For high school athletes, nothing can be more daunting than college recruitment. Students have to do all the work themselves, without a centralized guide or aid. The process is a period filled with stress for students, forced to devote increasingly large amounts of time to showing off their athletic prowess to secure a placement at a college or university.
Ryan Spoon dealt with the college recruiting mess. And while there are still thousands of athletes fighting through the trials and trevails of the process, Mr. Spoon has simplified the process for 100,000 savvy students. After surviving the recruiting experience, Spoon went on to Duke University and, while he was a student, founded beRecruited, a website designed to ease the stress of the recruiting process for students, all while making it easier for college coaches.
Initially founded as a network for high school swimmers, beRecruited has seem trendous growth since its inception in 2000, while Spoon was still a student at Duke. I spoke with Spoon, currently CEO of beRecruited, about its tremendous growth and the opportunities it provides for students.
Centralization & Purpose
Prior to the internet, claimed Mr. Spoon, students were forced to do “all the work themselves,” and lacked a centralized place to communicate with colleges. beRecruited thus was founded as a “network with a purpose.” Specifically, it aims to put college coaches in communication with high school students through highly targeted search and innovative Web2.0 features.
beRecruited gives users control over the recruitment experience. Spoon was hesitant to agree with my characterization of beRecruited as a “LinkedIn for recruited athletes,” but he acknowledged that the benefits could be the same. Students create profiles chronicling their academic and athletic achievements, along with the extracurricular activities they participate in. Sports information is similar to that of ESPNU, while the site provides a social networking aspect “of a MySpace.” Surprisingly, the site has played host to over 30,000 photos and videos since those aspects of the site were launched several months ago.
Breadth of Options
Spoon was careful to emphasize that beRecruited doesn’t define how users use its tools, they simply enable them to use them. As such, the options can be overwhelming for new athletes or coaches. The complexity, however, is one of beRecruited’s strongest assets.
Coaches benefit from searches with incredible depth. beRecruited offers them numerous different criteria to search with, including SAT scores, location, sport, state, etc. Coaches can even subscribe to an RSS feed of a customized search that alerts them whenever a student that contains traits they were looking for signs up on the website. beRecruited then inserts the students’ dossiers into a virtual “bookbag,” which then can alert students by e-mail, through the website, or by text message.
Athletes aren’t left out in the cold either. As I mentioned earlier, beRecruited recently added some new features. Most prominently featured are beRecruited Photos, TV, and Forums. The Photos and TV tools each allow students to show coaches what they can do, even if they live thousands of miles away. The beRecruited Forums serve to further centralize the recruiting experience, allowing students who have been through the process help students just beginning their recruitment journey. Premier athletes, those who pay for a subscription to beRecruited, also get the option to send customized letters of interest to schools.
Is it Web 2.0?
beRecruited posesses many characteristics of a Web2.0 site, including social voting [students can vote up fellow students and they come to the attention of coaches], photo and video sharing, and collaboration via the forums. Still, by its nature, the site doesn’t really utilize AJAX, or provide anything terrific to the internet population at large. That, however, is where its strengths lie. As a niche site, beRecruited can focus on its core body of users, tuning the experience to the group that uses their site.
beRecruited TV: YouTube for Recruited Athletes
The niche that beRecruited takes advantage of has helped them be profitable since the company was founded. Premium subscriptions, which cost $19.99, include the letter of interest generator, premium exposure, and gives students the ability to see who viewed their profile.
The subscriptions, however, aren’t the true basis of beRecruited’s financial success. As I noted earlier, beRecruited focuses on a highly sought after niche, athletes ages 14-18 seeking entrance into a school of higher learning. By definition, this makes them driven, smart, and good at sports. So far, beRecruited has featured advertisers like Kaplan Test Prep and has achieved tremendous results. Besides strategic partnerships like the one mentioned above, extremely targeted advertising is allowed as well through other means.
This past week, hoping to expand their network further, beRecruited launched a Facebook application. Unlike the beRecruited site itself, however, the widget provides no true functionality. Instead, it is simply a tool to show friends what colleges and coaches are interested in the student’s athletic achievements. Spoon sees the widget as a launchpad to beRecruited. He acknowledges that he doesn’t want beRecruited to be the social network of choice for students, but instead wants it to be specifically for their athletics. As such, he wanted to expand the beRecruited user experience to a student’s primary social network in order to simplify the entire experience.
beRecruited just added their 100,000th user, and they’re growing at a blistering pace. The site’s ultimate goal, said their CEO, is one million users. All I can see to stand in their way is the persistence and obstinance of high school and college coaches. If properly informed, students and coaches would have no reason not to join beRecruited. It unifies the recruitment experience and provides both groups with innovative tools to aid them in their hunt for the perfect partner.