Edited by Jaime Evers
Imagine being given an opportunity to attend your dream school, and at the last second, having it ripped away from you. This is precisely what happened to a young track and field athlete from New Jersey in his Recruiting Horror Story™.
From a very young age, Justin Giacobbe knew he wanted to attend a prestigious school for both academic and athletic reasons. Growing up, he played numerous sports from baseball and lacrosse to track & field. Justin was proficient in both baseball and lacrosse from a young age, but he chose to focus on track & field throughout high school. In high school, Justin was a three-year Varsity athlete in indoor and outdoor track & field.
An Athlete’s Potential
The young athlete blossomed as an upperclassman in high school; he ended up becoming all-county in both the 600-meter run and 800-meter run, and first-team all-county in the Distance Medley Relay. With personal records of sub 54 seconds in the 400m and sub-1:30 in the 600m, he was ultimately becoming one of the premier long-sprinters in Bergen County. He also was a team captain in both sports his senior year – a testament to the dedication and leadership skills he developed throughout high school. He was also an exceptional student who wanted to attend a university at a high academic level. Due to his high expectations and athletic ability, he entered the recruiting process with dreams to run in college.
Starting the fall of his senior year, he began to receive attention from colleges. He kept in touch with numerous coaches through email threads or social media platforms to ensure that he kept his options open. Due to the wide range of coaches that he kept in contact with, he went on numerous unofficial visits and was scouted at almost every outdoor track and field meet. He was seriously recruited by colleges in the Centennial Conference and numerous NESCAC schools. He was most interested in attending a particular university in the Centennial Conference because of the location and the strength of their track and field team.
He Knew this Was the School for Him
He went on numerous unofficial visits at this university and kept in touch with the coach weekly, if not daily, exchanging emails and text messages. The young athlete felt a genuine bond with the coach and felt as if he legitimately cared for his well-being and wanted to make him the best athlete he could be over his four years in college. Justin could envision himself attending the University, especially after meeting the members of the track team. He explained that “I meshed with the runners… I really thought they were going to be my future teammates.”
The coaches and teammates weren’t the only reasons this particular Centennial Conference College was his number one choice; he went on numerous campus tours and loved the local area and the school’s potential for a social life. He was brought to the sample dorm room on the tour and instantly envisioned all his posters and possessions inside the room. In this instance, he knew that this school was for him. However, he still had a year before he would find out if he had been accepted into the college or not.
The Official Visit
Fast forward to his senior year; he finally went on his official visit to the university. An official visit is an overnight visit where you spend almost a full day with coaches and players, allowing a prospective recruit to get a natural feel of what being a student-athlete at the college was like. Once Justin arrived, he met with the men’s track & field head coach, who welcomed him with open arms. The young athlete said hello to the other assistant coaches he had gotten to know through unofficial visits. The coach gave him and his parents a personal tour of the athletic facility and dining hall, and let him experience a day in the life of a student-athlete at the university. After the tour, he was paired with a distance runner at the school to spend the night with and shadow for the day. At this point, his parents departed, and the actual depth of the official visit was starting.
The runner showed him his dorm room and explained the average day, from class to clubs to training. After each passing minute, he was sure he wanted to commit to the University. At night, he was shown the school’s nightlife, where they explored the campus and met the other track and field athletes on the men’s and women’s teams. In the morning, his parents came to pick him up, and they had a meeting with the coach where Justin explained, “I would love to come here next year.” The coach reiterated the sentiment with rhetoric mainly used for athletes who are almost guaranteed a spot on a team.
The Phone Call
He left the meeting with his family expecting to receive an offer in the coming days. He knew that the official visit went exceptionally well, and he was closer than ever to being admitted. However, a few days later, the school coach called and let him know that they were no longer interested in continuing the recruiting process. They had found an athlete from Australia who had better times than Justin. He was completely blindsided and shocked. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The coach explained: “you have multiple offers from other universities, we wish you the best of luck choosing a school.” The young athlete was frozen; he didn’t know what to tell his parents. The coach used the excuse of having other offers as justification for backing out when in reality, they found a better alternative athlete. Although this was the case, if Justin had not kept his options open, he might have lost his chance of running in college.
Keeping Options Open
The young athlete kept his recruiting options open and eventually committed to Trinity, a NESCAC Conference school, where he has competed for two years and excelled academically. He wanted to share his story to help educate potential student-athletes who wanted to compete at the collegiate level. He emphasized the importance of keeping your options open to every coach that reaches out to you since you never know how your situation may change.
Related school rating: Trinity
A Happy Ending
At Trinity, Justin continues to excel in his academics: becoming a dean’s list student most semesters. Justin believes that his dedication to athletics has led to him becoming a better student. Justin plans to continue to use the life lessons he’s learned as a college athlete in his post-collegiate studies as a law student. Beyond Trinity and athletics, Justin has volunteered in many positions, including helping developmentally disabled children participate in sports. He explains: “I’m blessed to be able to participate in athletics at a high level and although my recruiting process was messy, I am happy to have learned a lot from the experience.” Justin believes anyone who has the chance to participate in collegiate athletics will forever be lucky.
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