At this point in the school year, many seniors are getting ready to apply to colleges or are already well into the process. While most have begun contacting and looking into schools within the last year, there are a few student athletes who began this process almost two and a half years ago. Student athletes who are planning to continue playing their sports through college have had to balance grades and sports since the beginning of high school, hoping their hard work will pay off in the future.
From swimmers to lacrosse players, athletes from all corners of the school have either pledged to a college or already accepted offers. Many have known since the beginning of high school that they wanted to continue playing their sport at the collegiate level.
In middle school, it was not uncommon for these athletes to play other sports in addition to the one for which they are now being recruited. However, the commitment and dedication required in high school has caused the majority of them to drop their other activities.
“I started out with the typical sports [such as] baseball [and] basketball, and I swam at the same time,” said swimmer and Georgetown University recruit Peter Kalibat ’14. “But when I hit high school, I realized I had to pick one of those sports.” Kalibat attends practice between eight and nine times every week, sometimes starting as early as 4:45 in the morning. This intense practice regimen has required Kalibat to dedicate himself solely to swimming.
“[Each summer], my summer team [would play] in about five tournaments, and I also did five or six camps,” said lacrosse player Emilia Lopez-Ona ’14, who has committed to the University of Pennsylvania. She estimates spending around 14 hours a week doing lacrosse-related work.
However, getting recruited requires an athlete to do more than just show dedication, score goals, and win events—there’s an entire process that must be followed.
It starts by contacting the colleges, not waiting for colleges to contact you. “I started [during] the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. I was talking to coaches then, and they [told me to] keep [them] posted with how [my] season goes, so I did that,” said track and field thrower Michelle Bazile ’14, who has committed to Brown University.
“I researched some schools and got a big list of [colleges]. I filled out all the recruiting questionnaires,” said Kalibat.
Next, you need to get in front of college coaches and show them in person that you want to play on their team. “Go to as many events and camps as you can so that when you email [coaches] you can say that [you have] been to their camp or clinic,” said Lopez-Ona.
Then, make sure that you check out the school and see if you would enjoy it. “[Georgetown’s] campus was great; once I set foot on the campus, I knew that’s where I wanted to go … Do a lot of research on the school and see if they have potential majors you would like [to study there],” said Kalibat.
After that, a lot of patience is required. “I emailed the school I actually committed to over the summer between sophomore and junior year, and they told me that they weren’t interested. Then they got a new coach, who told me that they would love to have me,” said Bazile.
Although recruitment can be the chaotic, tearing-the-entire-family-apart experience that Michael Oher experienced in the movie The Blind Side, the experiences that recruited athletes go through are varied. Bazile did not find the process stressful until coaches started pressuring her to commit to their respective schools, and Lopez-Ona felt that the most taxing part was actually making the decision. Avery Soong ’14, who has committed to New York University for swimming, said that the motivation and self-starting needed to get the recruitment process going was the most difficult.
“After [an athlete gets noticed by coaches], a lot of the stress changes,” said Lopez-Ona. “The stress is on you [then] and on you [again when] making your decision.”
“It’s hard when certain schools high on your list [aren’t] too interested [in you],” said Kalibat, adding that it can definitely be disappointing when coaching staffs don’t reply to emails.
Despite how emotionally draining the process can be, continuing athletic involvement through college has plenty of advantages. Coaching staffs at Division I schools are very experienced. Many colleges invest a lot of money in their programs, so facilities are up-to-date. Being a part of a sports team in college is a way for athletes to improve individual skill, meet new people, and continue doing something they love.
“[I’m excited to] just [have] coaches that have the ability to take me where I want to go. There are a lot more resources available, and I know that in college I’ll improve a lot,” said Bazile.
“I met the [swim] team [at Georgetown], I stayed at the campus, and I attended classes for three days in the fall. The team was great, and they treated me very well,” said Kalibat.
While roughly a quarter of the school works on applications and awaits college decisions, it is easy to find committed seniors’ positions enviable. However, students should think twice before evaluating the situation of committed students: athletic participation at the college level and the recruitment process to get there are both extremely time-consuming, and the athletes able to take these paths have worked hard to make their goals come true.