arrived on campus. There is a freshers fair in the college’s front square where clubs and societies can set up stands and recruit new members. In previous years one of the captains created a document with a list of best practices, distilled from years of college recruitment experience and feedback from what had worked in the past. This is a precious and vital document to have in the club as it offered guidance on how to recruit effectively. I recommend at the end of every season, you talk to your new players and ask them what worked when they were recruited and what made them stay. This is an invaluable source of information for your team. Don’t assume you know how to recruit women and non-binary players; ask them! The more you understand what works for your team, the better the results of your recruitment drive.
One of the key points in my college team’s recruitment document was to have your friendliest, chattiest and most approachable players on the stand. These are the people who will do the best job at approaching people and making a good first impression.
When I was captain of the team, my focus was mainly on recruiting players for the women’s team. To achieve this, I consulted the club leadership and introduced a “girl quota” for the stand. The “girl quota” involved having at least one women’s player at the stand at all times; this made recruiting players for the women’s team much easier, as we have found the best recruiters for the women’s team are women’s players. We also had a limit on the number of men on the stand, as they tended to crowd around and appeared intimidating and unapproachable.
The next step is to know what you are trying to sell. Recruitment is a sales pitch; you may only have 30 seconds to talk to someone, so you must know what you want to say and how you want to say it. In my and many other college teams, the club’s social side is the biggest selling point. Most people join a new sports team to make friends, so be sure to emphasise the club’s social side, whether it be club socials, fun tournaments, or whatever your club does together. Do you have socials after training? Tell them, invite them, make sure they can see themselves as being involved in every aspect of frisbee and the wider ultimate community. Laying the foundations of this friendship will make attending training and socials less daunting and lonely and encourage them to attend these events.
A common barrier for potential new women’s players getting into ultimate is the issue of experience and expectations. When they start ultimate, most women will have little to no experience of the sport, and starting from nothing can be a scary prospect. To tackle this, you should emphasise that coaches and experienced players will teach them everything they need to know. In my college team, we did this by inviting them to beginner and women’s only training in the college, which they could attend and get one-on-one training and encouragement from coaches and experienced players.
Lastly is the issues of visibility and accessibility. One of the biggest successes of my college team's recruitment drive is the occurrence of show games and public training, which occur in the centre of the college during freshers week. This provides a visual attraction to onlookers and a visual explanation of how the game works. These training and games always attract big numbers, as they are easily accessible. If you can get someone to go to one training session, it's much easier to get them to go again.
Recruitment can determine the success for your club in the short and long term. The more women’s players you have on your team the more likely you are to succeed as a club. To make the best of recruitment you have to talk to your current women's players and ask what they think works best. Then make a plan as to what you can do to translate this information into practices that you can use in recruitment drives. Ensure you are visible and accessible for women athletes. Once you get women players to attend training, show them they will be valued members of the team, no matter their experience level.