The Recruiting Equation: Removing Luck with Video

Former Cal defensive specialist Erin Freeman reflects on seizing opportunity in recruiting through video, and how video can positively impact performance.

For former University of California-Berkeley standout Erin Freeman, a defensive specialist for the Golden Bears from 2010-2012, getting an opportunity to play at the next level when she was in high school almost felt like a bit of an accident. “Cal was actually watching a player on the other side of the court at a tournament,” said Freeman. “Basically, they saw me on the other side and got kind of excited about me.

“That’s not the reality for most people - being at the right place at the right time. There are so many factors that impact the recruiting process and you don’t want to leave it to chance.”

Using Video to Break the Ice

Freeman was offered a spot as a recruited walk-on the following weekend when head coach Rich Feller came to a tournament to see her play firsthand, but times have changed since Freeman was a recruitable athlete. The process of recruiting occurs earlier now than ever before, and it’s important to utilize the tools you have at your disposal. Otherwise you might get left behind.

“You want to take control of your recruiting process."

“Hudl gives you the ability to hone in what’s important for you as a player and also as a student,” said Freeman. “You can reach out and connect with those coaches on a much more personal level than if you were just sending them a blanket email without a highlight video or without footage. It puts a face to your name, it can excite them and make them respond.”

Your first point of contact with a college is like a first interview for a job - you want to grab their attention while portraying the kind of person that’s going to be joining their program. It’s more than just blasting your resume out and hoping someone will respond. “You want to take control of your recruiting process, and what I love is that this puts the ownership on the player for them to really think about what’s important for them and to go down that road,” said Freeman.

“You can take the ownership, create your highlights and find your best moments and this has all the tools you can use to do that.”

If anything, video can only help increase your exposure. For some it might be their ambition to play across the country, while others might be more comfortable staying close to home. “I grew up 30 minutes away from Cal,” said Freeman. “If you want to play somewhere across the country you have to use video to increase reach and get noticed.”

Furthering Development through Film Study

Getting to college is one thing, but excelling is an entirely different beast. Freeman’s use of video accelerated her development on the court as a freshman. And she had to learn on the fly - Freeman’s exposure to video was virtually non-existent in high school. “All of a sudden we’re watching every single play and we have stats on every single touch on the ball,” said Freeman. “Transitioning to digesting that information and being able to use it is really challenging, especially in a quick amount of time. I remember even scouting, I had no idea how to do that until I got there and it took me an entire year to figure that out.”

“For younger players, it’s even more important."

As a defensive specialist, serve-receive is an essential part of the game. As is often the case, Freeman relied on her athleticism to get her through her younger years. Once players transition to college, however, athleticism isn’t enough to get by. That’s when technical development is paramount. “When I got to Cal, one of my coaches told me that my fundamentals were a disaster,” said Freeman. “We spent so much time watching how I was passing and how I was moving, which was really hard at first, but once I got it because I had watched all that video it really clicked and I could work to change.”

Her development by utilizing video helped her see the court her freshman year, and ultimately led to get a pivotal role during Cal’s run at a National Championship in 2010. The benefits of video are clearer now for Freeman, and it’s use at lower levels of the game is becoming more and more prevalent. “If you take a setter and imagine their line of vision, it’s going to push them, when they’re watching this video back to actually see how the defense on the other side is positioning themselves,” said Freeman. “For younger players, it’s even more important.

“They’re now aware of what’s going on on a larger scale and can bring it into their game in the moment.”