College Athletic Recruiting: What’s In A Commitment?
This past weekend, I was on the sidelines (yet, again!) at one of my daughter’s sporting events, when the discussion of the parents that were watching the game turned to college athletic recruiting. One mother commented that she heard that a girl who played for another team was already “committed” to one of the Ivies as a sophomore and the whole family was incredibly excited that their daughter was all set with where she would be attending college. Another parent chimed in that she was quite surprised to hear this because, though this female athlete was very accomplished on the field of play, she was not much of an achiever in the classroom.
Yet, another parent mentioned that she’d heard that the same Ivy League institution had gotten commitments this year from no less than 7 female athletes for the same sport from her local high school, and these students, too were either sophomores or juniors. She added that only a couple of them were particularly strong students, as far as she knew.
If you do the math, that makes for 8 girls being recruited for and committed to the same Ivy League team between just two high schools — and those were just the players that we knew of! Most collegiate teams in the sport we were discussing carry about 25 players on their rosters. So, how could it be when there are so many high caliber high school players in the country, that athletes coming from just these two New Jersey high schools alone could potentially populate almost one-third of this Ivy League school’s roster?
Sounds like an SAT question, right? So, let’s have some fun. Following are three statements that could answer the question posed above. Choose which one(s) you think are true:
- Those NJ high schools really crank out the best athletes anywhere.
- The “commitments” are not a guarantee of admission to the school. Once the students go through the admissions process, most of them may find themselves not getting accepted to the school.
- Most of those athletes will never play for that school. Coaches will promise more players a spot on the team than they have the ability to roster.
a) #1 only
b) #2 only
c) #3 only
d) #2 and #3 together
e) None of the above
If you guessed answer d) #2 and #3 together, you are correct!
While the word “commitment” sounds steadfast and secure, in college athletic recruiting, a commitment is anything but! Coaches may be genuinely interested in having an athlete on their team, and thus, lead the player to believe she has a spot. But, when it comes to colleges — especially highly selective schools such as the Ivy League — it’s the Admissions Offices that have the final say, not the coach. The coach can only advocate to Admissions for a certain, usually small number of players. So, if an athlete is not a great student, and not at the tippy top of the coach’s recruiting list — which, by the way, might be very long — then the player might find whatever commitment was made to be meaningless, because Admissions won’t approve the application.
Why do coaches lead all of these players on? A coach’s goal is to field a winning team with the best possible players that the coach can find. Unfortunately, this goal means that the coach doesn’t really focus on the best interests of the individual high school athlete. If a player is “promised” a roster spot in her sophomore year, that means that the coach still has another year and a half, at least, to be exposed to other players who the coach may ultimately prefer. What if the committed player gets injured or doesn’t develop on the early potential that the coach originally saw? The player will drop on that coach’s list, and the coach will not push for that student to be admitted because he will be less interested in having the athlete play on his team.
As a student-athlete going through the recruiting process it’s important to know where you stand in the coach’s mind at all times. Even if you’ve “committed,” you should regularly ask the coach where you are on his list of potential recruits. If you’re not near the top, don’t get too comfortable with your commitment. It may be time to look beyond that school.