Athletes reflect on recruitment process

When Caroline Dempsey ’15 began her college-recruitment process, she started months in advance. The lengthy process included sending out emails and letters to prospective schools and communicating with her coaches. Now, after months of rigorous planning, Dempsey recently committed to play soccer at Washington University in St. Louis.

Student athletes take a plethora of factors into account when selecting a college including the quality of the education at the school, the competitiveness of the team and how the student would fit into the team during competition, Dempsey said. The athletes’ decision depends on which team is the best fit for them athletically, and what the athlete plans on doing post-college, whether it be becoming a professional athlete or following a more conventional career path.

“I value education, so I was really looking for a school that could offer both a high level of education and a competitive soccer program,” Dempsey said.

While Dempsey and other student athletes engage in early communication with colleges during the recruitment process, colleges likewise spend months looking for athletes that not only suit their team’s needs, but also embody the schools’ values, said Michael Dean Bergum, Athletic Director at Earlham College.

“The bottom line is that we do anything and everything to cultivate student athletes,” Bergum said. “We look to identify prospective students who meet our academic expectations and fit the needs of our rosters. Our coaches attend camps, showcases, games and conduct school visits.”

While in college, athletes must not only meet institutional expectations, but those of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as well. Failure to do so can result in ineligibility, meaning the athletes won’t be able to participate in sports, according to the NCAA.

“When our students are on campus we expect them to perform to the best of their ability,” Bergum said. “Our faculty and coaching staff monitor their progress and provide a success plan for students to thrive.”

Meeting collegiate student-athlete expectations can be a daunting task for students who are used to more relaxed rules at the high school level, Stephanie Miller ’13 said. Athletes must attend practices, games, and class, while also succeeding academically to remain eligible, according to NCAA regulations. As a result, the transition from high school athletics to collegiate athletics may be difficult for athletes who solely focused on sports in high school.

Regardless of the amount of work students face, Miller, who plays women’s golf at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believes the experience to be very rewarding. There are also several benefits collegiate athletes receive, as a compensation for the tremendous amounts of effort they put towards their sport, Miller said.

On April 15, the NCAA ruled that Division I student athletes can receive unlimited meals and snacks in conjunction with their athletics participation.

“[The NCAA’s ruling] makes a lot of sense because [the athletes are] the ones who are practicing so much; they need it most out of the student body,” Dempsey said.

Some collegiate athletes not only receive meals from their respective colleges, but as a result of new rulings, may also be receiving pay from the colleges.

On Aug. 7, the NCAA ruled that teams competing in the 5 largest conferences—Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and the Southeastern conference—have been granted more autonomy in their ability to make rules for athletes, meaning that colleges will be able to pay athletes. This ruling has brought into question the need for paying college athletes.

“This is an extremely hot topic in college sports right now that even the NCAA is having trouble solving,” Dempsey said.

While some student athletes may find managing both sports and academics to be challenging, many colleges provide tutors for athletes to help them remain eligible, Miller said.

Nonetheless, throughout high school the athletes have been preparing for the prospective challenge, as they’ve consistently had to manage both sports and academics, Dempsey said.

“I’m excited to play at a higher level,” Dempsey said. “I’m looking forward to not only the athletic challenge, but the academic one as well.”