Stuyvesant is known for its academics, but its athletic programs are often unrecognized. A select few of Stuyvesant’s student athletes make it onto colleges’ athletic ‘radar.’ These students enter the pool of college sports recruitments, seeking what many perceive as a ‘backdoor’ acceptance into college.
Sports recruitment is a long and arduous process that student athletes must balance with academics. The process usually begins during sophomore or junior year when coaches and recruiters begin to take note of standout athletes. These athletes are then invited to attend showcases. These camps are often held in the summer after a student’s junior year and are a chance for college recruiters to scout and note the performances of athletes. For many students, these camps are the first opportunity to display their talent for potential coaches. From there, recruiters follow the performances of these athletes and maintain contact with them during their senior year.
The recruitment process however, is not that simple. According to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules, coaches affiliated with a college may not directly contact potential athletes prior to July 1 of the summer before senior year. This means that student athletes must initiate the contact with a coach. “The only contact that coaches can make is to respond to your e-mails or invite you to their summer camps,” said junior Alex Sandler, goalkeeper for the Ballerz, Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity soccer team. Sandler, like several other Stuyvesant juniors, is in the midst of the recruitment process.
Sandler has been attending college showcases and high-level tournaments with his US Soccer Federation team (USSF), which plays at the highest national level of youth soccer. He is determined to play soccer in college. “I can’t imagine my life without soccer,” Sandler said. “I’m used to juggling school and five days on the field each week.” Sandler will be playing in showcase clinics during this summer as well.
Like Sandler, junior and captain of the Ballerz Andrés Fernández plays on the USSF team as well as for Stuyvesant. Fernández plays defense (right-back) for his USSF team, and had 2 goals and 6 assists during the 2008-2009 Stuyvesant soccer season. Fernández has been attending showcase camps with his USSF team, which, he believes, has made the recruitment process significantly simpler. “Before, soccer players had to do a lot more to catch the eye of colleges-highlight videos, camps, showcases, letters-but now, recruiting is a lot easier for players and coaches. There are three showcases a year, but, in reality, coaches are scouting at almost every game,” Fernández said.
The recruitment process is different for each sport. For runners, like junior Daniel Hyman-Cohen, the showcase-camp aspect is unnecessary. Track recruitment is done primarily by an individual’s times. “Track is an objective, statistic-driven sport. A time on the track is generally an accurate representation of ability. Running a fast time is almost always sufficient to garner recruitment letters,” Hyman-Cohen said.
In early January, Hyman-Cohen finished second in the two-mile run in nine minutes and 34.11 seconds at the Hispanic Games. In February, he ran the mile in four minutes and 22.08 seconds at the Eastern States Championship, earning him a seventh place finish. These strong performances at big meets have caught the eyes of several collegiate scouts.
Junior Raveen Sugantharaj, also a Stuyvesant runner, hopes to impress colleges with his 200-meter sprint time. It’s currently between 22.1 seconds and 22.4 seconds. He hopes to do well at the Manhattan Borough Championship, where he will compete in the 200-meter sprint. Sugantharaj thinks that track recruitment “is fair and efficient.They [colleges] see the list of times accumulated over the course of a season, so it is possible to have a bad race,” said Sugantharaj in an e-mail interview. Over the summer he is planning on training to improve his time.
Nzingha Prescod, junior and two-time 17 and under Fencing World Champion, is also hoping to be recruited. The past two consecutive World championships that she has won have helped draw the attention of recruiters. “I’ve been fencing in front of recruiters for several years now, I’m pretty familiar with them,” Prescod said.
Despite having experience fencing in front of scouts, Prescod has a problem with the July 1 starting date. “It causes unnecessary problems for everyone. I have to be careful what I talk to college coaches about because if a violation were reported, I wouldn’t be eligible to participate in the NCAA-meaning no recruiting or scholarship,” she said.
In addition, junior Alex Albright has intrigued college scouts for playing volleyball and softball. Albright is hoping to attend showcase camps over the summer, as coaches will be able to contact her directly by July 1.
As several Stuyvesant students are in the midst of the recruitment process, a couple of outgoing seniors have finished with their own. These students will be playing sports at the NCAA level in the fall.
Senior Zack Karson, co-captain and shortstop for the Hitmen, Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity baseball team, will be playing baseball at Division III Kenyon College in the fall. Karson is batting .400 with a .586 on-base percentage this season.
Karson attended a showcase camp this past summer and was unimpressed. “You get to run, field, hit, and scrimmage in front of different college coaches. But the [clinics] are expensive. They are competitive and often frustrating because you have so few opportunities to show what you are capable of doing,” Karson said.
The Kenyon coach first heard about Karson from a parent of a player on the Kenyon team. Karson then put together a videotape to showcase his baseball talent and sent it to the Kenyon coach. Karson met with the coach and the coach expressed his interest in having him on the team. “The Kenyon coach has never really seen me play in person. He has only heard about me [from coaches and parents] and seen my video,” Karson said. This process is not uncommon because many Division III schools do not have the time or the financing to travel the country to see high school athletes play.
Karson’s advice for those athletes beginning the college recruitment process is to take initiative. “They’re going to find you eventually. You have to e-mail coaches and go to clinics, maybe even send a video,” he said.
Another senior and co-captain on the Hitmen, Nolan Becker, will be playing baseball for Yale University. “They have a great baseball tradition, and they have a good record of getting guys to the professional level,” Becker said. “It’s also a young team, so there’ll be opportunities for me to make my mark.”
Becker is a pitcher for Stuyvesant’s boys’ varsity baseball team, the Hitmen, with an earned run average of 0.82 so far this season. In addition, Becker pitched a perfect game against Manhattan Bridges High School on Wednesday, April 8. Becker was first noticed by colleges at a showcase camp at Stanford University last June.
While Becker had a good deal of success with the recruitment process, the prospect of being scouted had intimidated him initially. “They’re looking for how you play, but also how you respond to certain situations. It can be intimidating to have someone taking notes as you play,” Becker said.
While two seniors will be playing NCAA baseball, senior Nick Goldin will be playing collegiate football in the fall at Bowdoin University. Goldin, who had eight passing touchdowns, five rushing touchdowns, and one receiving touchdown this past season for Stuyvesant’s varsity football team, the Peglegs, had a very positive recruitment experience. It was an experience that he describes as “fun.” Goldin attended a football camp at Dartmouth last June. Like Karson, Goldin sent a highlight tape from his junior season to the schools that he was interested in playing for.
Recruitment for athletics is almost never a sure path into a college. But for Karson, Becker and Goldin, sports recruitment was a significant part of their application. Goldin believes that recruitment did not guarantee his acceptance into college, but “being recruited definitely helped my application.”
Having endured the recruitment process, Karson, Becker, and Goldin are looking forward to playing NCAA sports in the fall. However, for Stuyvesant’s junior athletes, endless recruitment opportunities still lie ahead.