Wednesday is James Snyder’s Chicken Heaven day.
Every Wednesday at lunch time, Temple’s distance coach walks down from his second floor Pearson Hall office to the campus food truck nestled on Montgomery Avenue between 13th and Broad streets.
He gets his usual, now common knowledge at his go-to food truck, one buffalo chicken cheesesteak, topped off with a spice lover’s cascade of extra peppers and hot sauce.
Wednesday is the Owls’ NCAA-mandated off-day from practice. In light of the few extra hours at his disposal, Snyder takes full advantage of it by venturing down to his favorite food truck, and also by jumping on the phones.
While Snyder and coaching assistant Aaron Watson are both relatively new faces at Temple, they aren’t new to the coaching world. And, perhaps most importantly, they aren’t new to the recruiting game either.
“Recruiting is sales,” Snyder said. “If you can sell something, you can be good at anything. Basically we’re advertising our program and our university, and we’re trying to find kids who fit in well with what we do [here].”
Watson and Snyder have jumped in head first, teaming up with the scouting duties at area high school cross country meets, making several calls per day and entertaining two groups of official visits thus far.
Snyder has brought in 11 total targeted recruits for the men’s and women’s teams in two official visit sessions in the last month. Though the two coaches would not specify on any specific locations or high schools of potential recruits, Snyder and Watson have taken the recruiting search to a national level, scoping out prospective student athletes from the Delaware Valley to the Midwest.
“I think we’re in a good spot right now,” Snyder said. “We had two groups of official visits already this year. I was hired on July 15 and the first day of being able to recruit kids was July 1, so I felt as though we had some work to do.”
Snyder and Watson have instituted a new visiting plan to the team this year, drawing up a full itinerary for all visiting recruits that involves seeing where the team trains, touring the campus and city and sitting in on classes.
“We try to find time where kids can come see [the] campus and check out what we’re about,” Snyder said. “We set up our visits a little differently than some people do it. Forty-eight hours is the NCAA [maximum], so we bring them in Saturday evening for a few reasons. We have meets on Saturdays, so we’re usually back by Saturday night. If [prospective recruits] have a meet Saturday morning, they get here by Saturday night. Then we get 48 hours, and we have them until dinner time on Monday.”
“They get to see the school during the weekend and the week,” Snyder added. “The big part of our strategy with how we’ve been recruiting is we want kids who are not only comfortable here as runners, but comfortable with living and to be comfortable here in the classroom.”
Shawn Fagan, a principle academic adviser for Temple’s baseball, softball and track programs, is also a part of Snyder’s visiting itinerary, meeting with each recruit and filling them in on Temple’s academic support system for student athletes.
“[Fagan’s] met with each of our kids when they came in and has gone over with the kids the resources they have available, what his services are and has spoken with them about the direction of the program,” Snyder said. “[Fagan] has been a huge help for us. It’s nice for kids to have someone else to go to about academic questions, and parents like speaking to [Fagan] as well.
“My thing is I’m very hands on that first year [with athletes], showing them how things are done at Temple with office hours, emails to professors and that kind of stuff,” Fagan said. “And hopefully they’ll learn from that hands on stuff in their first year and they’ll be able to do it on their own in their remaining few years.”
The coaches won’t know the end result until signing day on Feb. 1.
“The team’s looking good,” sophomore Janie Augustyn said. “They’ve brought in a lot of recruits for visits and that’s awesome. I think they’re trying to build the team back up. Both teams are pretty small right now, and I think in the next couple years we can really build the program back up.”
As Snyder and Watson said recruiting is not as easy as picking based off what’s put on paper. Scoping out runners based off of their personality and drive to succeed is just as important as the times they turn in on the course.
“We want someone who enjoys running and enjoys the training,” Watson said. “Ultimately, at this level, we race only four or five times in the fall. So a lot of what you’re doing is a daily grind. It’s training, working hard every day, getting beat up and coming back the next day … it’s not glamorous.”
“I like the kids who have been beaten a little bit,” Snyder said. “I like kids who aren’t afraid of losing. And I like kids who have a chip on their shoulder and want to win … It’s the mindset behind the kid that’s important. Why do they want to run in college? That’s always the question I ask the kids. Are you here because you can wear that Temple cross country shirt and say you’re on a team, or do you want to win?”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @daParent93.