Though academics may be an outlining factor for student athletes when choosing a college, the odds of Harvard picking up the top football recruit this season are slim to none. Recruiting is a challenge for “scholarly” colleges, especially those at the Division III level.
Being ranked 98th by the United States Review for liberal art colleges, Albion has established itself as a school known for its challenging curriculum. Though holding such high regard to academics may be a point of pride when enrolling students as a whole, it has made the task of recruiting athletes fairly complicated.
“I can’t go to tournaments and just recruit all of the best players,” said Jerry Block, men’s soccer coach. “I have to search for players that will not only take our team to the next level, but also have the grades to be able to make it here too.”
Block also expressed issues with standout players committing to bigger schools, on top of players who commit to schools with an easier curriculum.
“It pretty much means that I talk to a lot of players only to recruit a few,” Block said.
Though student athletes may have been drawn to a Division III school for the opportunity to play a sport that they potentially could not play at a larger school, their main focus has to be on academics. Recognizing athletes with this motivation is important for recruiting coaches.
“We have to recognize when we recruit that the athletes we’re looking at need to be students who we feel are going to be successful in the classroom as well,” said Greg Polnasek, special teams and receiver coordinator.
Recruiting players with potential for academic success does hold its advantages. This is not only because the team as a whole is more intelligent, but because they have had a tendency to be more committed as well.
“The players we have here are very self motivated, maybe even beyond Division I players, because they’re not playing for scholarships or an opportunity to play at the professional level,” Polnasek said. “They play because they love the game.”
When looking at the complete picture, coaches value the importance of developing their players beyond the classroom more than on the field. Though their influence may be limited to the regular season, teaching lessons that can translate beyond the playing field help impact their athletes more in the long run.
“When all is said and done, most students only have four to five years to play their sport and around 40 within their careers,” Polnasek said. “We’d be doing a greater duty as coaches if we were building men and women for a career.”