The Take on College Sports from High School Seniors: A Look into the Recruiting Process

Jeremy Gillett (he/him), Reporter

Collegiate athletics—a dream for many athletes in high school. Playing a sport in college takes an abundance of skill and dedication, and very few have what it takes. In fact, only one in 13 athletes plays a sport in college, and only one in 57 plays at a D1 school. Let’s say you have the skill and dedication though. What’s next? Firstly, look for a school which you’re interested in, unrelated to sports. In general, it is better to choose a school that has the academics you desire, rather than focusing on its athletics program. This is important because very few athletes play professionally, so they need to be  set up well for life after college. In collegiate sports, there are three main divisions: Division 1, Division 2, and Division 3. D1 schools are the most competitive athletically, with D2 and D3 being slightly less competitive. However, playing college sports at any division is very impressive, and the “D1 or Die” mindset isn’t always the optimal plan of action. After researching a school’s athletic program, the next step is usually to reach out to the school. Schools are not allowed to respond or reach out to athletes until the summer after their junior year, so most athletes only reach out after this point. The most skilled athletes are often recruited by colleges without having to contact the college first; however, most athletes reach out to the coach of their sport at their desired college themselves. If the athlete meets the standards of the school both athletically and academically, the coach will invite the athlete for an official visit. Athletes are allowed to take five official visits to colleges during their recruiting process. Official visits involve meeting the coach and the team, often accompanied by a brief stay on campus. After these visits, an athlete faces the tough decision regarding the best available fit. This is known as commitment, and there are different time frames for when it happens. At Niwot, some of our student-athletes committed in November, and more will likely officially commit in the spring. This recruitment and commitment process is different for each sport and every athlete, so some of our committed student athletes shared their insight on how it worked for them. 

 

First up is Zane Bergen, who is going to Stanford University to run both cross country and track. 

 

What was the college recruiting process like for you? 

The college recruiting process for me was very fun. It’s one of the only times in life where people are trying to sell to you (why you should go to their college) similar to a car salesman.

 

Did more schools reach out to you or was it the other way around? Was your experience similar to other prospective student-athletes? 

For me, the recruiting process was different than many in that all the colleges reached out to me. This is unusual as in running you normally need to reach out to the college to get offers. 

 

When did schools start recruiting/when did you start reaching out? Which season was most important for getting you into college? 

I started getting recruited after my junior year cross country season. I don’t really think there was an important season. Instead there was consistent progression throughout my high school career.

 

Do you know if you’re redshirting your freshman year? Do most athletes redshirt their freshmen year?  (Redshirting is a process done for a lot of sports where a freshman does not compete; instead the athlete trains and gets used to the intensity of a collegiate program.)

I do not know if I’m going to redshirt my freshman year yet. It depends on the cross season and what coach chooses. 

 

What are you planning on studying at Stanford?

I don’t really know yet. I’m thinking maybe computer science or physiology. 

After speaking with Zane, Stella Vieth talked about her experience with recruitment. Stella is running both cross country and track in college at Princeton University.

 

When did you decide you were going to Princeton? What other schools were you considering?

I decided to go to Princeton after I took an official visit in September. I absolutely loved the team, coaches, and the school in general. I was looking at USC, Wake Forest, and Northwestern as well.

 

Was your decision before most other athletes? How was your process similar and different to other athletes?

My decision was around the same time as most other athletes. The process was similar to others because of the support on your application from coaches. It was a little different because the Ivy League sends out ‘likely letters’ that indicate whether you are likely to get into their school.

 

Did you reach out to schools or was it the other way around?

I met the Princeton Coach in July at Nike Track Nationals and that is how I was introduced to Princeton. I reached out to other schools and had some schools reach out to me. Most athletes both reach out and are reached out to.

 

Do you know if you’re redshirting your freshman year?

The Ivy League does not redshirt their athletes so I will get to run my freshman year.

 

What are you planning on majoring in at Princeton?

I’m planning on majoring in chemistry, but I’m not entirely sure yet.

Next, Mary Codevilla who is committed to University of Notre Dame for swimming, shared her thoughts.

In general, how does the recruiting process work for swimming? Does the athlete usually reach out to the school or is it the other way around? 

The recruiting process for swimming begins on June 15 of the summer right after an athlete’s sophomore year of high school. Before then, swimmers may reach out to the school, but the school is not allowed to respond. Then, on June 15, schools will generally reach out to the athletes expressing interest. And finally, more down the line in the process, schools will fly athletes out to campus for an official visit. 

What other schools were you looking into? Why did you decide on Notre Dame?

I was looking into Notre Dame, Michigan, UCLA, and UC Berkeley. My recruiting process was different due to Covid—there was a recruiting dead period within the NCAA. This meant that there weren’t allowed to be any in-person interactions with coaches or athletes on respective teams. There were also no official trips. So my only contact with schools was online, through phone calls and Facetimes, as well as unofficial no contact visits. I visited all of the schools mentioned above unofficially, and Notre Dame was by far my favorite. Notre Dame has a community unlike any other not only within the swim team, but just in general with athletics, the school itself, and the alumni. I knew Notre Dame would set me up for life academically and athletically. The team and coaches were so welcoming, and I felt as if I was already a part of the team. 

When did you commit to Notre Dame? Was this earlier or later than most other swimmers?

I decided to commit to Notre Dame in November of 2020, at the start of my junior year. This was earlier than most other swimmers.

What season is most important for getting into college for swimming? 

There is no particular season important for getting into college; any competition a swimmer attends can be considered important in order to get times. 

Do most swimmers redshirt their freshmen year? Are you planning on redshirting your freshman year? 

Swimmers do not usually redshirt their freshman year, and I do not plan to redshirt my freshman year. 

What are your best events right now? What events are you going to be swimming in college? 

My best events right now are 100 and 200 breaststroke, and 200 free and Individual Medley. However, although these are my best events, I do not know what I’ll be swimming in college.

What are you planning to major in?

I am planning to major in Science Preprofessional Studies, also known as pre-med!

 

 

Finally, Zoe Gibbs talked about her recruiting process. Zoe is going to the University of Northern Colorado for volleyball. 

 

What’s the college recruiting process like for volleyball players? 

The recruiting process varies for every athlete, especially with the pandemic. Covid-19 had a huge impact on the recruiting process for me. I started sending emails to coaches with my recruiting information and highlight videos my freshman year. Direct communication with college coaches and recruiters is not permitted until June 1st going into junior year, however once the lockdown started, a “dead-period” was implemented which indefinitely prohibited any in-person contact or viewing of athletes. A huge part of recruiting for volleyball is watching athletes play live, so this significantly prolonged the process for me, as I wanted to avoid commiting until I could be seen live. The dead-period was in place from March 2020 to June 2021. Once it was lifted I was able to commit to the University of Northern Colorado.

 

Did you reach out to colleges or did they reach out to you? How do most athletes do it?

In the past, recruiting was almost completely done through coaches watching athletes at large tournaments and National Qualifiers. However, with the “dead-period” it was crucial to take initiative and contact schools you were interested in because they were not able to watch live, so I sent out emails to schools several times a month. I uploaded highlight videos and uncut game film to Youtube and a handful of recruiting websites, and some colleges reached out to me from there.

 

When did you decide to go to UNC? 

I committed to UNC in July 2021. Schools are not able to make offers to athletes until after June 1st going into their Junior year, however COVID-19 hugely impacted recruiting for me, extending my timeline to much longer than I anticipated.

 

What were your other top schools? 

Throughout the process I was in consistent contact with several schools. Some of my top schools I was interested in were University of Missouri KC, University of Northern Iowa, Washburn, University of New Mexico, MSU Denver, and University of Arkansas.

 

Do most athletes redshirt their freshman year in volleyball? Are you redshirting?

It really depends on the program. Some coaches redshirt athletes frequently, and some do not. It is a great chance to get a year of practice and adjust to the academics before competing. I will not be redshirting my freshman year.

 

Are you excited about going to college in Colorado? How does it feel to be playing for UNC? 

I am very excited to stay in Colorado for college. The schedule for Division 1 volleyball is very demanding, with a ton of travel. It can be a very difficult transition between all of the travel and the schedule, so being a little closer to home can make it less stressful. I am super excited to play at UNC because I have been doing camps there for years and have come to know the 

coaches and program very well. Many of the UNC players help coach at Norco Volleyball Club where I play, and I intend on doing the same.

 

What position do you play? Are you playing this same position in college?

For High School I have been a six rotation outside hitter, and for Club I have generally been a middle hitter. This season (18s), I have primarily transitioned to be an outside hitter. In college I will most likely be a middle or pin hitter.

 

What are you planning to major in?

I am planning on majoring in psychology.

 

College sports are a great opportunity for the best high school athletes, and they often make college a much cheaper and enjoyable experience. The recruitment process is integral to collegiate athletics, and it’s important to inform interested high school athletes about how they can play their desired sport at the next level.