How many bad people do you know?
I struggle to come up with anyone in my life who I would describe as a bad person. I believe people are basically good.
I feel the same is true in recruiting, although players are often described as having bad character. Why are they bad? Did they make a mistake at 16-years-old? Did somebody once brand them as having bad character and it has stuck?
Other common reasons for assessing a player as having a poor attitude is body language. Slamming a stick on the ice or verbal outbursts can be reasons a player is no longer considered as a prospect. I think we need to look deeper than that. We have no idea what is going on in that person’s day. From my personal experience I have good days and bad days. I would not want to be judged by one of my bad moments and forever be considered a bad person.
I don’t think we should immediately write somebody off as having bad character. If they otherwise meet your criteria than do some work and find out more. Character is a skill and it can improve. Just like on-ice skills, it is our responsibility to help people build character.
It helps to identify the type of character that is important to you. Is there success criteria that is non-negotiable? Be specific and then you can better align personalities in your recruiting process. If a recruit is deficient in an area, is it something that you can fix? Do you have enough time and is it worth it to try?
Recruiting high character people is crucial to your team success. Clarity on what that means and how to develop it is the key.
I really enjoyed talking to Steve Wiedler about this topic on my Coaching Project Podcast. Steve is the Associate Head Coach at American International College and has had a prominent role in the most staggering turn-around in college hockey history. We get into the importance of recruiting character and how to do it.