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The huddle

December 2, 2019

University of Vermont Women’s Hockey Coach Speaks on Work Ethic & Personality

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Photo by UVM

Jess Koizumi started as the program’s new head coach in June of 2017 and is going into her third season at the University of Vermont in 2019-20. Koizumi became the head coach at UVM after being an assistant coach at Yale University and Ohio State University, Koizumi is no stranger to the student-athlete recruiting process.

A two-time captain of the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, Koizumi helped lead them to a berth in the 2007 national championship game, earning Frozen Four All-Tournament team and all-WCHA honors in the process. She also represented Team USA at several international competitions.

Before making a move to OSU, Koizumi worked as an assistant coach at Yale University for six years where one of her primary roles entailed serving as the recruiting coordinator.

Coach Koizumi gives advice to high school athletes who are looking to play at the next level.

LRT Sports: What are some important qualities you look for in a student-athlete?

  • Character – Are they an all-around good person for our locker room?
  • Potential – Do they have the potential to develop? Do they have a high ceiling, or will they plateau?
  • Work ethic – Will they help players around them get better by their own personal work ethic?
  • Academics – Are they a good student that will help our team GPA as well as set a good example for the rest of the team?
  • Personality – Are they easy to communicate with? Are they coachable?

LRT Sports: What age do you start the recruiting process?

Coach Koizumi: This is all dependent on what our team needs are. Being in a comfortable recruiting position now, we start tracking grade seven as the youngest. However, we have added some girls in grade 11 to our recruiting pool. With that said, if there is a student-athlete that we like, we may even make an offer early on. We don’t like timelines, but with the competitiveness of other programs, in some instances, we must place timelines on recruits so that we can move on if they don’t choose us.

LRT Sports: Are there any teams, leagues, or showcase tournaments that you would recommend a recruit attend to gain exposure? What should a recruit do if they are unable to play at one of these teams/events?

Coach Koizumi: There are many staple tournaments that every school in the country attend to recruit. In September, the NAHA Labor Day Tournament and Stoney Creek Tournament are big events. Two others are the US-Canada Cup in Detroit during November, and the same tournament in December in Kitchener, Ontario. If a recruit is unable to play on a program that goes to these events, they need to showcase themselves by making a resume and visiting the schools they are interested in. There are various showcases and development camps they can sign up for in the summer as well. Elite players that make U18 teams or camps are guaranteed to be scouted much easier.

LRT Sports: Do you recruit internationally? If so, please explain.

Coach Koizumi: Recruiting is very competitive, and we try to recruit the best. If there’s an international talent, we will try our best to recruit them. Since we do have a recruiting budget, sometimes we need to be creative by watching games online and relying heavily on connections from people we know that get to see these players on a more consistent basis. Unofficial visits aren’t as easy for international students. FaceTime tours of our facilities and getting to know each other is more common. 

Lrt Sports: How heavily of a factor are academics during the recruiting process? When do you recommend student-athletes begin taking standardized tests (SAT, ACT, etc.) and what is an ideal score to strive for? 

Coach Koizumi: Academics are a vital part of the recruiting process. They may not weigh as much as the athletic side of things for non-Ivy League programs, but it will help in other areas. 

Many schools will offer academic scholarships. If a student-athlete isn’t offered a full athletic scholarship, they have opportunities to earn academic scholarships if their grades and test scores are high enough. Doing well in academics will also open more doors when it comes to choosing a school. 

Spring during sophomore year is the ideal time to take standardized tests. As far as an ideal score, it is dependent on what kind of school the student-athlete is interested in. 

LRT Sports: Is social media an important aspect of recruiting? What advice do you have for student-athletes regarding their online presence?

Coach Koizumi: Social media isn’t necessarily a necessity in the recruiting process. The important aspect that recruits need to understand is to make sure their social media accounts are professional. I have seen some programs de-commit student-athletes based on inappropriate postings. I do suggest that student-athletes create a twitter account and follow their top schools to learn more about each program.

LRT Sports: What do you hope to get out of on-campus visits from a recruit (both unofficial and official)?

Coach Koizumi: The unofficial visit is today’s version of an official visit because student-athletes are making their decisions between grade 9 and grade 11. We are not allowed to provide official visits until the fall of grade 12. During the unofficial visit, we try to make sure we only open it up to student-athletes that we are serious about committing. It takes a great deal of planning, but we try to be unique and different in some things we provide on the visit so that ours stands out. That visit many times will determine whether or not our recruits choose us.

LRT Sports: Are family advisors (or agents) necessary for getting recruited?

Coach Koizumi: Most showcases have college panels and seminars that will provide the information needed to guide families in the recruiting process. If you are talented, scouts will find you. 

LRT Sports: Do you look for special qualities in a player that are distinct or essential to the OSU program? Please explain.  

Coach Koizumi: We are looking for players that fit the mold of our core values based around: Family, Relentless, Sacrifice, Gratefulness, and Honor. As a player, we want talented workhorses who will buy into our systems and are coachable. We also recruit based on our needs and would take different types of players dependent on what we graduate. However, at the end of the day, talent is talent, so if they are great character kids, we will try our best to recruit the best team possible.

LRT Sports: If you could provide student-athletes looking to be recruited with one piece of advice, what would it be?

Coach Koizumi: There is always a home for every student-athlete. It may not be your number one school, but there is always home. Do not be discouraged in the recruiting process, be proactive, and put your best foot forward in your training and academics. The better you do in all areas; the more doors will open for you to choose from.

LRT Sports: What are the benefits of sending a highlight tape(s) to college coaches?

Coach Koizumi: Depends on what school. I know some Division III schools rely heavily on the highlight tapes because of their limited recruiting budgets. Many times, I don’t look at the highlight videos unless they are goaltenders. I like to see my recruits play live; it’s very different than a highlight film. Watching what they do when they are away from the puck and how they handle mistakes is important. 

LRT Sports: What elements/skills displayed on a highlight tape most capture your attention and garner your interest in a potential recruit (ex. skating, goal-scoring, body language, etc.)?

Coach Koizumi: As far as what to highlight on videos, goals, dekes, blocks, and defensive plays are apparent. Having music in the background is a fun way to jazz it up. Just give the scouts a taste of what your playing style is like. Hopefully, they will gain interest from it and then set up a recruiting trip to watch you play live.

*Note: This interview was conducted when Coach Koizumi was an assistant coach at The Ohio State University

Updated 12/2/19

Edited by Caroline Kurdej

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