Nuances of the high school athletic recruitment process
March 2, 2022
For many high school athletes looking to play at the collegiate level, the recruitment process comes with mixed emotions. While some feel that this brings the stress of the college admissions process into their sophomore or junior years of high school, others feel that being recruited eases the stress of applying to multiple universities and waiting for decisions. Depending on the sport and commitment of the athlete, the recruitment process can look very different.
Some high school athletes favor the collegiate recruiting process due to the fact that they bypassed much of the stressors of the traditional college application process. Many factors can lead to an enjoyable experience trying to go to college for one’s sport.
For senior Rachael Wilson, the process was overwhelmingly positive. Wilson, who is committed to playing division three soccer at St. Olaf College, maintains the belief that only having to apply to one college eliminated a lot of the stress from her application process.
“I was able to look at a bunch of schools because I started early, and I started to get a sense of what I wanted and what I was looking for,” Wilson said. “I felt like once I had committed and I knew what I wanted to do, it made things a lot easier and less stressful for me. It’s a very nice feeling.”
While being recruited, athletes often feel pressured to perform while knowing there is a college coach in the stands watching them. While this may be stressful for some, many athletes see it as an opportunity to showcase their talents, and it pushes them to be their best and reminds them of how much they love their sport.
“I wouldn’t say that it [the recruitment process] made swimming less fun, because swimming is my passion and what makes me happy,” senior and division one University of Iowa swim commit Olivia Asay said. “There was definitely more sense of urgency when it came to being serious and concise in all of my practices and meets; basically just making every swim count.”
One of the biggest positives of the recruitment process cited by most high school athletes is the validation felt from receiving interest from different schools and the reality of being able to play college sports. For some athletes, who have been playing their sport since childhood, being able to see their hard work pay off may be the biggest benefit.
“Knowing that the amount of work, time and effort that you have put in [has paid off], knowing that you will be able to make it to the next level and knowing that your dreams are starting to become more of a reality [are the most positive aspects for me],” junior and division one West Virginia University baseball commit Tony Konopiots said.
For many seniors, who have gone through this process and committed to their schools early in the school year, being done with the application process and not having to wait anxiously for admissions decisions is a major stress reliever.
The fact that I don’t have to spend the rest of the school year thinking about where I am going to be for the next four years of my life is incredibly relieving.”
— Roy Llewellyn
“Words cannot express how happy I am to be done [with the college application process]. Especially as someone who does not enjoy thinking about the future and does not want to get older, the fact that I don’t have to spend the rest of the school year thinking about where I am going to be for the next four years of my life is incredibly relieving,” senior and division three Carleton College cross country and track and field commit Roy Llewellyn said.
The high school recruitment process is not without its challenges, however. High schoolers who plan to continue their sport at the collegiate level often have to begin thinking about college earlier than others.
“I think that having to think about where you want to go to college freshman and sophomore year is challenging because most of the people around you haven’t started thinking about college,” senior and division one Marquette University soccer commit Josie Bieda said. “It was hard for me to think about what I wanted in college when I hadn’t even gotten halfway through high school.”
The recruitment process comes with many logistical challenges that have to be worked through. Whether it be coordinating with college coaches or planning college visits, high school athletes have to plan ahead. For many recent recruits, the COVID-19 pandemic has not made their recruitment process any easier.
“COVID-19 really messed up baseball recruiting because I lost my sophomore year high school season and also lost half of that summer season, so there wasn’t any recruiting then,” senior and division two Rockhurst University baseball commit Jack Miller said. “[Because of that] I didn’t get recruited until this past summer.”
The recruitment process can be a large commitment in many high schoolers’ experiences. Aside from the amount of time, money and energy dedicated to playing and practicing one’s sport, planning visits and times to talk with coaches can be overwhelming at times.
“In my experience, being recruited is a lot of hard work. You have to make sure it’s what you want because it’s a lot of time, effort and money being spent,” senior and division one Wagner College softball commit Payton Janicki said. “The downside of recruiting is the emotional stress. [For example,] Some rules the NCAA has made it kind of inevitable to talk to coaches at a certain time, and sometimes feeling like you want to rethink your decision [were stressors for me].”
From the stresses of making time to talk to coaches, visiting their schools and weighing one’s obligations, the collegiate recruitment process is not without its downsides. Balancing one’s commitments is crucial in having a positive experience while being recruited and having success in finding an athlete’s place for their next four years.
“I enjoyed being able to learn what I was looking for in a college, in a basketball program and what I wanted for the next four years of my life,” senior and NAIA Saint Xavier University basketball commit Eleanor Harris said. “I would definitely set goals for yourself but never stop focusing on your education; coaches are always looking for athletes who can keep up their grades.”