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August 30, 2021

Athlete’s Recruiting Ended when Coach and Assistant Coach Get Fired

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Tommy Elwood was in elementary school when he realized he had a talent for running. He was signed up for a race in the 4th grade that would ultimately start his athletic career within Cross Country/Track and Field. He remembers placing in the top 10 because the top 10 runners were given a T-shirt; that T-shirt: “Inspired him to keep running.”

That race, as well as a summer camp he attended for cross country, helped Tommy realize his love for running. 

After middle school, he further realized his talent and passion for running when he was able to compete on the varsity team as a high school freshman. He continued to stay on the cross country and track teams all throughout high school until his senior year was tragically canceled due to the pandemic. This talent and passion, however, did not protect Tommy from his own Recruiting Horror Story™.

The Recruiting Process Begins

Tommy started his college recruiting process sophomore year putting himself on a recruiting website to help him get noticed and make the transition as easy as possible for himself and his parents. This website seemed to be a good start: “I was getting a lot of messages and emails through that website.” The colleges that were trying to get in contact with him were on the lower-level competitively, however because he was not making the times that would set him apart. Once he got older and was able to meet his goal times, he began to attract the attention of bigger programs. Even some Division I schools such as DePaul University and Western Illinois University began to notice him. 

Tommy was contacted by a small school Division III in Indiana. He and the coach were emailing and calling regularly to get more information and make sure this was the right school for Tommy. The coach’s wife, who also happened to be the assistant coach, was in contact with Tommy as well. Tommy was even in contact with current athletes within the program, which helped him feel “really welcomed” within the program.

It all seemed to be going smoothly. Until Tommy was then struck by some information that he did not see coming. 

Related: 5 Questions You Might Have about the College Recruiting Process

Head and Assistant Coaches Fired

Tommy received a call from someone he had never met, introducing himself as the head coach at the school where Tommy was being recruited. Confused, his first reaction was to call the coach he had been in contact with.

When he confronted the coach and his wife, they told him that they were both fired from their positions at the school and were therefore unable to continue recruiting him into the program. He suggested that Tommy was “more than welcome to contact the new head coach.” 

This school was a top choice for Tommy at the time, so he listened to the previous coach and continued to keep in contact with the new head coach throughout his recruiting process. Unfortunately, after exchanging emails and phone calls with the new coach, Tommy did not seem to connect with him in the way he had with the previous coach. The new coach described his vision for the future of the program, which was not the same vision that Tommy wanted to be a part of. 

Related: Lack of Head Coach Brings Women’s Soccer Team Closer Together

Ending the Recruiting Process with His Initial First-Choice School

Even though he was looking at other schools during this time, this was a setback for Tommy and his parents. They would have to find other schools and restart the whole recruiting process, talking with current athletes and coaches, and visiting the schools to find the right one. Starting fresh eventually led him to find DePaul University, a Division I school.

After coming into contact with the coach at DePaul, he was getting to know him and “telling him about a few of his races.” He talked about the times he was getting and specific races that he had participated in. While the coach was getting to know Tommy, Tommy wanted to get to know the coach. Making sure the coach and he worked well together and had similar visions for the team was important to Tommy. 

Promising Recruiting with a Division I School

Over the next few months, the coach stayed in touch with Tommy to ensure he applied to the school and eventually to invite him to visit the school. Tommy went on an official visit, where he practiced with the team, stayed in the dorms, and even went out to eat with part of the team. He said he enjoyed the visit and felt like the “culture here was a lot more family-based” than other schools he had looked at.

Compared to other schools, Tommy felt that there was a “job to be done” at DePaul. He felt that he was there for a reason. After his DePaul experience, “I enjoyed the school so much, there were a lot of amenities that DePaul had that other schools didn’t have.”

Related school rating: DePaul University

Picking the Best Fit

After getting the full experience of a day in the life of a DePaul Blue Demon, he went home and took all his schools and offers into account. He said the DePaul coach helped him get as much financial aid as he could, which obviously is a big factor for choosing a college. A couple weeks after his visit, he texted the coach, ready to commit.

Overall, the entire recruiting process was “pretty stressful. For me, it was a little less stressful because I had my parents along with a recruiting officer who really helped the whole process.” He describes all the coaches as easy to work with, and the practices as “pretty fun.”

Although it is fun visiting different schools, it comes down to the tough decision of where he would be the best fit and realize the most success. While this process and decision can be exciting and challenging for all athletes, every step along the way brings you closer to your future school and team.