Almost every high school athlete has the dream of making it to college one day. Especially to play D1 sports. But often, the uncertainty of the recruiting process and the sheer excitement of getting recruited in the first place cloud the reality of what student-athletes will face when they arrive several years later.
My Recruiting Process
I will never forget the day I received my first recruiting letter. I was in 8th grade, got home from school, and saw an envelope with a Louisiana State University seal on the table. Instantly, I was overcome with joy. The feeling of pride is almost overwhelming. All those long days of practice and competition finally feel worth it. Then, more letters started coming in, phone calls with coaches, visits, and eventually, the first offer. It makes you feel so... wanted.
It becomes very easy to get caught up in it all and feel like you are on top of the world. Most athletes will go through the process and solely focus on which school has the best athletic program, seems the most fun, or has the strongest academics. Everyone has their own set of priorities. But what people often fail to realize is that there are so many different variables that affect your experience as an athlete.
There is the campus, the coaches, the team, the staff, the conference, the level of play, the city, the traditions, the social life, the professors, the majors offered, the location, the travel schedule, the campus living, the size of the school, and even whether the school colors look good with your hair.
When I began to think through my list of priorities, I started by laying out my non-negotiables. I wanted to be part of a top 50 academic school, a top 50 athletic program, wanted to be relatively close to home, know the coach I was committing to wouldn’t be leaving, and have incredible teammates. To me, that seemed fairly simple at the time. Everything about my recruiting process was great until I received my first big rejection.
From Rejection To Tulsa
I had visited about ten schools and finally made the decision that I was going to commit to an ACC school. It checked off most of my criteria and although it didn't 100% capture my heart immediately, it seemed like the right choice. So, I called the head coach and told her that I was excited to make my commitment. Unfortunately, she told me that she no longer felt it was a good fit and that my offer was revoked. I choked back some tears, thanked her, and said goodbye.
I was crushed. I was going into my junior year club season and was beginning to feel like my time was slipping away. Maybe, college volleyball just wasn’t in my future? But I wasn’t willing to accept that. Therefore, I was eager to put everything into my club season so that I could find my perfect school. In March, I visited three more schools and the last one was Tulsa. It had a top 50 business school, a top 50 volleyball tradition, the head coach was from Tulsa and his alma mater was TU, it was only an hour flight from Houston, and I really related to the girls. Two weeks after visiting, I called to accept my offer.
Reflecting On My Career
I am now in my senior year at The University of Tulsa and am nearing the end of my volleyball career. And although I have never competed for a national championship or received an All-American award, I find my athletic career to be a success for many other reasons. Four and a half years later I can say that I made the right decision. Obviously, there were plenty of challenging times as well, but talk to any senior college athlete and I bet they will say the same.
Ironically, each of the non-negotiables that I laid out before, impacted my time here at TU and will have a major influence on my future path. Through academics, I landed a job at a Fortune 10 company. Athletically, I earned all-conference honors. In my teammates, I have found lifelong friends. And best of it all, my family was there to see me do all of this.
My advice to younger athletes is that it will not always be easy, it will not always be fun, and it will not always seem worth it. But if you pick a school based on the things that are most important to you, you will get to look back in five or six years with a smile on your face.