Missions and Recruiting

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How coaches manage it

Kyle McDonald | Sports Writer | @kylesportsbias

Photo Credit: Ben Hammond, Staff Photographer

BYU isn’t the only school in Utah County that has to deal with their student-athletes choosing to go on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Head coaches from Utah Valley University also have to deal with this dynamic as they try to manage their rosters each season. 

Serving a mission for their church is a personal choice and the coaches at Utah Valley University know that.

“A mission is a very personal thing and I think it’s a young man’s decision to choose to go or not go and he should go simply on his desire and his feeling in his heart to do such,” said former UVU Men’s Basketball head coach Dick Hunsaker.

They will continue to recruit potential athletes even if they are planning on serving a mission.  It is a difficult process because coaches don’t know if the attitude of the student athlete is going to change, or if they are going to want to continue to compete and perform at the highest level.

“The hardest thing about this is whether – when they come back  – if they still want to play,” UVU baseball coach Eric Madsen said. “We try to get the best but you can’t recruit a bunch of kids that are going to leave on missions.  You have got to have kids that are going to be here.”

Each year, coaches want to reload rather than rebuild.  Some coaches such as UVU Wrestling head coach Greg Williams have a four year plan set up about who is coming to school, going on missions, and graduating.

“It gives me a view of what I need to fill in for next year and the following years,” Williams said.  “It’s a very in-depth, very demanding process time wise.”

UVU Baseball head coach Eric Madsen knows the importance of having a plan.  He has a six year plan set up so that he knows who’s coming and who’s going.

“We try to communicate with them early enough that we know if they’re going to come back,” Madsen said.

It may seem like a difficult task for these coaches to manage student-athletes they recruit who choose to go on missions and leave a void that needs to be filled.  Yet, they also know that they have to respect the decision of that athlete and support them in their decision.

It is a balancing act that these coaches have to deal with on a yearly basis and with the success they continue to have it shows that they are doing a great job.

“We don’t try to discourage kids from going on missions. We feel that is an individual choice they need to make with Heavenly Father,” Williams said.

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