Athletes reach out to college recruiters


Photo courtesy of Jake Milne

Senior Hali Nelson remembers watching a fencing exhibition as a 7-year-old living in Alabama. Initially, she was drawn to the sport because the sword fighting reminded her of Star Wars.

More than 10 years later, Nelson is still hooked on the sport, and when she started to look at colleges, Nelson knew she wanted to find a school where she could fence.

In the 2009 movie The Blind Side, football player Michael Oher was visited by nearly every coach from a big name football program in the South. But for Nelson, the process takes effort and commitment. Unlike Oher’s experience, most students have to be active in reaching out to coaches.

There are three styles of fencing: foil, sabre and épée. She is a foil fencer, meaning she can only target the torso, sides or back of her opponent. Nelson is ranked 28th nationally in her division, junior foil, as of Jan. 19.

She said that, before she visited a school, she had emailed the coach and asked if she could have a meeting.

“I have a friend. He’s fourth or fifth, and he still had go out and talk to the coach,” Nelson said.

Nelson talked with the Princeton University and University of Pennsylvania coaches, but only spoke seriously with Harvard University coach Peter Brand.

Nelson said that she got lucky because a lot of the athletes who were above her athletically did not have as good grades as she did.

Brand told Nelson that he would talk to the admissions office at Harvard and she would get in. Nelson said that because fencing does not bring in a huge amount of money for the school, the academic standards are not lowered.

When senior Jack Ruske came in fourth at Junior Nationals as a sophomore, he realized that he might be able to continue his rowing career beyond high school.

During his junior year, Ruske filled out a recruiting questionnaire on the websites of colleges he was interested in. Many colleges responded, and later he sent emails to the coaches. Ruske acknowledged that the process was difficult.

“That was definitely one of the harder parts, trying to sell myself, because we are all told for so long that we should not be egotistical, not be selfish, not promote ourselves,” Ruske said. “Then you get to a point where that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.”

After speaking with the coaches, Ruske went on official visits to Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth College.

Ruske was assigned a host who showed him around. He also attended team practices and sat in on a few classes. Ultimately, Ruske decided to attend Cornell.

“I had decided that rowing was very important to me,” Ruske said. “That it was something that I was going to be devoting my life to for the next four years.”

Senior Jake Milne, who will play lacrosse at Marymount University in Virginia, said the key to his getting recruited was posting a highlight reel on the website

Milne said he hired a videographer during his junior season, then posted game footage along with statistics online for coaches to see. They began to email him, and he began to have phone conversations with the coaches of schools he was most interested in.

Milne said that it was really important for him to be fully committed to playing in college.

“You can’t go partially,” said Milne. “You can’t be like, ‘I’d like to play lacrosse but it’s not a huge deal.’ You really have to choose. Either you absolutely want to play that sport in college or you stop.”

Milne recommends that lacrosse players who think they want to play in college go to camps or recruiting showcases.

“You just need to get that exposure early on in freshman or sophomore year. It’s becoming a pretty difficult game,” Milne said. “You just gotta get there first.”