Recruitment of athletes at the college level is an important, if at times controversial, topic within higher education. At Meredith, there is no doubt that student-athlete recruitment has helped to build strong teams that continue to improve. Even more importantly, however, active, intentional recruitment efforts connect talented students with a school that they might otherwise miss, but that is a great fit for their athletic and academic goals.
Volleyball player Clarke Glendenning, ’14, said she would never have considered Meredith if it weren't for volleyball. The smaller size and the fact it was an all women's college made her rule out Meredith initially.
“When I was contacted by Coach Barkley about possibly playing volleyball, I looked into the school and found it was a perfect fit for me. When I visited I fell in love! So I guess I can say Meredith came looking for me—and it was through the volleyball program,” said Glendenning.
Glendenning is a typical student-athlete in that playing sports has enhanced her educational experience, helping her to manage her time effectively and to develop friendships with her teammates. Research shows that athletic participation boosts student-athletes’ grade point averages, confidence, leadership skills and ability to work cooperatively.
Such benefits are important, as recruiting athletes consumes a significant amount of the coaches’ time and energy. Soccer coach Paul Smith estimates that it takes a minimum of 21 hours per week to recruit in a way that keeps the soccer program strong. Recruitment activities include attending games and tournaments, connecting with students via recruitment websites and going to talent showcases. Once contact is made, coaches and assistant coaches communicate with students on an ongoing basis by email, phone or in person. They also facilitate student visits to campus, often giving multiple personal tours.
As a Division III school, Meredith does not offer athletic scholarships. This puts an even greater onus on coaches to locate athletes who truly want to both play their sport and attend Meredith. And, as Meredith’s level of play continues to increase, it becomes ever more challenging to identify athletes who fit the team level and meet the College’s academic profile.
“The level of the team is very high now. Some players we do not even pursue recruiting in 2011 would have started in earlier years,” said Smith. “We have to recruit better players each season and increase our strength to have a chance to attain the high standards and goals of previous teams.”
Volleyball coach Fiona Barkley said she has also seen a change in recruiting for Meredith. “Our admissions academic standards continue to strengthen so I have raised the academic credentials I look for in a student-athlete,” said Barkley. “The club volleyball programs in our region are also travelling to more regional and national tournaments. This gives them exposure to more college coaches. There is more competition for any one player as they are now being recruited by and considering more colleges.”
Coaches at Meredith work hard to convey the entire educational experience to prospective students. As a result, even those who choose not to play sports all four years typically choose to stay at Meredith.
“Meredith has the strongest academic credentials of any school in our conference. So I look for great volleyball players who are also great students,” said Barkley.
According to Smith, the athletes he recruits have committed many years and sacrificed many weekends to become great soccer players. “It is an important part of their life and they are choosing Meredith because of our soccer program,” said Smith. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime privilege to experience being an NCAA athlete.”
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