Athlete Recruitments: An Untraditional College Process

Stuyvesant recruited athletes and recruit-hopefuls reflect on their recruitment processes.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

With summer on the horizon, many current juniors find themselves stressing over their impending college processes. From SAT preparations to last-minute summer internships to countless Common Application drafts, stress about college decisions is a feeling many Stuyvesant students know well. However, for a select few, college decisions depend not on final projects or test scores, but instead, they revolve around racing times or batting averages. While the college recruitment process is rarely highlighted by Stuyvesant college counselors, it has proven to be fruitful for several athletes.

One such athlete is senior Adele Bois, who was recruited for Division I Women's Fencing at Northwestern University. While Bois’s athletic career began at an early age, she only truly considered college recruitment to be a viable path for her after colleges had begun showing interest. “I started fencing in sixth grade at someone’s birthday party, and then I got hooked,” Bois said. “[However,] unlike a lot of people who are specifically looking at fencing as a way to get into college, I didn’t even really consider [recruitment] until I started getting offers and my coach encouraged me to [pursue recruitment].”

In contrast, junior Axel Riess, who was recruited for Division I Baseball at Dartmouth, had begun intensifying his training the summer after his freshman year. “After the end of my freshman year, I realized that I kind of had to start developing more if I wanted to play [in college]. That’s when I started [preparations for recruitment],” Riess said. 

Similar to Riess’s experience, Bois dedicated countless hours to developing her fencing abilities. “I’ve taken lessons with my coach for six years,” Bois said. “I practice five days a week and go to the gym as well. There’s definitely been sacrifices made for fencing but I’ve found ways to balance it all out.”

While Riess and Bois both credit much of their developmental success to their club teams, rather than Stuyvesant, other students lack that opportunity. Sophomore James Anderson, who hopes to be recruited for track and field, is currently a member of Stuyvesant’s cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track teams. “I only run for the Stuyvesant team[s], but I think my development could be better in a private program with a better coaching style than what we have in-house,” Anderson said in an e-mail interview. “The conclusion to my outdoor season was derailed by the lack of quality training we had been receiving, so private coaching may be in the cards for next year to get me to the next level.”

Though Anderson has not yet been officially recruited to a college team, he has already been forced to make decisions to prioritize his track training. “This year has pushed the limits of what is possible academically and athletically, as the nightly decision becomes ‘do I want eight hours of sleep to perform tomorrow in practice, or should I really be doing that extra credit?’” Anderson said. “When course selections came out, I came to the crossroads of taking four APs or running a D1-worthy time in the two mile next year. I chose to not take AP [Computer Science], instead getting more sleep and chasing my goals outside the classroom.” 

In contrast to Anderson’s sacrifices, both Riess and Bois have managed to balance their academics and sport, crediting it as a way for them to improve their time management skills. “Being at Stuy definitely has encouraged me to put academics first, but also being at Stuy and being an athlete for all of my life has taught me so much about time management and other skills that help me balance the two,” Bois said. “I’ve never felt like I’ve had to sacrifice one for the other.”

The college recruitment process technically begins in the fall of students’ junior year, although many athletes begin preparations much earlier. At this point, colleges are able to reach out to prospective students with offers for the athletes to continue their athletic journeys at their schools. For Bois, she began receiving offers very early in the process. “You can first get contacted by a college in the fall of your junior year, so the day colleges became eligible to contact you for Division 1, Northwestern reached out to me,” Bois said. “They were really on top of that, which was partly why I chose the school.”

Similar to Bois, Anderson has already been reached out to by many college coaches early on. During the biggest cross-country tournaments, there are coaches on the lookout for prospective athletes. “Lots of low-level college coaches [have] e-mail[ed] me, interested in starting the recruiting process now,” Anderson said. Anderson is interested in beginning talks about D1 offers in the following year. “Running D1 was more of a dream last year, but now I have laid the groundwork for it to become a reality next year.” 

Despite colleges’ own initiatives, a great majority of reaching out to coaches and schools often falls upon the student athletes. Additionally, the burden falls on students to attend showcases where colleges can review them. “The summer going into my junior year, on my summer team, we went to a bunch of tournaments and showcases,” Riess said. “I would reach out to the schools beforehand, and if they liked me, then they would talk to me a little bit after and we would communicate back and forth. I [would] send e-mails every month updating them and keeping touch, and we would have calls back and forth.”

While reaching out to schools may be intimidating for some students, Riess highlighted persistence as the most important factor in the recruitment process. “Definitely be persistent with coaches,” he said. “At first, I felt like I was being annoying, but they really don’t care about that. Just keep e-mailing, updating them, keep showing them videos of what you can do. And hopefully, it will work out.”

Following preliminary discussions, colleges bring students out to their campuses if they are interested in offering the student a spot on a team. “If they wanted to potentially give you an offer, they would fly you out to the school,” Bois said. “They take you out to the school, pay for a couple nights of dinners, you meet the team, you get a tour of the school. [This is] so you can really picture yourself there, and then they offer you [a spot] and you accept or not.”

While both Riess and Bois are excited to continue their sports in college, neither is currently set on pursuing the sport post-college or professionally. “I’m not really sure yet [if I’ll continue baseball professionally,” Riess said. “I guess I’ll figure that out in college, but [I wanted to] use baseball to get a good education. I probably wouldn't have been able to get into the school without it.” Riess is currently considering a career in economics or business.

Likewise, Bois emphasized the importance of prioritizing the development of a stable career pathway, rather than solely relying on a sport as a career. “There’s no professional fencing team unless you’re fencing for Team U.S.A., [and] it’s not the top of my goals to be an Olympian fencer,” Bois said. “I’ve always preferred to have a real career after college and pursue something I love in terms of a long-term life goal, rather than being an Olympian.” Bois will be majoring in journalism at Northwestern.

Overall, the most important thing for students to prioritize within the recruitment process is that they truly love what they’re doing—both the sport and the school they’re committing to. “It’s really important that you love your sport. There were times for sure when I was questioning the commitment I wanted to put through the sport in terms of college. It hit me once I signed that I actually have to sign for the team, so [you should] definitely know what you’re doing,” Bois said. “[Additionally], when you’re applying to colleges, don’t just do things for a resume boost. [...] Northwestern really fit because I loved it, not because it was an elite college. I felt really comfortable there, but especially for athletes, [the school you should choose is] where you feel most comfortable and where the teams and the coaches will support you the most.” 

Ultimately, when most students follow the traditional application route, recruitment can sometimes feel like an isolating process. Nevertheless, many athletes are able to achieve their goals with the support of their coaches and teams, as well as their friends and family, serving as inspiration for many college hopefuls, who, despite being enrolled at New York’s most academically rigorous high school, can still join colleges for their athletic prowess.