For many athletes, the process of playing sports for college is a long and difficult one.
There are multiple paths to commitment or scholarships, but all involve a lot of work and dedication.
Coaches or recruiters don’t necessarily have to make first contact—students can reach out to schools first as well.
Senior volleyball player Mia Voss is one potential college student-athlete who communicated with a program’s coach in order to attract the attention and exposure needed to secure an athletic scholarship.
She emailed head volleyball coach Matt Helm at Whitman College, a liberal arts college in Washington, before going for an unofficial visit. While she has not yet made an official commitment, Helm has told Voss that he wants her in the program.
“He came to one of my tournaments and watched me play,” said Voss. “And then he saw interest in me.”
Communicating directly with coaches of college programs is becoming a common method of securing scholarship interest, and is even recommended by Branham’s athletic director Landon Jacobs in cases where an athlete is not approached with an offer.
“Most athletes are not going to get recruited in the sense where coaches are going to reach out to them,” says Jacobs. “Most athletes are going to work with their parents to do part of that process themselves.”
College commitments and scholarships are different for each student, however. There are multiple students at Branham who were approached by college coaches.
The process began in freshman year for senior soccer star Nicole Sweeney, who was spotted by recruiters at an Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) showcase. On that team Sweeney traveled to places across the country from New Jersey to San Diego playing in showcases where college coaches would watch players for recruitment purposes.
“There’d be tons of college coaches lined up at our games,” she said. “And for NCAA rules they’re not allowed to talk to us away from their campus until our senior year, so they would talk to our coaches.”
She verbally committed to Santa Clara University early in her sophomore year, and intends on signing a National Letter of Intent with Santa Clara.
“I’d say one of the biggest challenges is figuring out where I wanted to go,” said Sweeney. She believes that her communication skills and positivity are what make her stand out to coaches.
Junior Ashley Donaldson has also verbally committed to be a student athlete in college, pledging her softball services to UC Santa Barbara.
Donaldson’s recruitment process began when she was in seventh grade, and and she continued to attract interest from major programs across the country before verbally committing last year. According to Donaldson, she stood out because of her leadership and versatility on the field. While her path to a commitment has been a lot of hard work, Donaldson says it was fun as well.
“All you can do is trust in the process,” said Donaldson. “You can’t really force it.”
Whether a student is approached by coaches or they reach out to colleges themselves, Jacobs suggests starting early and making final decisions that would work for them in any circumstance.
“Actually what (student athletes) should be looking at is where they fit in academically, where they fit in athletically, where they’re going to fit in just in general,” Jacobs says, “just like a regular high school student.”