With thousands of colleges around the country, choosing just one is not an easy task. For student athletes, that decision process is complicated even further — not only do they have to consider factors like academic and personal preferences, but also team dynamics, coaching style and division level.
Being recruited, however, can help narrow that field. To get a better understanding of how that process works for prospective RIT athletes, members of the sports community weighed in on their own experiences.
Through the Coach’s Eyes:
When asked what type of attributes coaches look for in athletes when they are starting to the recruiting process, RIT men's hockey coach Wayne Wilson touched upon many different aspects. “We’re looking for really their raw skills,” he said. “How smart are they on the court, the field, the ice?”
The skill set in question may vary from year to year, however. Depending on the current team, certain positions may need to be filled before others. “You’ve got to evaluate ... you always think you know what your needs are, but you don’t know until you start playing,” explained Wilson.
Along with filling the needed positions, coaches also look into how potential players may fit into the team dynamics. “We also want them to see us practice or play ... just to see where they think they fit in, if they could see themselves on this team, or playing for this team,” expressed Wilson.
“Most people on a visit are very good with the coaches ... it’s interesting once they get with their peers, what they are kind of like,” he elaborated. “We value what our players say about them, because they will be a lot more open with our players than they would be with us."
Wilson also ensures that his prospects interact with the current group of first year students. “If they’re going to spend time with our players, they’re going to spend it with our freshmen. Everything is new to them, and they’re going through a lot of the things these recruits will be asking about,” he explained.
Wilson also highlighted the importance of making sure the school is the right academic fit as well. “I think it’s good for student athletes, or anyone, to put a list together of what they’re looking for in a college,” said Coach Wilson. “Go into it and have a list of things that are important to you, or you think are important to you at that particular time, and then see how many boxes the schools check off.”
Sometimes RIT does serve as the perfect combination of athletics, personal needs, and academics. However, it is inevitable that this will not be the case for everyone. Some students on the fence end up selecting a different university and it's up to coaches to recognize and accept this.
“Sometimes you’re just not a good fit, and as much as we want a player, if it’s not a good fit and you’ve got to just let them go,” explained Wilson. “We try not to put much pressure on kids, because we want them to want us as much as we want them.”
Through the Athlete’s Eyes:
When asked about her recruiting experience, Amanda Olsen, a third year Packaging Science major and a forward on the women’s basketball team, gave positive feedback about what she remembered. “It was kind of a cool experience, knowing that all these different schools want you from all different divisions,” she described.
She gave a brief synopsis of the process, and her account followed along with many of the things Wilson mentioned.
“You get tours with the coach, so it’s your own individual tour guide through the school. You do official visits, so you stay over with the girls and get to know them,” Olsen recalled.
Olsen also participated in a practice during her visit, in order to give the basketball program a better sense of her playing style.
“[The coaches] kind of lurk around and see how you interact and how you react to things, and I like to keep a positive vibe out on the court, so I think that is one of the things that helped me stand out from the others,” she explained.
Not only do these visits help inform the coaches' decision, but they also give the prospect student a better sense of the school and the team. “The overnight visits give the girls or guys a good feeling of where they’re going,” said Olsen. “The RIT girls brought me in. It’s like a big family, so those girls were kind of the deal maker.”
Just like Wilson's recommendation, Olsen made sure to take in RIT's academics into account when it came time to make her decision. Since she was still undecided in what she wanted to major in, Olsen knew she wanted a school that would provide her with ample opportunities.
“I was getting recruited by a bunch of different schools, and I narrowed it down to RIT and Catholic University in DC,” explained Olsen. “I was kind of interested in teaching Special Ed, but I wasn’t sure and Catholic [University] had that, and RIT also had all the majors you could ever think of — so I narrowed it down for school.”
In the end, she chose RIT, as it seemed to be the right fit for her. So far, Olsen's experience at RIT has aligned with what she initially set out to look for — she has found her major and has had plenty of successful seasons as part of the basketball team.
While the process ranges from sport to sport and school to school, overall the same patterns seem to follow. Coaches are looking for athletes who work well with their team and student athletes are looking for teams they will be able to fit into. Although choosing the right school is rarely easy, going through the recruitment process allows prospects to get an even better understanding of the university they may end up competing for during their college careers.