The best piece of advice that I have ever received while being recruited came from my high school lacrosse coach. It is something every athlete needs to ask themselves. But, what if I get hurt and cant play, would I still want to go to this college without being on the team?
At the invincible age of 17, many do not give this question enough consideration. After the endless hours of practice, letter writing, camps, college visits and flipping through more pamphlets of schools that you did not know even existed being injured is normally the last thing on your mind. You are still debating who has the best program, what year will you touch the grass on the field, scholarship potential, and will I get along with the girls on the team. However, deciding on a college is a decision that is going to impact you for the next four years and beyond. Granted no one goes into their decision thinking, if I tear my ACL this is exactly the school I would want to be at. Rather, make sure you are taking it all in. It is so easy to wear blinders as a recruit especially because the coach, team and whatever activities are lined up during your trip are all there to sway you into deciding to come to that school. Buyer be warned, this could all be taken away with a career ending injury. Then you have more free time on your hands then you know what to do with and you are amongst the pool of regular students. So make sure that you like the school, its climate, its student body, extra activities and most importantly, that you leave with the education you came there to earn.
I have experienced college athletics from several different perspectives. The high school senior trying to find the best fit, the collegiate athlete experiencing things first hand, and now I am a college coach. Of course with "hinds sight always being 20/20" I would love to do it all again but in the opposite order. Going into my college experience knowing what I know now would have made some big differences in my story. That is not to say I did not enjoy myself, or have any regrets with the route I chose.
I graduated high school with several options, I could go to a mid-level Division I school and play soccer which was something I always wanted to do, however I was also being recruited at the Division II and III levels for basketball and lacrosse. I knew for a long time that soccer was what I wanted to pursue in college, so that decision wasn't the hard part, although putting down the basketball for good after high school did prove to be difficult. The hard part as it is for most high school seniors was choosing the school that was best for me.
Coming from the Philadelphia area, I wanted to stay relatively close to home. In the beginning I was talking to St. Joe's University, Villanova University, Drexel University, Lasalle University, and University of Delaware. As time went on I added some schools and dropped some others. My final selection came down to University of Delaware and Villanova University, both of which are Division I. Also, some Division II schools including West Chester University, East Stroudsburg University, and Millersville University. I had given some serious thought to two D-III schools in Virginia, but decided it was too far from home for me.
I went on my five official visits and narrowed the selection down even more. I ended up attending Millersville University in Lancaster County. It was a big change from my home town, and I went through a really tough adjustment period my first semester. I was looking at transferring about mid-way through the season when I wasn't starting and wasn't particularly happy with my playing time. However, I decided to give it another shot and stick it out and see what became of it and I was really glad I did. The campus was pretty big, and very nice. The school had about 8,000 students and there were always things to do, and good people to hang out with. While playing Division II lacked a lot of the perks and glamour of playing Division, the level was still remarkably high. I would say with the exception of my first year, I had an amazing experience playing at Millersville University, and it was because of the great teammates I had along the way.
Go on an overnight visit to whatever school you want to go to before you enroll! Whether you are looking to play sports, or just looking for a good education, the most important part of finding the right school for you, is finding a place where you can see yourself for the next 4-5 years of your life. Finding a place where you can fit in and feel at home is very important for your happiness.
Make sure you get a good impression from the coach of your particular school. Unfortunately there are a lot of players out there who do not like their coaches much. Many of them are justified in doing so. If you get a chance to talk to the players about the coach, do so! Learn as much as you can, you will find that a lot of the coaches out there are past their time, or really just don't know much about the game. Finding a school where you can respect the coach is important.
Choose a good academic fit. At the end of the day most of us probably aren't going pro in our sports. So chose a school that is going to accommodate your academic needs, because the bigger picture is more important in the long run than anything!
Ice hockey was my main sport and Radnor High School had a great up and coming team with a great coach so I was excited and hopeful that my hard work with the team would one day allow me to play at the collegiate level. As it turned out, in my senior year of high school the University of West Chester's Ice hockey coach contacted me and asked me if I was interested in applying and coming out to play for the team. It was an incredible experience to get recruited and having someone want you to come play for there team. I had only applied to a few other colleges but what made my decision a lot easier was the fact that the coach called and had me come out to a few practices meet the guys.
West Chester is a D-1 club team and they play some of the best competition in the world. My freshmen year was so much fun with all the traveling we do and be able to visit some of the top schools in the country such as The Naval Academy, Penn State, Ohio State, and West Virginia. Navy was my favorite trip and I especially enjoyed seeing all the ships and all the security they had on campus. It's something that I will never forget.
The last three years were great and I'll forever remember the championships, heartbreaking losses, bus trips to Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, Pittsburgh, they are something I will treasure forever and it's not because of the success of the team but the memories that were created in those games, and on those trips. I am very thankful I was able to play on a team in college. It made me a better student and person in the end and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing. The friends that I have made over my four years at West Chester have become a family to me and it's been a great time.
Put yourself out there to get noticed even if it's not somewhere you want to go opportunities will come arise from it.
If you decide to go to a school for a sport it doesn't mean you have to play but you should give it a chance even if you decide later that it's not for you.
From the beginning I was a competitive swimmer and I knew that I wanted to swim in college. For swimming, and many sports, your junior year is the most important year. I cannot stress that enough. It is the year that colleges really start to take notice of who are the standout athletes.
Fortunately for me, I swam for a fantastic High School team where college coaches visited our program on a weekly basis. Once July came around coaches started calling and the process became very exciting. These calls were long, but gave me good insight into which schools were really interested. Coaches flew down to see me perform, eat dinner at my house and try to win me over. All of this attention was fantastic; however what it really came down to was what did I want? Where did I want to go to school? Where would I feel most comfortable? What program would take me the furthest? Being selective is very important as you do not want to waste the coach or your time. My advice is to also notice what coach is constantly contacting you, is it the assistant or is it the head coach?
I took my trips to University of Tennessee, Auburn University, University of Florida, Villanova University and Southern Methodist University. My first trip was to University of Tennessee very early on. For anyone going through recruitment make sure that you keep your eyes and mind open and dont let other programs no where you stand. Many programs assumed I was going to choose University of Tennessee, however I ended up deciding to go to Auburn University. I chose Auburn University because of my experience there, the great letter I received days after my visit, the fact that one of my high school teammates was in the program and of course that I new they would be a top program.
On a side note, Villanova University was amazing. I loved the small environment and that it was right outside of Philadelphia. The coach showed me an amazing trip and it was hard to inform him that I chose Auburn. Therefore, I made it a point to be friendly every time I saw him at a competition because you never know what lies in the future. Therefore, you should always be kind and considerate to the programs that you turn down and for me it paid off as a year after being at Auburn University, I decided it wasnt the right fit for me.
Once released, which is a process, I was able to start the school search and visiting process all over again. I looked at Notre Dame University, University of Virginia, Syracuse University and Villanova University. I was now one year older and wiser so to look at the academics first then the program. As it turned out, Villanova University was the perfect fit and I never to this day regret the decision I made to become a Wildcat.
As a high school athlete thinking of being a collegiate athlete you must weigh your pros and cons, think about now but also think about the future and open your mind to new locations and new experience. For me moving from Florida to the North East was an adjustment but one that allowed me to grow as a person as I explored a new cultural experiences. Also, look at the team and ask yourself if you would consider these people as family one day, because that is one college teammates end up being like.
The recruiting process is a blast, trust me, but do bring a journal and take notes. Be yourself, not someone else and listen to your heart and your head.