James Sackville sounds like the perfect name for a defensive lineman or edge rusher who terrorizes opposing quarterbacks while racking up sack after sack. But, in reality, James is a former punter from Australia who played division I football at Southern Methodist University from 2016-2019. Since his playing career ended, Sackville is still involved in sports but in a completely new and interesting way. He has recently launched a recruiting app, the first of its kind. In his own words, it is a cross between LinkedIn and a dating app, but with the focus solely on recruiting. It’s called AIR (Athletes in Recruitment), and it is brand new, only going live on Monday, May 24th. However, at the time of the interview (June 2nd), it already had over 4,000 users and was being used by 50 colleges or universities.
It is not a recruiting service. Instead, James describes it as a platform. They provide the space and tools for coaches to check out players and for players to search schools. Their goal is to supply the data for all parties to make informed decisions rather than interpret, analyze, or give their opinion on the data.
As an Australian native, James acknowledges his experience was a bit non-traditional since he came from a different perspective. But once he got familiar with recruiting in the States and hearing stories from his Mustang teammates, he realized the current recruiting system was “broken and outdated.”
According to Sackville, “I heard some of my teammates list the reasons why they felt they got underrecruited, and I wanted to give needed access for free to players to change that.” The idea is using this app will hopefully avoid the issues of a poor relationship with a high school coach, or an injury, or not being able to afford to go to camps or traveling to gain exposure. “I want athletes to control their own narrative and not fall through the cracks,” Sackville said. Much of that can be accomplished or avoided through the Athletes in Recruitment database and app. The goal is increasing exposure, which is crucial.
The app was in development “for the better part of a year” before launching at the end of May.
How It Works
It is described as a three side platform. The app can be used from the viewpoint of either a college coach, a high school athlete, or a liaison, which would be a high school coach, private trainer, recruiting services, parents, guardians, etc. For those signing up, they will click on one of those three categories, create a profile, and then the app will gear their searches based on the category they are in.
“We talked to college coaches when developing this app,” Sackville explains, “and the feedback we got was that they can make a decision on a recruit’s pure athletic ability based on 2-3 plays. So with that in mind, we shaped the AIR app to account for that.”
When a college coach searches for players, they will see the thirty-second clip of their top players, which is the short amount of time a recruit has to make an impression. The coach will then either swipe left or right, which allows them to scan through several players in a short amount of time. If a coach likes what they see, then they can engage more directly by looking at a player’s profile. The profile includes everything a coach would want to see: their athletic resume, grades, physical traits, the position they play, a listing to see if they play multiple sports, and their testing results. In addition to all of this, there will also be a link to a recruit’s liaison in the profile if they want to contact them.
This means that each school can filter their players however they. If a school wants quarterbacks who run a 4.4 forty, they can filter that. If they want a cornerback who is at least 6’0”, they can list that. If a school has a run-heavy offense and is seeking linemen who specialize in run-blocking? The app can help. If they want to filter out any recruit with a GPA under 2.7 or who doesn’t play a second sport? No problem. If a wide receiver or linebacker is supremely skilled and athletic but checks in at 5’10”, a school will find them and put them in a position to succeed. For programs that are looking to gain an advantage in recruiting to keep up with their conference foes, this is their opportunity.
For the student-athlete, the process is similar. They can swipe left or right on a university based on their interest and the criteria they are looking for. This includes FBS, FCS, DII, DIII, NAIA, and JUCO schools. The responsibility is on the athlete to ensure all of their info to make sure it’s accurate, although it has to have some form of third-party verification, and that is where the liaison can help with this as well.
Most colleges recruit certain states or areas where they have formed relationships to land players each year. While that will likely still be the case, Athletes in Recruitment will help schools and players find one another, so a player from North Carolina ending up at a California school won’t be out of the question if there is a mutual fit and interest. The bottom line is the app will allow for a more straightforward match-making process that won’t be hindered by time, proximity, or finances. If it is used across the nation, everyone will have access to everyone. No school will be unknown, and no athlete will fly under the radar.
The goal for James is that in five years, every college is using this app for every sport, along with this being a standard tool for high school athletes to use to increase exposure. He was quick to point out the “overwhelming need for all sports, but specifically for women’s sports, underfunded sports, and underrepresenting sports.” It is fun to imagine how this can transform football and basketball. In addition, the Athletes in Recruitment app may become essential for schools when recruiting athletes for golf, tennis, volleyball, and other similar sports.
Currently, the app is just for football, but there is a plan to roll out an expansion for other sports to varying degrees over the next twelve months. The emphasis right now is building relationships and getting the word out about Athletes in Recruitment, all for the purpose of expanding the app. Specifically, they are partnering with liaisons, camps, and showcase events. It was no coincidence that the app launches right as the recruiting dead period came to an end after about fifteen months. It has the potential to explode during June with camps and other forms of recruitment exposure.
For fans, coaches, and especially recruits, check out this link and get involved with Athletes in Recruitment today. Or download the app on your phone. The app is free, and the biggest way to grow this app is to raise awareness, so check it out and spread the word; it may make the difference for a high school athlete in getting a scholarship to go to college.