Recruiting Declassified

Recruiting Declassified: Q&A With a Recruit’s Coach

The recruiting process centers around opportunity, struggle, and ultimately, reward. With this comes the luxury of guidance. My coach has experienced the ups and downs—the thrill of the Ivy League and the push for giving a gymnast a foot in the door for their dream team. For this month’s Recruiting Declassified, I sat down with him to find out more about his experience as a recruit’s coach.

The below responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

What is your role in recruiting?

“I help you guys get the skills that are needed for college, and I communicate with the college coaches.”

By communicating with coaches, he builds relationships for me with schools and coaches, facilitates gym visits, and even helps decide if a certain college coach’s style will work for me. Essentially, my coach takes on the job of matchmaking and says he looks at a gymnast’s “personality, skill set, durability, and what education they want.”

Kind of like taking a “which school fits you” Buzzfeed quiz, my coach preaches that this process is for the gymnast and that they need to find somewhere they can succeed gymnastically and academically. My coach said he’s had a gymnast where he’s put in lots of work toward a school, got the athlete a full scholarship at this school, and then at the last second they said they didn’t care about that school and had always wanted to go to a different once instead. Causing a headache for the school and a stressful situation for my coach, he learned that the gymnast has to be very open with the coach and communicate their wants and needs—but also that it’s “not my recruiting process, so I learned that the hard way.”

What is the No. 1 thing a gymnast must do during the recruiting process?

“The recruiting process has gotten easier because of social media. You can show practice, you can show meets, you can show all these highlights. It didn’t used to be that way.”

I remember my other coach telling us they would record their best skills on a VHS tape to save storage and mail them to the colleges they were interested in. But now, everything is seen at the click of the button, and athletes can really capitalize on this technology. So the No. 1 thing without a doubt is social media.

What is the most forgotten step or mistake gymnasts make in the recruiting process?

“I think to keep all their options open.”

It’s great to have a dream school, but an athlete should never close off all other possibilities. One thing I make sure to do is think of the worst- and best-case scenarios. If I could go anywhere, where would I want to go? And if nothing was left, and I had to decide between three other schools, which one would I choose?

What goes along with this is the middle tier of college gymnastics. Everyone wants to be a part of a top program, but what if that middle is what’s actually best for you?

My coach says, “Some kids overlook small schools because they just think, ‘Oh it’s a small school.'” Out of all the kids he’s had go to a Division III school, “They all had the best experiences of their entire life.”

One gymnast, he notes, who broke through the “rich get richer” and really spread the wealth around college gymnastics was Morgan Price. She’s an athlete who had the chance to be at a big school at Arkansas but took another route of starting something new and being part of something bigger than herself by attending Fisk instead. Tying it back into what’s the best fit for each individual recruit, sometimes a big name school is not the best option and more and more gymnasts are “spreading the wealth” to more middle and lower tier teams.

Describe the craziest recruiting scenario you’ve been in.

The Ivy League recruiting process is a different ball game that my coach experienced with many of his athletes. Recruits get in late and have to commit late, which causes them to give up a lot of other opportunities early on.

One athlete had the dream of going to Penn. She struggled to get the SAT scores she needed, had all the skills, but nothing seemed to work out for her. My coach says he remembers the day vividly where the acceptance letter came in, and with it struck a successful four years of college gymnastics.

Another recruit broke her elbow, had surgery, and the doctor told her that she could no longer do gymnastics because she was left with a constant bend in her arm. She and my coach decided to have her stop doing bars, and she had to relearn some of her other skills, going so far as changing her Yurchenko vault to a front handspring tuck. “She was one of those kids who didn’t have anything, had an injury, and a lot of schools were just like, ‘Nah, we are not interested.'” She had always wanted to go to Cornell, but they didn’t have any room. He said that they responded with, “We can’t help you get in, but if you can get in on your own merit, then we’ll give you a spot.” She ended up getting in at the last minute and was an All-American with a great career.

And for the gymnast he had that changed her mind late in the game, they “did all the whole nine yards—made nationals, put in the work, and no one was looking at her because it was late, it was [her] senior year.” He set up for two schools to come watch her at practice, and she ended up not showing up because she didn’t feel like coming in. For the list of don’ts for recruits, this is one of them! My coach called this a red flag from the start, and said it’s probably one of the worst situations he’s had to experience.

What do you recommend to someone who doesn’t have a coach to guide them through the process?

Unfortunately, every recruit doesn’t have the privilege of having a coach who has experience with recruiting and who can directly contact college coaches and receive something back. Of course, the philosophy he recommends is that “social media is key” and to send emails or messages to show interest.

Get all the tools you can, try new skills, do well at your meets, create crazy routines. When a college coach sees this, they realize that they can easily adapt you into a strong competitor for their team because you have all the tools to build upon. While those with recruiting agencies and coaches helping them do get a jumpstart in the process, it doesn’t mean you’ll be left behind. Remember, the real process doesn’t begin until June 15 leading into your junior year, so try your best in keeping contact with coaches, take unofficial visits, and create a top 10 list of schools you may want to attend.

READ THIS NEXT: Recruiting Declassified: Unofficial Visits

Article by Sydney Seabrooks

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