In April, Georgetown University became the first athletic department to use the Sportsology Recruiter app to support the student-athlete recruitment process. We’ve been speaking to Brian Wiese, Head Coach of Georgetown’s 2019 national champion men’s soccer team, to find out how the app helps to codify and communicate culture and values.
Georgetown began using the app as a way to continue communicating key information about its program with potential recruits during the coronavirus pandemic. Since April, the men’s soccer team have used the app as a way to communicate their culture and core values to prospects who are weighing up their options.
Defining Culture & Setting Standards
When asked to define what team culture is, Wiese states his belief that it’s all about people and careful recruitment. “When you talk about what culture is, you’re really talking about the people you bring in,” Wiese explains. “Culture is defined by the people you have, so the ability to have the people in your program uniformly describe what you stand for, what your standards are, and what you value is really powerful.”
Given the importance of people to the creation and continuation of a positive team culture, Wiese and his staff put a premium on character during the recruiting process. Not only do Georgetown want talented soccer players, they are also looking for people who can embody the team culture and communicate it effectively to new players in order for it to be passed on from generation to generation.
“When we recruit we work really hard to find the kids who fit our team and fit our culture so we can continue to build on it, because it’s not something that’s static, it’s a living, breathing thing that changes, and it changes with the people,” says Wiese. “You have people who come in as freshmen who are learning, absorbing and contributing in a way, but as they get into sophomore year, then junior year, then as seniors they become ambassadors of the culture. Then, as soon as they figure it out, they leave. So it’s critically important that the group is able to understand what that means, what you stand for, and are able to teach it and impart it to the next generation.”
Of course, attending Georgetown as a student-athlete isn’t all about sports. As Wiese points out, academic achievement and community engagement are just as important to the culture of the men’s soccer team as on-field performance.
“From a soccer point of view, you want players who are highly motivated to become professional soccer players, but also understand why they’re at Georgetown – to get a degree – and aren’t going to leave early for a pro opportunity that might be a frivolous opportunity,” Wiese says. “They’re going to want that degree just as badly, and understand that a Georgetown degree is a key part of their pathway to becoming a professional soccer player. And we want them to do it the right way by having community-centric values and taking ownership of that community.”
Using the App to Unlock the Power of Storytelling
As Georgetown soccer continually looks for players that match its ethos, the Sportsology Recruiter app has become an important element of the recruitment process. When Wiese and his staff first planned for the implementation of the app, they prioritized its use as a way to transmit the fundamental culture of the program to prospects who were unable to visit the campus as a result of the pandemic.
“We started our process with the app with the question: how do we get somebody who doesn’t know anything about our program to understand what it is without having to be here?,” explains Wiese. “With the Covid-19 situation it’s been unbelievably useful for us because we can’t have people on campus, the NCAA doesn’t allow it. So what the app allows us to do is share with them whatever we feel is important for them to know.”
Of course, sharing information with prospects is one thing, but that information needs to be presented in fresh and interesting ways if it is to engage potential recruits with the program. When it comes to sharing Georgetown soccer’s culture, values and playing style, Wiese, his staff and their players recognize the importance of using the app to tell powerful stories about the program.
“One of the key benefits of the app is the ability to tell stories,” he says. “Something we did last year was have all of our guys read the book Legacy about the New Zealand All Blacks, and that talked about culture all the time. The way the All Blacks address culture is by storytelling; telling the stories from their past. That’s what the app is for us – a version of storytelling where we can show how we play, what we value in a specific position, and give virtual tours of campus and our facilities.”
Not only does storytelling through the app make information more impactful, it can also give prospects a far stronger insight into the nature of the program and the human side of the players and coaching staff. Ultimately, this has mutual benefits as it helps prospects to get a more complete view of the team, while ensuring that Wiese and his staff find student-athletes who are fully bought into the culture of the team.
“When the prospects have been through the app we want them to feel like they’ve been to campus; that’s the end goal. At the same time we can go deeper than that and talk about who our support is and what they do – not just their titles but what they really do for the players. We also talk about things that we do that have nothing to do with soccer or with school. What do our guys spend their time doing? What are the organizations that they spend their time supporting? That stuff really helps to tell the story of what it’s like to be a part of our program.”