Student athletes take the next step on “signing day”


Photo courtesy of Matt Glaspie

From left to right: Senior Rylie Kennedy, Coach James Schuler, and Senior Ella Glaspie posed during their signing periods at MHS, celebrating their commitments to swim at BGSU (Kennedy) and ISU (Glaspie).

Riley Coesens, Editor in Chief

Student athletes are drawn in by the prospects of competing at the collegiate level, representing the schools that will carry them closer to their future endeavors. However, most athletes do not make that final transition. It takes immense dedication to not only the athletic aspects of moving on to compete in college, but also the research and development stages of it all to improve the recruitment process; what’s it like to be a student athlete in this position?

Many student athletes know from a young age that they intend to compete for years to come. As explained by Senior Ella Glaspie, who has signed to swim at Illinois State University in Fall 2021, “Swimming has always been a big part of my life and I wanted to continue my career at the collegiate level,” she said. “I knew that I really wanted to swim in college when I was a freshman in high school. I have always wanted to swim at the D1 level, and after this process was completed, I was on the right track to complete this goal.” 

For Senior Rylie Kennedy, a fellow MHS swimmer who has signed to swim at Bowling Green State University, “Swimming in college wasn’t really something I ever thought about, I just always knew I wanted to because I’m always looking for the next level of competition.” 

Athletes in other sports, however, might have a different experience in determining their future on the field; “I’ve played on the highest level team of the Michigan Jaguars available for my age group my whole soccer career, which led us to very high level competition and showcase weekends in every corner of the country, with college coaches starting to watch from the sidelines starting in 7th grade,” explained Senior Sydney Chura, who has committed to play soccer at Savannah College of Art and Design. 

The pressure to succeed and plan ahead for a future in athletics beyond one’s teen years can be an overwhelming but exciting process. Student-athletes must remain devoted to not only practicing and competing, but also scheduling meetings with coaches and potential teammates.“I first started touring colleges in my freshman year because I got advice from previous teammates who said to start the process early,” Glaspie said. “The summer before my sophomore year, I was able to start talking to D2 and D3 coaches (due to NCAA rules), which allowed me to start visiting more schools and having in-person conversations with my potentially future coaches,” she said. “From there, I visited nearly 30 campuses before making my executive decision to verbally commit to Illinois State University in the fall of my junior year.” 

Nonetheless, the fluidity of the process for individuals considering attending different schools, makes it very unique already, without even considering the alterations made due to COVID-19 in previous months. Senior Devon Beale, who has committed to play softball at Northern Illinois University, described her search process: as soon as 8th grade, she began getting scouted at games. Beale sent emails to colleges without receiving replies, sharing her profile, interests, and game schedule in an attempt to be seen. This process is repeated until junior year, when coaches may contact players directly in response to the athlete’s previous efforts.

One of the most highly anticipated parts of the recruitment process for many students is touring the colleges they are interested in attending, and meeting the coaches and members of the teams they wish to join. For athletes and general college students alike, there is a common ideology of having “the feeling” when one sets foot on the campus he/she feels most at home with, for a multitude of reasons. Kennedy felt comfortable at BGSU and knew it was what she was looking for: “The girls and coaches at BG are all so nice and welcoming,” she said. “ I have only met the coaches and a few of the girls, but right away they made me feel included. Bowling Green has been amazing. They have a beautiful campus, everyone I’ve met has been really nice, and they have amazing academic programs.” 

Glaspie agreed in saying, “While I was touring Illinois State, I was able to stay with some of the girls and it was an amazing opportunity. I can’t wait to have them as my teammates. As soon as I visited the campus, I immediately knew that that was where I wanted to be.” The feelings of easing the long-term stress of recruitment can be intense at times, as these young adults are expected to be planning years of their lives ahead of time, revolving around their talents as athletes, but doing so during a global pandemic can prove to be difficult for a variety of additional reasons. “I have gotten to know my coaches by going on calls, Facetimes, texting, and visiting them. I have gotten to know some of my future teammates that already play there by going on my unofficial visit and talking to them or by social media,” Beale explained. “One thing that I think is really cool and makes me feel a lot better with going into college is being able to have a group chat with a bunch of the incoming 2021 kids that are going to be playing sports as well.” Staying connected through technology has already been an everyday aspect of most of our lives, however, utilizing social media to enhance the college experience has skyrocketed. 

Having a strong support system throughout a student’s athletic career has proven to be highly beneficial as they move forward into the next phase of their careers. All of the MHS students mentioned previously attribute much of their thanks to their parents, who have been consistent, supportive, and active as they embarked on their journey to become prospective collegiate athletes. “[My parents] have helped me through some really dark times in my life and they continued to inspire me every step of the way, Glaspie shared. “Both my mom and dad helped me significantly throughout the recruiting process, so without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Each of them also thanked their past coaches who diligently guided them to be more successful competitors and people, preparing them for whatever lies ahead. “Seeing student-athletes achieve their goals in the athletic environment. Being a part of that process in any capacity is the reason why coaches do what they do. The feeling you get from watching student-athletes grow and become great people is priceless,” MHS’ Athletic Director Jim Marszalek explained. “I have also enjoyed building relationships with student-athletes outside of the classroom environment. Some of the lessons that are taught during athletics can not be replicated in the classroom. Our hope is that all athletes that get to experience being part of a team will leave MHS feeling like their coaches and the athletic department care about them as a person and not just a student-athlete.”

In addition to feeling excitement and anticipation to join the ranks of their programs next fall, most soon-to-be college athletes feel less weighted as they could begin to reap the benefits of their hard work. Kennedy said, “It felt really good knowing I am committing to a school that I wanted to go to, and that I was able to continue swimming at the same school.” Likewise, Glaspie explained that she was “super excited to make it ‘officially official’” as she had been verbally committed for over a year before her signing date. 

As people who can now reflect on their experiences as a whole, these MHS students are prepared to make their mark on their universities in the years to come, but they also recognize their privilege to advise others considering following a similar path. Beale sees the necessity in staying on top of all portions of recruitment–academics, communications, and the sport itself, of course. “If you really want something you should go for it, you are only going to get as much as you put in. I would also say that being on top of your emails and reaching out to coaches is very important. The last thing is that grades are everything, just because you might be good at a sport doesn’t mean you will get into any college you want, you have to have good grades as well to get there,” she stated. In a final note, Glaspie wished to impart wisdom on those who may feel discouraged by the longevity of the decisions they make regarding their futures; by maintaining positivity about what is individually in one’s control and striving for success, results will follow. “Being an athlete is brutal and exhausting and some days are just so much harder than others,” Glaspie shared. “It’s important to remember that even on your worst days you see your dreams through and keep your head held high.”