The beginning of gymnastics for me was being thrown into a Gator leotard and told by great grandparents at family cookouts, “I can’t wait to see you in the Olympics!” Luckily, I never had to break the news. Like most little girls, my dream of going to the Olympics was crushed early on when it was a struggle to get through the level three compulsory routine. I’m not going to say I dreamed of being a college gymnast since I was young because I didn’t know what it was. But when I was 13, I was truly introduced. I was slapped with a “student-athlete prospect” sticker and placed like a sheep in line waiting for my turn to be picked.
I’m Sydney Seabrooks, a class of 2025 gymnast whose waiting has just begun.
The recruiting process is a topic that has been popularly—but really unpopularly—secretive. As the sport gains more and more national attention, insight into recruiting hasn’t followed. Unfortunately, fans don’t get a glimpse until the choice is finally out—if at all. They don’t get to see the stress, the waiting, the mail, the loopholes and the rules that have locked down early recruiting. My goal with this column is to shed much needed light on the process and share my personal experiences throughout the journey of being a college gymnastics prospect.
Starting in May of 2019, the NCAA adopted new recruiting contact rules that have restricted the early recruiting of prospective student-athletes. Before this, gymnasts were committing as early as seventh grade. But now, high schoolers have to wait until June 15 after their sophomore year to talk directly with college coaches. As a class of 2025 recruit, my only means of talking to coaches is through Instagram tags and my coach. He is the messenger, feeding me one-worded responses coaches often say and the unkept promise of, “We want to come down soon!” It’s difficult being in the dark—you want to ask so many questions, get to know the coach, go on an official visit—but instead you’re left counting down the days until June 15 and hoping you’re doing enough in the meantime to get on your desired schools’ radars.
When June 15 finally arrives, the phone rings, emails are sent and college coaches do everything in their power to convince the gymnast that their school is the right one. They tell you a little about the program, say why you would be a great fit, give you the chance to ask any questions, then—hopefully—extend an offer. That 10-minute phone call is the peak of years and years of hard work. The way your life can change on one random Thursday is unbelievable.
What Can I Do Right Now?
At the start of the process, it’s all about who you can get to look at you and how you can share your information. I’ve completed hundreds of questionnaires, both through the mail and online. I’ve created an NCAA database account, have a recruiting website and update Instagram, Twitter and YouTube accounts dedicated to gymnastics.
My coach handles any communication with coaches since I can’t. He can set up visits for coaches to watch me train and share any input they have, like asking what they want me to train or their opinion on skills. I’m grateful to have someone who can connect with a college coach and build a relationship before the work is passed on to me, but others don’t have this luxury. Sometimes gymnasts have to take charge of recruiting themselves, which means they can’t set anything up before June 15, putting them at the back of the line when others in their class are inching toward the front.
In this monthly column, my goal is to pull the curtain back on the recruiting process. What you see on social media is only scratching the very surface. I’ll talk about topics like recruiting mail, official and unofficial visits, insight into various teams, and the significance of social media. I’ll also shed light on my own thoughts and progress in the recruiting journey, as well as answer any questions you may have about it all.
It’s Recruiting Declassified.
Have a question for Sydney about the recruiting process? Email [email protected] with the subject line “Recruiting Declassified,” and you might see it answered in a future article!
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Article by Sydney Seabrooks
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