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The huddle

June 10, 2019

Recruiting Horror Story: The Coach Did Not Keep Her Promise

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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, 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 to 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 as 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 twins 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!

YOUR JOURNEY STARTS HERE