Recruiting Experience - Connext College Athletes

In other blog posts we have examined the impact of Connext on coaches. We looked to a few college track and field athletes to understand their perspective so we can make sure we are improving their experience in getting noticed, improving their skill (no matter their primary sport), and improving their chances of getting the results they're after.

Here are some questions and answers from a few former high school athletes, Annika Linzmeier and Makenna Veen, that have gone on to college success.

Annika Linzmeier: Michigan State University Women’s XC/Track, 3rd year, Pulaski, WI

Was it intimidating/scary having coaches call?

The calls were most intimidating when it was the first time speaking with a specific coach, especially if they were the coach of a school I was very interested in. Once I had talked to a coach multiple times over the phone, I was more relaxed. Specifically in this era where phone calls in general have been replaced by texting and email, it is important that student athletes are confident in their abilities to effectively communicate over the phone in a professional manner.

Were you nervous to tell them you weren’t interested in some of their schools?

In the beginning of my recruiting process, I sent out letters to coaches at Division I schools across the country, expressing my interest in their programs. In this letter, I touched briefly on my high school athletic and academic accomplishments, my intended field of study in college, why I was interested in their program/school, etc. In doing this, I received letters, emails, and phone calls back from some of the schools that were interested in me. With this, I received many letters in the mail from schools (of all caliber) that I had not reached out to. With each of these schools, I looked into the specifics of their academic program for my field of study in addition to their athletic accolades and, from there, decided if I wanted to move forward in contacting them. For the schools that I was not interested in that reached me by mail sending a general recruiting letter, I simply ignored these. For schools that I was not interested in that mailed me personalized letters or notes, I wrote them back expressing thanks for their efforts and explaining why I was not interested in their program. I was not nervous to send back these rejections as I had not made any deep connections with these coaches.

Once I reached the latter half of my recruiting process and I had to reject schools whose coaches I had developed relationships, I did not feel as nervous as I felt guilty to tell them that their program/school was not for me. However, reaching out to coaches to let them know that you will not be accepting a spot on their roster is extremely important. Not only does it let the coach know they have another open spot on the roster, but it shows the coach your maturity and professionalism.

Did it add extra pressure/stress when you’d compete?

Competing as a junior and senior, I was aware that college coaches would be present at some of my meets (mainly the state meets for cross country and track & field). Since I was only looking at one school in state, however, I did not feel added pressure when competing since I knew the coaches for the schools I was looking at would not be present at my races.

Did you have doubts about even competing in college?

Ever since I started running and having success with it, I had the idea in my head that I wanted to compete for as long as possible. After receiving college recruiting mail during my freshman year, I realized that running at the collegiate level was a possibility. Throughout the rest of high school, especially the last two years, I found where my academic and career passions were, which allowed me to look for schools known for their academic programs in my major. The only time doubts of competing in college came were after I already was on my collegiate team. In my second year, I was experiencing great progress but then suffered an injury. After this first injury, I got into a cycle of training for a couple of months and then sustaining another injury that halted my upward progression. After about a year and a half of this, I think I have figured out and ironed out all the kinks in the system and am now hopefully on an injury-free trajectory.

Was it exciting?

The recruiting process was very exciting! I found it very enjoyable to see what schools were interested in me, to get a lot of mail from different places across the country, and to take official visits at schools. My favorite part was taking the visits because it allowed me to become enveloped in the team culture, meet possible future teammates, and have one-on-one time with the coaches in person.

How did you know it was a good fit?

My main priority in choosing a college to attend was academic caliber. Going into the two official visits I took, I already knew these two schools would provide me what I was looking for academically, so the visits were just a matter of seeing how I fit in with the team, what the team’s philosophies were, and how I meshed with the coaches. When on my visit at Michigan State, I already felt like a member of the team after only two days of being around my future teammates; additionally, I could see myself spending my college career on the campus and growing from my coaches’ philosophies. I left my visit with my mind made up that I was going to commit to Michigan State.

What is it like being a college athlete now?

Being a Division I athlete at a Big Ten school definitely requires dedication, time management, and patience. Training in college is very different than in high school, so one must be willing to fully immerse themselves into a new training regimen, following what their coach lays out and diving into it wholeheartedly. One must also find a balance between academics, athletics, and other priorities, so there will be some sacrifices to be made if one’s main priority is to do well in classes and perform at a high level athletically. Finally, patience is key when adjusting to college training. The adjustment is huge, and it normally takes time for results to mirror the work you are putting in. Do not be alarmed if you are not PRing in your first year of competition—growth takes time.

What could have made the process easier?

One of the main aspects that made the recruiting process difficult at times were the rules set by the NCAA concerning when coach-to-athlete conversation could happen, the amount of communication that could occur during certain periods in the year, etc. Following these rules, however, is crucial, as bending or breaking them could make you ineligible to compete in the future. Being informed directly on these rules and what was and was not allowed would have eased my recruiting experience.

Makenna Veen: Michigan State University Women’s XC/Track, 1st year, Plainwell, MI

Did it add extra pressure/stress when you’d compete?

There were some races that had extra pressure added to them because I knew college coaches would be there and would come to talk to me after my race.

How did you know it was a good fit?

I knew a school was a good fit if I could see myself being successful both academically and athletically there. Getting to meet the team was also very important to me. I wanted a group that I felt I fit in with and people that had similar goals as I did.

What is it like being a college athlete now?

I’m absolutely loving it but it involves a rigorous balance of training and studying to do both on a high level. I don’t have the time to do everything I want to do so I have had to learn to prioritize things.

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