Recruiting Declassified

Recruiting Declassified: Recruiting Calls

One week after June 15, my list of schools rounded out to 15. I talked about everything—from chatting with a coach about their new, thriving program to asking another about the team’s legendary history. I heard the same academic and athletic resources over and over again, as well as new and exciting things, like a school’s zero-gravity pool. Perhaps most importantly, I gauged their interest in me while also being asked tough questions like, “Why us?” Each and every call was a learning experience. 

I learned what I like: straightforward responses and high interest in me. Because who wants someone who doesn’t want them back? I also learned what I didn’t like: a bad vibe.

When I was asked what is a deal breaker for me, I was dumbfounded. Nothing I could think of really seemed like a deal breaker because it could always be outweighed by something else. If I wouldn’t be able to have my own room at a school, that’s made up for by the recovery resources being state of the art. So ultimately, my answer came down to “bad vibes.” When it came down to the answer, it was “bad vibes.” 

In this stage of my recruiting journey, I didn’t sense any negative energy or feeling of estrangement. Everyone was nice, and I felt like I could form a connection with every coach I talked to. When the calls became repetitive and, honestly, a little bit dreaded, I became more critical. This is not to say I didn’t enjoy every call because I did. I absolutely loved talking to these coaches, hearing what they had to say, and making small talk, because it was all part of the process, a new beginning—one where my gymnastics wasn’t the only thing doing the talking. But, those few minutes before a call were the worst part. It became important to differentiate the calls in some way, so after each one, my main assessment came down to whether I felt something different than my other calls.

These days, most schools have it all. They have stellar academic advisors paired with awesome athletic resources. They have the NIL deals and staff being brought into the mix, and they have the “family feel.” Through this first wave of calls I finally understood this. I also realized that it would be the coaches that would make or break my decision.

Apart from bad vibes, I also found myself answering the dealbreaker question with “a toxic environment or coaching staff.” I felt that while a culture was made up of everyone, it started at the top. The coaching staff recruits gymnasts they can mold into their culture, and therefore they create it, they form the narrative, and they characterize their team into a label they promote. Even through small coaching shifts, a culture rarely goes through big changes because it is already so established. Therefore, for me, a positive coaching environment is a must. 

Through the base-level questions, I asked myself questions about a program: “Do I see myself here?” “Do I absolutely love the coaches?” “Will this school and team get me to where I want to go?” Eight schools checked the boxes.

After seeing hundreds of commitment posts over the years that have something along the lines of “this was the hardest decision to make” in the caption, to now living that reality, I’ll tell you one thing… Narrowing down my choices is hard! There was not one school that didn’t have at least one thing I loved about it, which is why it was so hard to let go of some of them. You are turning down a potential different future. 

On July 26, a little over a month after June 15, I posted my official visit list: Illinois, North Carolina, Georgia, Auburn, UCLA, Iowa, Michigan State, and Alabama. I took full advantage of the new unlimited official visit rule, but I know eight schools is a lot.

I’ve heard all the feedback. “Wow! Eight schools, that’s crazy” “What coach would allow their gymnast to go on that many visits?” “They should’ve stuck to five.” And while I partly agree with these comments, I also figure why not? If I feel a deep and true connection to each of these schools, why not visit? At a point where the recruiting process is giving gymnasts more and more opportunities, why not take them all? Take advantage of the unlimited rule, take advantage of the opportunity, know what you want, and go for it.

I am more than excited for these next few steps in my recruiting journey with face-to-face visits. I’m heading to my first official visit on September 1, and from there my next seven are every weekend after. And I’m looking forward to sharing the experience in the next Recruiting Declassified!

READ THIS NEXT: Recruiting Declassified: The Whirlwind of June 15

Article by Sydney Seabrooks

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  1. That’s eight officials but plenty of kids were likely doing 5 official and a couple of unofficial previously. She has a couple of big-time programs on the list and a couple with odd distribution of athletes across classes. I think it’s wise to keep options open in case someone ends up with fewer openings or a couple of the schools attract all the very top recruits.

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