A window viewpoint from NCSA Athletic Recruiting's new Chicago office.
In the world of sports, there’s nothing quite as compelling as a Cinderella story. Whenever an athlete evolves from an underestimated but scrappy player into a polished powerhouse at the top of his or her league, you know you’ve got something special on your hands.
No one knows that more than, a Chicago-based digital recruitment pioneer whose suite of products makes it easier for college coaches and NCAA hopefuls to connect.
“Our job is to make it as easy as possible for both of these groups to find each other,” said Andrea Emmons, NCSA’s VP of Product Development.
For athletes, NCSA’s platform helps them navigate the entire recruitment process, from identifying the right schools to teaching them communication strategies for their interactions with potential recruiters. For coaches, the NCSA website provides a robust database of quality athletes and proprietary data that work alongside limited schedules and budgets to augment search and discovery efforts.
But NCSA hasn’t just been watching (and helping) up-and-coming athletes grow into something great from the sidelines. They’ve also lived through the quintessential Cinderella story first hand.
The company, which was founded in 2000 by former footballer Chris Krause, was born in a basement office after Krause saw how arbitrary the college sports recruitment process could be.
“[Krause] was on a team where he said he was by no means the most talented recruit in the group,” Emmons said. “But he ended up being the only athlete from his high school team to play football at a collegiate level.”
At the time, Krause was persistent in his attempts to connect with college coaches, writing letters and calling coaches directly in an attempt to convince any athletic department he could to bring him on board. His efforts, Emmons said, were enough to land him a spot on Vanderbilt University’s football team.
“He was lucky to have found the opportunity he did because he had the know-how to do all of this work that 99 percent of the kids on his team didn’t.”
Out of that disconnect grew Krause’s passion for connecting student athletes with college coaches. And over the years, he’s grown NCSA into a college recruiting staple.
Emmons, who’s been with NCSA for more than 10 years, said the progress the company’s made is evident in all corners of the business. From bringing athlete profiles online to introducing virtual tryouts, she said Krause has been a leader in software development and innovation for recruitment solutions.
“He took things from faxing a paper profile over to coaches to really bringing everything to the digital environment,” Emmons said.
And it’s not just tech advancements the company’s seen throughout their journey. In terms of numbers, they’ve built an online community of almost 1,000,000 athletes, about 340,000 of which are viewable by college coaches. They’re one of the top digital tech employers in the Chicagoland area, and two years ago, they were acquired by Reigning Champs.
Even as 2015 starts to wind down, NCSA is gearing up for a tech-heavy 2016. By the end of this year, they’ll have their brand new Android app available, with its iOS twin scheduled for release in January 2016.
Also in January, the company will launch a new educational curriculum designed to better prep athletes for every step of the recruitment process.
“It’s going to include all of the recruiting milestones that an athlete would go through, in an interactive, step-by-step process,” Emmons said. “We tried to create an experience that’s really quick, really mobile, really engaging, and really fun.”
The company has offices across the US, from Santa Monica and San Francisco to Boston. In Chicago, the team just moved into a new office space fitting for the tech company they’ve become.
“We’re a big boy company now,” Emmons joked.
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