The race to commit: Athletic recruiting gets younger every year

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Lauren Puthoff

Pleasant Valley students publicly declare their collegiate athletic commitment through social media.

Lauren Puthoff, Opinion Editor

When people think of their junior year in high school, they tend to think about the stress of AP courses, ACT tests and extracurricular activities, all with the hope of getting into their dream college. They send out applications and hope that one of the many colleges they applied to will accept them. However, some students do not have to wait for a college to accept them; instead, they are the ones accepting the college.

Secondary education acceptance has changed drastically in the past few decades with decreased acceptance rates, larger focus on standardized tests and recent alterations with COVID. Not only have the past few years changed the college world in terms of academics, but they have heightened the opportunities for younger student athletes.

Around 57% of students play a sport during their high school career, but a mere 7% of them take their abilities to a collegiate level. College scouts have started their search for star athletes at a younger age than ever before with offers to juniors and at times even sophomores. The quick offers come from recruiters wanting to build their college team to the best of their ability, without their competition in the way. The only way to do that is to have the athletes commit to them before they can to anyone else. 

Junior Halle Vice has recently committed to Marquette University for basketball, “My recruitment process began a year and a half ago with coaches reaching out and offering me spots on their team. It was a crazy experience talking to coaches from all over, but I am really grateful for all the opportunities I was given,” she stated. “When I found Marquette it was everything I was looking for in a school and athletic department. I am beyond happy and relieved that I have found the right place for me.”

In today’s society it has become more common for student athletes to commit to college as juniors, or even sophomores. With athletes committing earlier and earlier it has created a new standard for future collegiate athletes around the nation. But where does it leave athletes who wait until their senior year to commit?

Addie Kerkhoff decided to continue her academics and athletics at Loras College during her senior year, “I always knew I wanted to play a sport in college whether it would be basketball or soccer, since they are both very important to me. Although during my recruiting process I felt a lot of pressure to pick a place right away, especially since I was a senior and many of my teammates have been committed since last year,” she explained. “The pressure to rush to a commit was unreal, but I am very happy I took my time to find the right place for me.”

High school athletes who have committed to college during their senior year feel behind in comparison to their peers due to the unspoken trend of committing early. As they commit to colleges in the middle of their high school career, athletes are physically stepping into high school, while they are mentally stepping into college. These athletes have already dealt with the stress of the next step in their lives, as their peers have only begun.

Although sometimes stress is the main motivator for great performance and is what helps students continue pushing themselves to their best abilities, strong grades and rigorous work loads are exactly what helps them to stand out against other students applying to the same college. 

But without the stress of getting accepted into college, how do student athletes motivate themselves to continue giving it their all in academics and athletics? 

Senior Kora Ruff committed to Evansville University for volleyball early in her junior year, “As I look back on my junior year and the person I was when I committed to college, I’d be lying if I said I had the same motivation as I had before I committed. When I ended my search I definitely stopped trying as hard as I did before, especially since I had the next four years of my life planned out,” she discussed. “But it didn’t take long for me to realize that just because I had made a college decision doesn’t mean I can give up on high school, these grades will play a role in my future.”

As high-school student-athletes take the next step towards college, the responsibility builds instead of shrinks. For many schools, the idea of being considered for early acceptance requires students to not only be intelligent, but also self-motivated and dedicated. As athletes are committing to colleges they not only have to have these qualities, but they also have to be talented and devote time to their sports. 

Although high school commits are still in high school, they not only have their own standards to meet, but the college’s as well. Many colleges have a minimum GPA every athlete has to be above or a required number of courses that need to be taken, by failing to do either of these can lead to a coach or the school revoking the scholarship.

The standards of student-athletes continue to get higher and higher by the day, with earlier acceptances and higher-quality performances, athletes have to find a way to fight for a spot, while also focusing on academics. Finding the perfect college is hard for any student, but a student looking to continue their athletics, as well, have more than just their GPA to focus on.