All of us are aware that being a Division I athlete is an incredible honor, challenge, and time commitment. It is not a gift presented on a silver platter, but rather a goal that high school athletes strive for their entire athletic careers. These athletes are the stand-out stars of their sports at their respective high schools. They are members of multiple teams and have dedicated families who travel throughout the country so that they can compete at a high level. They know the value of dedication, commitment, hard work, and perseverance. They strive to be the best in what they do.
Playing for a high school team is a huge time commitment by itself, but elite high school athletes who plan to play for a college team also participate in regional club sports. Emily Fuss, a freshman goalie for Dickinson’s Division III field hockey team, when asked about her experience with club teams, discussed the time commitment of playing a club sport: “A lot of tournaments were out of state, including Virginia, Arizona, and Florida… I played all-year … for my club so when I finished with my high school field hockey team in the fall, I would go right into training with my club team for the winter, spring, and summer.” Matt Greskoff, freshman Division I baseball player for Villanova University, played for summer baseball travel teams whose tournaments, often attended by college recruitment scouts, were located throughout the East Coast. Colleen Hickey, a member of Villanova’s women’s volleyball team, traveled all over the country with an extremely competitive club team that played from the end of the high school season to the middle of July. If you want to get recruited, you have to play for high intensity teams whose tournaments act as showcases for scouts.
Being dedicated to a sport often influences what colleges high school athletes choose to consider. Sometimes playing a sport can be helpful in that it limits the number of schools an athlete chooses to apply to. However, being an athlete can also be detrimental if the schools that want you to play for their team do not meet your academic standards. Emily Fuss never considered a university that would not allow her to continue playing field hockey – she loved the sport too much to give it up after high school. Alex Stensland, freshman ice hockey player for Lake Forest College, felt the same way: “I looked at colleges that had at least a club hockey program for women because it’s something that I’m passionate about and really wanted to continue into college.” Alex Rainone, a member of Fordham University’s crew team, had difficulty finding a school that balanced both her academic preferences and her athletic preferences. Athletes like Colleen Hickey and Matt Greskoff choose schools that aren’t necessarily their top choice but are the ones that will provide them with the most playing time so they can continue playing the sport they love.
Surprisingly enough, academic performance is very important to most universities looking to recruit athletes for their programs. Division III schools like Dickinson do not give out athletic scholarships. They place heavy importance on academic excellence. As Emily said, “We are students before we are athletes, and our coaches follow that rule.” Many coaches believe that hard work in the classroom translates to hard work on the field. At Division I schools, academics are still extremely important, but coaches can influence the acceptance decision of a recruit to help them get into the university.
Sources: interviews with Emily Fuss, Matt Greskoff, Colleen Hickey, Alex Rainone, & Alex Stensland