A college coach has to do numerous things well to build a program and keep it successful.
They have to be able to communicate to players, teach the game and make sure the execution meets their standards come game time.
And, perhaps most importantly, they have to be able to recruit athletes who fit well into that particular program. And at a community college such as Central Lakes that isn't always easy.
The volleyball team, men's and women's basketball teams and numerous other CLC sports have built winning programs in recent years. It's no surprise that good recruiting has played a major part in the process.
Roadblocks of recruiting
The biggest difference between a Division I or Division II 4-year program and that of a community college is scholarships. Similar to a Division III program, CLC cannot give out athletic scholarships.
And, being a two-year school instead of a four-year institution sometimes people don't take it as seriously, ninth-year Raiders volleyball coach Jane Peterson said.
"The problem with community college recruiting is the stigma of a community college that it's fake and not a real college," said Peterson, whose team was 24-11 overall and third in the Northern Division last fall. "Most people I recruit are looking to finish a four-year degree and I tell them there are a lot of classes here that can challenge people academically.
"There are people who come through here who have high aspirations for themselves. They are not people that are here just because there is nowhere else to go. Those are the type of people who I like to coach."
Women's basketball coach Dennis Eastman said much of the time it's the coaches who believe a community college is not suitable for one of their athletes.
The biggest roadblock in comparison to a Division I or II program for men's basketball coach Jim Russell is money.
"You can't really go out and recruit too far away because of budget situations," said Russell, who has guided the Raiders to a 59-25 overall record and a 26-9 Northern Division record in his three seasons as head coach. "The bottom line is we don't have scholarships, but that doesn't mean there aren't good kids out there. You just have to look.
"Another major drawback at junior colleges is you have to work really hard at it because there are some kids waiting for scholarships. If they don't get it you might not get the kids in here until June."
Advantages are there
Each coach at the community college promotes different things to recruits, but all can virtually guarantee playing time.
"Our biggest push is everybody plays every game," said Eastman, who has won the Northern Division four of the last six years and also guided the Raiders to a 27-2 record and the national championship in 1996. "If an athlete has been a star player, they want to play and that's a big attraction.
"If they don't know what (they're going to major in), they can get their general eds done and they're going to improve their game."
Said Russell: "There are always kids out there on the borderline of making a scholarship. And a junior college gives them an opportunity to mature and to get some playing time and develop their skills."
Peterson said she never guarantees a starting spot but she's not going to groom a player for two years and not let them play.
Area athletes preferred
While each of their rosters are scattered with student-athletes from all over, CLC coaches generally try to recruit in the North Central region.
Russell has two players from Minneapolis and one from Canada currently on the team, but the rest are from throughout the region.
"The great thing about this job is that we're centrally located," Russell said. "We've got some good basketball programs around here. So if I can get some kids from that area and some kids from the Twin Cities that's fine. I do know that I will recruit just kids from Minnesota because we've shown we can have success with that."
Peterson said she sticks pretty much with the small towns scattered around the Brainerd area because the volleyball is good. She only looks at other high school players in Junior Olympic and state high school tournaments.
Eastman determines the area he recruits based on need.
"I stay in our area as much as possible but have three areas -- a 50-mile radius, throughout the state and out of state -- in which I recruit," said Eastman. "I've been lucky in my 10 years that the majority of players have come within that 50-mile radius. Our reputation has been getting better about playing local kids and they've seen the success we've had with it."
Coaches have different methods
The CLC coaches have all been effective in recent years, but all do things a little differently.
When attending a potential recruit's high school game, Eastman said he rarely stays for the entire contest. Instead he focuses on warmups.
"I look for the way they handle themselves in warmups -- their dribbling skills, their shooting skills and just their overall movement," Eastman said. "You can tell if you see someone out there who has a lot of fluidity and who's enjoying what they're doing. You can always tell their mentality; you can tell by their facial expression if they're putting on an act of smiling and faking but underneath they're really intense about it or if they're just screwing around."
Eastman said the computer has been a major help to him this season. He finds out about players from alumni, coaches or friends and then looks for information such as stats or the player's height at a Web site like Varsity Online to aid in his decision if further recruitment is necessary.
Peterson has become involved in a program run by the U.S. Volleyball Association. She aids the North Country Region team which practices every Wednesday and plays nine or 10 games between January and May. The team consists of players from Staples, Eagle Valley, Pierz and Brainerd. She said there are more on the current roster who are interested in CLC than previous years.
"It's a great advantage having 10 good volleyball players on this campus once a week," said Peterson, who led the Raiders to a 35-5 record and a trip to the national tournament in 1996. "I can 'accidentally' run into them a lot. (It's great to be involved) because it's important to let them know how much we care about volleyball."
Peterson said it is very important to allow people to get to know her and she gains great exposure by speaking at events such as high school coaches clinics.
Russell said he also finds it helps tremendously when he is able to get out of the office and into the community.
"I like to go see them play and it makes an impression on the kid if you go out and see them and show your face," he said. "You've got an 18-year-old kid deciding where to go to college and it's a hard decision. They have to trust you as a coach."
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