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March 20, 2017

Recruiting Horror Stories by LRT Sports™ | College Recruiting Gone Wrong

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The path and process of being recruited by a college to play a sport can vary with each case. Some have great memories of their recruiting process, while others look back with regret or frustration. While most student-athletes fall somewhere in between that spectrum, there are some outliers, for instance, my high school friend Sam, whom I spoke with about his experience. 

Sam was a standout offensive lineman in high school whom I played with; he was recruited to play Division III football at Wheaton College in Illinois. His talents earned him recognition from a long list of Division III schools. He was reluctant to go through the recruiting process, especially since he was unsure of his desire to play football after high school. Sam ultimately committed to Wheaton and went to Illinois for preseason camp.

What happened to Sam once he arrived on campus in early August was much different than what he expected. The coaches had assured him that his academics would come first, and they told him that he would come to love being a part of the Wheaton, football family. After his arrival, however, he soon learned that his expectations were not going to be fulfilled.

Most freshman athletes have a period where it is hard to get acclimated; this can be highly stressful – you are in an entirely new environment with new people and many new responsibilities. Sometimes this new environment can be made to feel much worse by college coaches. After preseason ended and school began, Sam quickly learned that many of the classes he wanted to take conflicted with practice. Football required film sessions, lift times, and practices and did not allow for him to take the classes he wanted to. The coaches had assured him he would have the flexibility and ample time to study, the countless hours committed to football and lack of academic resources made it virtually impossible for him to keep up. Also, the playing time he was promised was denied to him. Even when Sam attempted to reach out to the coaches and explain his situation, the coaches blamed him for his poor performance and offered little to no help.

Although Sam had never considered leaving the program, the dishonesty and unavailability of the coaches contributed to him making a callous decision. After his freshman fall, Sam decided to not only leave the program but the school as well. He had been on the fence about playing football in college, especially thousands of miles from home, and his experience had completely tarnished his passion for football. Sam was a good student but knew he had to take more time on specific projects than others, and the time commitment to football wouldn’t allow him to keep up. Having coaches that were not understanding and dishonest during the recruiting process also didn’t sit well with Sam, who wanted what his coaches had promised him.

What was the most important thing you learned from this experience?

“The most important thing I learned was probably not to let other people convince me into a situation I was unsure of. I had always either planned on picking a school just based on academics or maybe pursuing other options until coaches started calling me and making all these promises. Just because of a connection with a coach over the phone or in-person during recruiting happens, it doesn’t mean they care as much as they say they do. Despite the bad experience at school, a positive thing it taught me was to stand up for myself and do what I want to do, regardless of what someone else says.”

What is the most important piece of advice you would give a recruit who is going on a visit?

“I would say just don’t be intimidated. Take some time to think of questions you want to be answered and get a straight answer. It can be easy to fall into the trap of having older people tell you what to do and what’s best for you, but in the end, it’s all up to you.”

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