I can’t believe I just typed that. I might break out into hives. As an Ohio native (Go Bucks!) and a Notre Dame grad (Go Irish!), it pains me to support Alabama. But I’ve got to give credit where credit is due: Nick Satan, er…Nick Saban knows how to recruit talent.
Saban’s recruiting prowess has long been a topic of conversation, and a recent article about it got me thinking about what we can learn from his approach. I found three interesting tactics we can readily apply to the free-market nonprofit world.
1. Nick does his homework.
From the article:
“Even before Saban steps into the homes of prospects or invites a recruit to his office, Alabama usually has delved “seven deep” into the player’s life, meaning they’ve contacted his friends, family, teachers, coaches—virtually anyone who has had an interaction with that player and shaped his development.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if free-market nonprofits had the budget and staff to engage in such due diligence about a potential new hire? While we won’t likely have this luxury any time soon, we can take the time to pick up the phone and learn about someone before we offer a job. Recon missions can uncover positive and negative information about a candidate that can save a nonprofit money, time, and heartache. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard former employers tell me, “If they would have called me before they hired him, I could have warned them!”
2. Nick doesn’t do egos.
From a former coordinator under Saban:
“It’s hard at Alabama. It’s not for everybody. You can’t be an ego guy at Alabama. Nick won’t tolerate it, no matter how much talent you have. But that’s why he goes so many layers deep into a player’s life before really getting serious about recruiting him.”
Alabama passes over some of the most promising high school football players each year simply because the Crimson Tide detects an ego. Meanwhile, other coaches trip over themselves to bring these very egos onto their teams. You can argue for either approach, but Saban’s record isn’t too shabby (four national championships, five SEC championships, two AP National Coach of the Year awards, etc.).
We’ve alll seen the damage that even one big ego can cause to a nonprofit; I imagine conceit can do the same to a football program. Think about it this way: if Alabama can win championships without the megalomania, surely you can do without!
3. Nick cares about physical ability, but he also cares about character.
“In evaluating…players, Saban doesn’t rely on game tape alone. He (or a staff member) always talks to a high school player’s coaches and grills them with questions.
What’s the player’s character like? Can he digest and understand complex concepts? Is he a team leader? Is he a good teammate? What’s his family background? Has he gotten in any trouble at school or with the law? How does he practice? Does he listen? Does he show up on time for meetings and appointments? Does he attend all of his classes? Is he dependable? Is he active in the community? How does he react to adversity? Can he play through pain? How will he perform when 100,000 pairs of eyes will be trained on him?
Saban, in short, wants to know every possible detail about every player.”
Nick’s onto something here. He knows that physical ability is critical, but so is fitting into the team’s culture.
Likewise, when a nonprofit hires, it makes sense to look beyond whether the candidate has the hard skills for the job. Does the candidate also have the integrity, work ethic, and attitude to fit in with your organization?
After all, how many horror stories have we heard about the employee who was incredibly talented but toxic to the organization?
So, it turns out Nick Saban knows about football and recruiting talent.
Well done, St. Nick. But if you’re wondering, no, I’m still not rooting for ‘Bama.