Before beginning this story, I want to clarify that the coaching staff involved in this situation are no longer apart of the Vanderbilt University women’s basketball staff. The names of the two women were also changed to keep them anonymous.
Emily and Ashley are twins from Quebec, Canada but played basketball in the United States at IMG Academy, which is a college prep school in Bradenton, Florida. Because of their talent, the twins were well known and established in both the United States and Canada. As with most twins, they had a very close relationship and they both made it clear that they wanted to attend the same college. Their talents earned them both a roster spot on Canada’s Senior B Women’s National Team.
Vanderbilt University was one of the many colleges that were trying to recruit Emily and Ashley during their first year (junior year) at IMG. They talked to the coaching staff multiple times a month for eight months straight before going on an official visit. When looking for a school, Ashley shared that “we were looking for great academics and a great team chemistry. Team chemistry is essential to us because being away from home we wanted to feel like we were at home in college.”
Along with Vanderbilt, the twins were also looking at other schools, including Michigan, the University of Miami, Texas, California, and Stanford. Their parents were both very supportive of their girl’s dreams, so they packed up and headed off to Nashville, Tennessee to see if Vanderbilt University was the right fit. Throughout their stay, Emily and Ashley were both impressed and thought that this could be a potential school. But, it is not uncommon for recruits to overlook or not recognize the red flags.
At the end of the visit, the head coach called them into her office. That meeting with the coach was uncomfortable for the twins and their parents due to the amount of pressure the coaches were putting on them to commit by the end of their visit. Specifically, Ashley said, “the head coach said if I didn’t commit right that second they would offer my scholarship to a recruit that was coming the weekend after. That meant I could lose my scholarship.” As recruits, we expect some level of pressure from the coaches to commit, but in this situation, it was a red flag to more significant issues in the program.
The coaches also told Emily and Ashley that if they committed they could and would play like guards. This role definition and the coaching staff’s commitment to the girls playing in this position was essential to both of the players as they felt they were not posts, nor did they want to play as posts. At the end of the day and due to the pressure that the girls felt the twins ended up committing to Vanderbilt University to play for the Commodores.
Emily and Ashley both committed to Vanderbilt and were on campus as active students and athletes starting in June. As the team workouts began at Memorial Gym, it was apparent to them that they were not going to play in their expected and promised guard roles. It ended up that the coaches lied to them and they put the twins solely in the post positions. The girls were devastated and confused, Ashley shared “Emily and I both wanted to transfer before the summer was even over.”
The twins stayed committed to our team and the program throughout the season, but when the season was over, they decided to transfer. Individually and respectfully, the girls went into the head coach and communicated their desire to transfer. Ashley had confided in me that the head coach tried to turn them against one another, the coach made up lies so at least one of them would stay. The girls asked for a meeting with the coaches to which they asked for a release from the program.
As athletes, we all experience the pressure from the coaches to commit. In this particular situation, it should’ve been a red flag due to the uncomfortable nature of the coach’s meeting. Ashley indicated she learned a lot through the whole experience at Vanderbilt and the transfer process. Ashely said she learned that she could not merely trust coaches when dealing with the recruiting process because some coaches will do anything to get the commitment. Ashley said she also gained the ability to differentiate the lies from the truth and to keep her circle small.
Looking back at Ashley and Emily’s experience, there were red flags throughout the program due to manipulation and impropriety. This was reflected in the high number of transfers out of the program in the four years that I was part of the program. Yes, I was the twin’s teammate. Eventually, the administration started investigating the concerns further, which led to one of the coach’s dismissal.
Some advice Ashley wanted to share was to “trust the process and know that you will have some up and down moments. It’s all about how you react to these moments. This process helps to build your character so you will become stronger.” Most importantly, she stressed the importance of not allowing college coaches to pressure you into making a decision that you are not ready for. The twins ended up transferring to the University of Texas. Go Longhorns!
When doing research in the recruiting process for my daughter I came across the LRT Sports website. I was immediately intrigued as this was another dimension of the recruiting process that many people don't even consider. My daughter and I could "short list" schools based on the education she was looking for, as well as the opportunity to play her sport. LRT Sports not only gave us pertinent information into the recruiting process with different interviews of coaches and players, it also gave us insight into current and/or former players' opinions on the coach of that school in her sport. We could use this information to re-prioritize my daughters list of schools based on this feedback. I have many friends that are, or will be, going through this process shortly and I highly recommend using LRT Sports as part of anyone's recruiting process.
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The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
Now that the recruiting process and the related stress is over, I wanted to thank you for your guidance. You did so much more than we had expected. Once you started the process by matching the best academic schools first, not the best sport programs, I knew you were the one. The way you laid out a timeline of contacting coaches, visits, and camps completely took any guesswork out of the plan for us. All of the student athletes that you put us in touch with gave us a look from the inside, and made us more comfortable knowing what was coming. Finally, using your website as a resource for knowing what to expect from different coaches based on former recruit reviews gave my son confidence before our meetings. There is no way we could have figured this out on our own, you really put us in a great position when decision time came.
I think hearing from other athletes is very beneficial. To be able to learn from people’s mistakes, and to be able to have access to those voices is really helpful; especially voices that have been there and done that. It’s very important for people to have access to information that could benefit them, and in this case there are many voices that can help the next wave of athletes.
If you have something that’s going to spell [the recruiting process] out for you… it’s so valuable. I think what everyone at LRT Sports is doing to spread the word and help advocate and educate athletes on the recruitment process is incredible.
Without question would have used LRT Sports. It would have probably been one of the most valuable tools that I could have had. If you want to know what these coaches are really like then I think this is the best tool out there. I’m really glad you are allowing recruits to have a resource like this moving forward.