Ellen Berkeley takes the ball down the field for Wilson High School. (Photo: Leslie Hamilton)
As athletic juniors and seniors begin their college search, many consider athletics when going through the college process.
The decision is an important one—one that can affect what schools one is looking at and add another element to the college application process: contacting coaches to become recruited. I got in touch with Koby Yudkin, Cody Hoyt, and Benjamin Lin, all Catlin Gabel seniors, Ellen Berkley, a Wilson junior, and Juliana Hairston, a Grant senior, to ask them about their experiences with the college search and recruitment process.
CatlinSpeak: What sport do you want to play in college? What size of school you want to play at? What level (DI, II, III, NAIA)?
Koby: I want to play soccer at Bates College, [it’s] a DIII school with about 1700 students.
Benji: I plan on fencing in college. Since a large reason that I fence is to get into college, I don’t really mind what the size of the school I’m going to play at is. My top choice right now is MIT, and that’s DIII.
Ellen: I would like to play soccer in college at a school with [fewer] than 10,000 people at a DI, DII, or DIII school.
Juli: [I am] playing soccer, DI, and [I’ve] always wanted a big school!
CS: Why did you choose to play a sport in college?
Koby: I’ve played soccer for basically my whole life and I’ve heard really great things about playing sports in college. I’m really excited for it because I will get to meet a group of people before school even starts so it [won’t] be quite as awkward those first couple weeks.
Benji: I chose to play a sport in college because 1) it’s a way to stay healthy during college 2) you can easily join a community of friends early on and 3) it makes it easier to get into college if you can talk to the coaches and get an extra letter of recommendation.
Ellen: I want to play a sport in college for many reasons. Not only do I want to get to the next level of soccer and see where it goes, but I love the game, the exercise, structured schedule and practice time and student-athlete life. My high school experience has been made by sports […] I want to be a member of my college’s soccer team and balance sports, school, and social life just like in high school but the next step.
Juli: Because it pays for an education while getting to travel and be involved with a team.
CS: During the college search, did playing a sport affect the schools you chose to consider?
Koby: Not really, I knew I wanted to go to a smaller liberal arts school and they are basically all DIII when it comes to sports so it was basically a win-win.
Benji: Yes, I only applied to places that were part of the NCAA and had a varsity fencing team.
Ellen: I approached the college search with both school and soccer in mind. I chose colleges first for good academics [–] a great science and mathematics department. [Second] for location; I want to get out of Oregon for a new experience, but stay on the West Coast. [Thirdly for] size; [fewer] than 10,000 but not too small … once I start hearing back from these colleges for soccer, it will most likely affect the schools that I can choose.
Juli: Yes, it narrowed [my search], but I had no idea where I was looking so it was mostly based off of schools that [will] let me play!
CS: What is the most stressful thing (if anything) about contacting coaches and putting yourself on their radar?
Koby: There isn’t really anything stressful about it; all the coaches, at least the ones I talked to, were really friendly. I guess the most stressful part though is when you first send an email or call them and then have to wait for a call back, but that’s not really too bad.
Benji: The most stressful part is just approaching them and having the first talk about college applications with them. I was always nervous I wouldn’t have anything to talk to them about, so I always had to have questions for them. After that, I mostly just contacted my coaches with emails.
Ellen: The most stressful thing about contacting coaches and putting myself on the radar is the first email … [getting] myself out there and creating a good and memorable first impression as a person and a soccer player, reaching out and showing interest in their school and program. After
the first correspondence I believe it is not as stressful.
Juli: Setting up emails and contacting coaches before going to tournaments was stressful because you never really knew who was watching or going to come see you play.
CS: Do you think it is important for a coach to see you play in person? On video?
Koby: It’s definitely better for the coach to see you in person but most coaches will accept videos if it’s not feasible for them to see you play in person, like if you are talking to coaches across the country. Most schools have summer camps where you can go and train with their coach for a couple of days and see if you like the coach and they can watch you play.
Benji: I don’t know if that is actually important, or rather if they just need to know if you can get good results. You don’t have to be the best, but you have to at least contribute to their team. I don’t think them watching you is that important, but if they’re interested, they will probably watch you at least once.
Ellen: I think video is great for a first little introduction of what your game is like, but it is definitely important to have them see you play in person to get a close up and real life experience of your soccer and interactions with your team.
Juli: It’s most important to have the coach see you in person so they can watch you play a whole game and see everything you do.
CS: What are some strategies or principles that have worked or are good to use while trying to get recruited?
Koby: Definitely make a video so you can email it out just to get on [coaches’] radars. It also always helps to tell your high school or club coach that you want to play in college and where you are thinking; they can be an excellent resource for the college coach to talk to to get a better sense of your playing style and coachability.
Benji: Something that helped a lot was talking to my coach, and asking him to talk to the college coaches for me. He’s been in the field for a really long time, so he knows all of the college coaches and can give a really good recommendation.
Ellen: I would say make a video, [résumé], personalize each email to the schools you show great interest in and be yourself. Utilize your resources, coaches, teammates, parents and do your research, and be responsible with following up.
Juli: The first thing you have to do when getting recruited is make a [résumé] and email it to coaches. If you have something impressive on it, then they will email you back and you can go on from there.
Juliana’s process was slightly different than the others’ because she was looking to be recruited by a D1 school (Purdue) for soccer. She explained, “I got recruited when I went to a tournament and I had emailed the coach about me playing [in]. They came to see my games and later kept in contact with me, then they offered me a scholarship and verbally committed. I had to contact the Purdue coach before [he did] because of NCAA rules. I verbally committed fall of my junior year.” Juliana will be receiving nearly a full ride to Purdue for her commitment to playing soccer.
Cody Hoyt, a senior runner, on the other hand, made the decision that he did not want to play a sport in college.
CS: Why did you decide not to play sports in college?
Cody: I feel that at this point in life there is more to me than running. I love track and field and have enjoyed my time running in high school immensely, but at this point considering the commitment level expected of college athletes and the fact that it would limit my college search exclusively to [Division] III schools, I am choosing to end my competitive athletic career after high school.
CS: Are you planning on playing an intramural or club sport in college?
Cody: Yes! I am very excited at the prospect of playing intramural and club sports. They don’t really have club track and field in college, but I am excited about the prospect of playing other sports. I’ve always wanted to play ultimate frisbee but have been unable to as it runs parallel to track season.
CS: What is one tip you would give a sophomore coming into this process next year?
Ellen: I would say to a sophomore coming into the process, do your research and put time into the process to make sure schools [that] you email you like for [both] the school and soccer. It’s a fun process and if you want it enough and put in the work, it can happen for you.