By Kyle McKenna
Head Football Coach
Brooklyn Tech High School (NY)
The process of getting ninth graders into your football program and keeping them engaged is something that all high school coaches find challenging. Some programs are fortunate enough to have efficient and established feeder systems that provide them with 40-50 new players each year. That said, the reality with most programs is that they do not have these resources and they will need to find creative ways to keep players on their roster. At our school, academic work is a large factor in retention of ninth grade students. We must do all we can to make our freshmen feel they are important to the long-term success of our program and make parents comfortable that their participation will pay dividends for their child.
Categories of Students
For the purpose of clarity, we will need to identify and break down the types of 9th grade students that we get into our program.
- Incoming 9th graders that begin football on the first day of pre-season practice. This person is a potential 4-year football player for us and the ideal situation.
- 9th graders that start football following the first day of school in September. These players will usually be pulled from hallway recruiting and our advisory classes. They may have intended to play from day one, but were unable to because of late summer vacations with family.
- Second semester 9th graders that join the team in the winter off-season program. These players are also the result of targeted recruiting efforts like the “Dead File.”
- 9th graders that tryout for football during the mandatory May tryout period.
Factors Specific to Our School
Brooklyn Tech is a specialized public high school in New York City, with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Potential students must take a specialized high school exam and score high enough to gain academic acceptance. There is no preferential treatment for anyone, athlete or otherwise, and the exam score is the only assessment used for acceptance. All of our players come from the pool of accepted students. Most potential student-athletes are made known to us in early March of their 8th grade year. We usually meet them for the first time at an Open House for accepted students in late March.
Recruitment and Retention
Once we know which students have been accepted into the school, we will set up a table at the Open House that displays our uniforms and branding materials. We particularly focus on using a tri-fold brochure that explains the process of joining the team (before school starts in the summer) and attending our pre-season camp. We will look to acquire contact information that we will later put into a database of incoming freshmen. We will also post on our school website that anyone interested in playing should send us an email explaining why they want to be a part of our program and letting us know of any experience they have playing football. Finally, I will receive a list of all incoming students and will contact them via email informing them of our start date and required paperwork. With the help of one of our alumni, we collaborated with a group of filmmakers to produce a video that we sent to the incoming players to motivate them to join.