Recruiting Horror Stories™: Hurricane Dropped Me at the Wrong School

**Recruiting Horror Stories™ are posted every Tuesday to provide athletes’ first-hand experiences of what can go wrong during the recruiting process.

If you are thinking “Wizard of Oz”, well… it’s kind of like that. This is a story about how a hurricane held back a star athlete and changed his ambition for the sport he loved. 

John, a standout quarterback from Southern New Jersey dreamt of playing Division I football. He spent his high school years reaching out to coaches, researching DI stats, and perfecting his game to be a top candidate for the schools he was interested in. John’s goal was to end up at an academically challenging school where he could study Accounting. He also wanted his school to have “football culture”.  

When John found a Division I coach that was just as interested in him as he was in them, John was eager to visit and learn about the fundamentals of the team. The coach assured him that this school was very family-oriented and the team had a strong bond. John continued to pursue this college and made arrangements to visit in late spring of his senior year. Since the school was located in central Florida, John understood he would probably only get to experience the college in person once or twice before training began in the summer. As the weekend of his visit approached, John continued to talk to the coaches and some teammates and realized many of the players loved the school. Watching the news one night, John saw a hurricane coming for Florida that weekend. 

Related: School Ratings

Visit Cancelled
After staying updated with the weather all week, the coach notified John that the campus would be closed for the weekend. John was absolutely crushed, and a wave of anxiety rushed over him. With high school signing day quickly approaching, would John have enough time to reschedule a visit? Did he know enough about the school to commit before visiting? What other options did he have? John was tormented with these thoughts for the next week before realizing he didn’t have time to visit before signing day, but he had no time to reach out to other coaches anymore either. On signing day, John wore the college sweatshirt and hat and signed himself to this school, feeling excited but uneasy about the decision. 

Related: Recruiting Horror Stories™: My Family Influenced Me to Go to the Wrong School

A Thousand Miles from Home
That July, John found himself a thousand miles from home meeting his new “family.” It started out well. Training was rigorous but motivating. Upperclassmen teammates were stern but welcoming. And, the coaching staff seemed to care about individual success. With campus still desolate due to the semester not beginning yet, John was eager to see the college in full bloom. He spent his preseason training and getting to know the teammates. 

Related: Homesickness: The Effect on Schoolwork, Athletics, and Social Life

Suitcase Students
When the students returned two months later, John was truly underwhelmed. Students traveled from apartment to class almost robotically, with no recognition of the sports teams. There was no excitement around town for the start of the football season. Besides learning to juggle his coursework with his training, John felt no change on the campus when students were there. John learned that most students were “suitcase students” who packed up and drove the hour home for the weekend. As the first football game approached, John felt his hopes of attending a football-cultured school slipping from his grasp. 

Related: Coach Ratings

The Stands Were Bare
With his first game being against a school rival, John had high hopes for that week- getting pumped up with the team, finalizing the game plan, seeing advertisements and banners for the game, social media hyping the game up. There was not much of any of that- besides planning for the game. When John showed up to the game, the stands were bare. This did not bother upperclassmen at all. The freshmen on the team were uncomfortable by the lack of noise in the arena and the pressing idea that all their games may be just as empty. 

And they were. Every game that season, they were consistently disappointed. Nothing changed on campus or on social media; no interviews for the college website, no campaign to attract students to the games, still no advertisements. By the end of the season, John had talked to multiple other coaches, but no D1 schools were interested anymore. He made the difficult decision to transfer from D1 to D3, traveling back home to New Jersey at the end of the year, defeated. More than anything, John regrets not visiting the school before attending. Although he was promised a family-centered school with a strong bond, he didn’t know this was untrue until moving a thousand miles from home that summer.

* Originally published on September 28, 2021, by Mary Kate Donnelly

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