Archive for September, 2008

Don’t Take No for an Answer

Playing college football was a passion since as long as I can remember and I always dreamed of playing college football. Growing up on the west coast, I had dreams of suiting up for UCLA and the University of Washington. By the end of my senior season, my high school football coach told me I was too small to play college. With no offers to play at the collegiate level, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. During the next four years of my life, the Marine Corps instilled discipline, responsibility and a hard-working mentality. In the summer of 2001, while overseas, I taught myself how to long snap.  

In 2002, after being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, I looked around at several schools on the West Coast. While coach after coach told me I was too small to play, I found a home at Scottsdale Community College. After almost being cut, I worked hard to get sufficient game film and marketed myself to over 100 colleges. I then made phone call after phone call to college coaches hounding them for a scholarship or at least a chance to play at their college. After a three month period of coaches telling me “No”, I found one college in Louisville, KY (University of Louisville) who was looking for a player to long snap. I never in my wildest dreams thought of playing football in Kentucky, but three years later with an NCAA record in one hand and the Orange Bowl ring in another, I would not have traded my college experience for anything in the world.

I Just Wanted to Play

Ever since I could remember, basketball has been a part of my life. It’s a love that I can never seem to get over. Being born and raised in Chicago, I idolized Michael Jordan and wanted to be the female version of him, dreaming of playing for the WNBA when I grew up. Starting off practicing my dunks on the Little Tikes hoop in the basement (tongue out of course), then promoting myself to one-on-one sessions with my dad in the backyard, I finally started playing organized ball in 7th grade. In high school, I made the Junior Varsity team as a freshman, and played Varsity the rest of my high school career.  

Looking back on it, I didn’t really start thinking about playing college basketball until junior year. I didn’t go to a huge program that was a powerhouse for athletics so I wasn’t really informed about the recruiting process. I kind of just went with the flow and figured whatever happens, happens. I didn’t care, I just wanted to play. Then when my parents asked me if this was something I wanted to pursue in college, I had to say yes, because I just couldn’t picture my life without basketball.  

This is where Chris Krause and the materials in Athletes Wanted comes in! I enrolled Chris’ NCSA program, I believe after my junior season and soon enough, letters from all different colleges started pouring in. I had to talk to coaches, send out game tapes, log everything I did, write emails etc. I’m not going to lie, it was a lot of work, but I knew I needed to do it if I wanted to play, and that was something I was committed to doing. Chris got my name out there, guided me through what I needed to do with all these schools, and ultimately made me a collegiate basketball player.  

Making a final decision on which college to attend was probably the most difficult part of the process. I came to the realization that I would have to relinquish my hoop dreams of making it to the WNBA, so I based my decision on academics as well as athletics. I ended up going to the University of Chicago which is a Division III program in a very competitive conference. I feel as though I got the best of both worlds, getting a degree from one of the best universities in the world, while also being able to play the game that I love. The guideance that Chris and Athletes Wanted gave me made all this whole experience possible for me and I am glad I have the opportunity to do the same for today’s athletes.

Hockey was My Life!

My senior year of high school was the most stressful time of my life. I was a 17-year-old kid, and all I knew was that I wanted to play hockey in college. Hockey was my passion and my life revolved around this sport. I HAD to play college hockey. Not only did I want to play hockey in college, I wanted to play for a Division 1 program. I also wanted to attend school on the East Coast, particularly a top academic institution. I suppose you could say I had pretty lofty goals, but regardless of how impossible my ambitions seemed, these were my dreams and I was determined to achieve them. Now where did I begin? 

Knowing what you want to accomplish, and knowing how to do it are two entirely different concepts. I knew I wanted to play hockey in college, but I wasn’t sure how to attract coaches’ attention, or which schools might be good fits for me. I was fortunate, however, because women’s hockey at that time was a relatively small sport, and I had a short list of schools to choose from. These factors made it possible for me to send a resume to every woman’s college hockey program and attend a few showcases and well-known tournaments. My skills and grit got me noticed, and the next thing I knew, my mailbox was filled and the phone was constantly ringing. Still, I was completely overwhelmed. 

Coaches at some of the most elite colleges and hockey programs in the nation were telling me I would be accepted to their schools. High school guidance counselors told me that all coach’s lie, and I should stop communicating with them. I could go on and on but the point is, I needed some guidance! I needed someone to tell me what to say to coaches on the phone, what to look for on my visits, how many schools to apply to. For me, this mentor did not exist and my head spun. 

I am very lucky. My recruiting story has a happy ending. I was accepted at, and ultimately chose to attend, Yale University. I had a fabulous life and hockey career at Yale, and if I could turn back the clock I would make the same decision. 

But this story is not about me. My time in the spotlight has long since past. Now it is your turn, and it is my job to make sure you have the mentor that I yearned for. The college recruiting process should be exciting and informative. I am eager to help guide you every step of the way. Where you attend college is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. Don’t leave it to luck.

Recruiting Process? What’s that?

I started playing soccer at the age of five in a small recreational league in Lake Orion, Michigan. After trying baseball, basketball, and football I knew soccer was my sport. By age thirteen I made my way onto the best travel team in Michigan, Vardar Soccer Club. At that point I knew I was on the right track to play college soccer, so I set my goals high shooting to play at a Division I program.  

Neither my family nor I had any idea on what the recruiting process was all about. I thought I was on the right track by going to showcase tournaments and playing on a premier team. Little did I know, that was only a small part of the recruiting process. I put together a profile of myself which included an introduction letter, a list of my accomplishments, newspaper clippings, and contact information. The next step was mailing my profile out to about 20-25 schools. The mistake I made was that I never followed up with these coaches asking them if they received my information. I didn’t send one email or call a single coach; I thought they would contact me, that wasn’t the case. I received a few letters from schools, but was not heavily recruited out of high school.  

The only schools I visited were because of the relations I had in the soccer community. I knew a player at Cleveland State University and I knew the coach at Eastern Michigan; those are the only two visits I took. Luckily, the Eastern Michigan coach offered me a spot on their roster. If my family didn’t l know this coach, I don’t know where I would have ended up. You can say that I was lucky to find a school that wanted me.  

Going into my freshman year of college I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. The first week of practice, I had to sit out because one of my classes from high school wasn’t cleared by the Eligibility Center. This was extremely frustrating because I thought I had completed everything correctly. After a few days of sitting out, I was cleared to play; it was just a minor set back.  

After my sophomore year at Eastern the athletic department discontinued the soccer program. My teammates and I were devastated with no where to turn. I still had two years of eligibility and I knew that I still wanted to play. I had to start the whole recruiting process all over. Again, this is where luck struck me for the second time. I knew a player at Western Michigan University where I eventually landed and played those final two years.  

If I could sum my recruiting process up in a few words I would say: “Challenging but Rewarding.” I hit a lot of road blocks, had a lot of headaches, but eventually I found the perfect fit for myself.

My Story

Have you ever found yourself lost in a moment, a moment so loud and intense, it’s deafening-time almost stops? It’s the championship game & your standing at the free throw line, down by one, with no time left on the clock, sweat pouring down your face, you feel your heart pounding through your chest… Then all of a sudden you realize, you’re either remembering the way it was or the way you wanted it to be. It might be a moment that could change everything. This is why every decision you make in your recruiting process is extremely important. You want to choose the right school & find the best fit for you. Your outcome, your story, is what you dream it to be-you have to make it happen. 

Well, my story begins the summer before freshman year when I received my first letter, for basketball, from Michigan State University. From then on came the letters, the calls, the games, the awards, and the dream grew bigger. The problem was that no one ever told me any of the rules or the processes involved in recruiting. I lived by the infamous line, if you’re good enough they will find you. No one imposed on me the importance of academics, because if they want you, you’ll get in. So, I didn’t have the best grades–I played AAU, I went to camps and I was getting letters, but I never followed up with coaches the way I know now, that you have to. I didn’t play the recruiting game. The sad fact is, that if I did, who knows what could have been. Don’t get me wrong, I love the experiences I have had and the places it has taken me.

Because of my ignorance, the dream slowed down, the calls stopped, the letters stopped coming in and I watched everyone else sign away, pack up and go. I chose to go to South Suburban College, a JUCO on the south side of Chicago. Even though it wasn’t the dream, it was the right fit for me. I didn’t have the grades, I wasn’t ready to leave home and I loved the coach. My first year we were the region champs and we went to the NJCAA Championships. I couldn’t wait for next year, but I got hurt in the first game that year. I struggled to come back, with a torn LCL and bruised Tibia Plateau. I thought it was over, the calls stopped again, the letters didn’t come anymore, so I played hurt. We were region champs and we went to the NJCAA Championships again. That’s where St. John’s University saw me play and I transferred to SJU a DI Big East program. As my Mom would say, “the basketball fairies blessed me.” I finally got my dream to play DI, I will never forget playing at UCONN, a packed house with cameras in your face, fans screaming at you-it was terrifying & awesome all at the same time. 

The most important thing is to remember to have fun and to always give it your all, because one day it will be over. I didn’t get to play my senior year in college; I would have needed to get an artificial knee. Whether it’s your senior year of HS, last game in college, after a couple years in the pros, or unfortunately, if you get hurt, what will you fall back on–academics? The one thing I know is that I gave it my all, I left it all on the court; I have no regrets–I want to ensure that no else does either.

Where Were the Offers?

My recruiting story starts early on. I attended various “exposure camps” such as Michigan, Nebraska, and some professional sponsored ones as early as the age 12. From those camps your information was supposedly sent out to hundreds of colleges, but even though I got numerous awards (Top Safety, Top Running back, Top 15 Club), I never heard from any schools. 

Because I attended a school in the Chicago Catholic League, I was unable to participate in varsity athletics until my sophomore year in school. But, when I did become a sophomore I was immediately put in the starting lineup as Quarterback for a team that went 9-0 the previous year and advanced to the state quarter finals the previous year. Given the history of success and the fact I had soon-to-be college star, and current Chicago Bear, Garrett Wolfe, in the backfield with me, I thought these factors alone would give me plenty of exposure. This is all not to mention that our head coach had the guts to tell us that his main goal was to get us into college and play football. With potentially a dozen players that should have played in college, and maybe a handful that could have played scholarship ball, I was the only one to get any “ride”. 

After a couple visits and just a few handwritten letters sent to the house, Fisher DeBerry visited the school and then my house. The Air Force Academy ended up being the only team among Northwestern and University of Illinois to actually make an offer for a full ride. This is even though I thought the other schools were interested, just because they sent me information.  

I went through the process completely oblivious to what I should have been doing. Everything I’ve been taught since reading Athletes Wanted on the recruiting process I had no idea of when I went through it. I just wish I would have known about this book when I went through the recruiting process.

Don’t Limit Your Options

My recruiting story starts the summer after my freshman year in high school. I grew up in Ohio and it had always been my dream to play for The Ohio State University. I attended their summer camp and a coach from Buffalo University approached me. He said to me, “In four years, there’s a place for you at Buffalo.” I knew then that I might have a shot to play at the level and school that I always dreamed of. I thought to myself, “Man, if Buffalo wants me now, the buckeyes have to be interested in a few years.” I was right; as I entered my junior year of high school I was receiving regular mail from Ohio State and many other schools throughout the country. This is really where I made my first mistake in the recruiting process. I failed to take full advantage of the all the schools that were interested in me. I didn’t respond to coaches’ letters, I didn’t call any one to let them know that I was interested. I didn’t really do anything. 

As my high school career rolled on I was fortunate to play on a very successful high school team. We had completed my junior season, with a 13-1 record, our only loss in the state semi finials. This marked two years in a row that we had completed the regular season undefeated. My goal at that time was finish my high school career with three undefeated regular seasons and go to the state championship game. I really put the recruiting process on the back burner. I wasn’t proactive; I didn’t take any unofficial visits. Again I did nothing. 

As I was about to enter my senior season everything was in full swing. I had received several division one scholarships, but not the school I wanted. Ohio State had informed me that they would make a decision during the first few weeks of the season, as I was scheduled to play one of their defensive line commits. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to play in that game. During a preseason game a suffered a dislocated knee cap and would miss almost the entire regular season. I would return for the last few weeks of the year.

Needless to say I didn’t put myself in a great position with other schools. I had ignored them, while only focusing on the Buckeyes. Fortunately I still had a few offers to choose from and ended up at a great academic institution in Northwestern University. If I would have had Athletes Wanted while I was in high school I would have been better educated on how to deal with colleges and been more prepared for the bumps in the road that almost every student athlete goes through.

Would I Play in College?

My only absolute in high school was that I would definitely attend college. The question was if I would play baseball, which I loved. I had no idea how to seek opportunities to play baseball in college. As a freshman and sophomore I received college brochures, questionnaires, and letters but I rarely addressed them. Then, as a junior, things exploded and every other thought I had was, “Where am I going to go to college?” I went from not thinking about college to my parents, friends, and coaches bombarding me with questions about decisions that would affect my entire life. 

Then, I had the idea that if I attended baseball camps at universities I was interested in, I would be discovered by the coaching staff. My dad tried to be very involved, but his guidance was not enough. I looked to my high school coach and found very little help since he was busy with teaching and coaching multiple sports. He wrote a letter of recommendation for me, but I only sent it to a few colleges and received very little feedback. I visited a few universities my senior year, yet I still was not receiving the attention I felt I deserved. 

I narrowed my list down to a few places, including a junior college, a Division I program where I could walk on to and an NAIA college. My parents suggested I take the opportunity to start right away with the university that offered the highest academics, which led me to Indiana Wesleyan University. Making that decision was a great stress reliever, but I was not entirely happy with it at first. I felt like I did not take the opportunity explore all of my options and felt pressured and rushed to go somewhere.  

I ended up being extremely lucky and grateful for my decision because IWU ended up being a great choice. The opportunity to play early and often, as well as the education I received, was fantastic.

Late Bloomer

I am considered a late bloomer in the sport of volleyball. I leisurely entered practice two weeks into my eighth grade season. I was an avid runner at the time and hadn’t even considered playing another sport. As I began to hone my skills in volleyball, I realized that I enjoyed it more than track and that I was better at it. I played casually my first couple of years and then discovered the intricate world of club ball. After my sophomore season I decided to pursue volleyball and stop running track. 

I had limited recruiting support. Although my parents were great fans, they were not athletes. They had no idea about what club to tryout for or what to do with these letters I started getting in the mail. And similar to most athletes, I was not the best player on my high school team. My high school coach was busy helping the top player in the state, and didn’t have much time for me. I just piled up the letters and questionnaires and didn’t do anything with them.  

As time went on my abilities improved and the recognition came. The college contacts increased as well. The problem was that I didn’t know where I wanted to go or even what I was looking for in a college. I turned down official visits, didn’t return game tape as requested, and neglected to answer phone calls because I didn’t realize that these schools were trying to recruit me! I also didn’t realize there were other recruiting resources in addition to my high school coach and my parents. I can only imagine where my path would have led had I known about Athletes Wanted.

I ended up losing out on many opportunities because I lacked guidance through the recruiting process. I did end up talking to coaches and going on several official visits my senior year, but the schools just weren’t what I was looking for and I had no idea how to contact the ones who were.  

Around May of my senior year I had not made a decision about my college future. Luckily, I ran into a great coach who helped me the rest of the way. I went to Kirkwood Community College for my first two years and developed into an awarded volleyball player and a top student.  

Having gone through the process once before, I knew what to do the second time. I started writing letters and emails to coaches at schools I was interested in. I thought about the geographic area I wanted, what type of campus, and the level of volleyball I could be competitive at. I ended up choosing the University of South Carolina-Aiken to spend the last two years of college. It was a school where I could shine athletically and academically. 

Working with Chris Krause has given me the ability to share this first hand knowledge with student-athletes. I am confident that anyone feeling like I did through this process could gain invaluable knowledge about recruiting and collegiate opportunities through Athletes Wanted. Although I do not regret any of the decisions I made, I know how stressful the recruiting process was for me and my family. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to guide student-athletes in a similar position to find them the right athletic and academic fit.

My Recruiting Process

To start, I can tell you my recruiting process wasn’t an easy one. In fact, it was quite frustrating and I was lucky to come out of it at all. It’s pretty much one of those, “If I knew then what I know now” situations. I didn’t know what I needed to do to be recruited besides what I was doing on the field, court and track. I just thought my high school coaches would promote my talents and the college coaches would recruit me from there. 

Ever since middle school I was a standout three-sport athlete in football, basketball and track. As a freshman I was one of only two football players moved up to varsity for the playoffs, in basketball I was the leading scorer and MVP, and in track I made it to state in the 110 hurdles and high jump. As a sophomore I was moved up to Varsity on a state championship caliber football team, in basketball I was moved up to Varsity part way through the season, and in track I placed 3rd in the state for the 300 hurdles.  

Because of my athletic accomplishments my first two years of high school, I thought I had set a pretty good foundation for recruiting by my sophomore year. The summer after my sophomore year, I received a few college brochures and by early fall I had started getting letters for track and football. Not to mention after two summers of attending a Division III school’s basketball camp, they had already started talking to me about scholarships opportunities. The next two years however would not turn out to be as easy. 

Three games into my junior football season I separated my shoulder. This not only put me out for the rest of the football season, but basketball season as well. Needless to say, at this point all most all contacts stopped. I didn’t think it was a big deal though; I still had my senior year right? That winter I trained hard and tried to come back strong for track season. By regionals I was ranked 3rd in the state in the 300 hurdles and top ten in the 110 hurdles. But then I had another set back, I pulled my hamstring and fell in the regional 110 hurdles. I tried to fight through it for other events, but inevitably had to pull out of those as well. I was still able to heal enough by state for the 400 and 800 relay’s (taking 5th and 3rd place respectively as a team), but I had no individual events to show for it. Also, because of my hamstring I was unable to attend any football combines to try to showcase some of my athleticism. This is where solid recruiting education would have really benefited. If I had a company like NCSA to keep me in touch with contacts, as well as still generate new ones with my profile and past film, missing my junior season wouldn’t have been so damaging. I basically missed the most important year for college recruiting and didn’t even know it.  

The summer before my senior year, I was able to gain one D-I football contact but that was only because my brother-in-law was an ex-player and a current Graduate Assistant. Then during my senior football season, I was taken out of my normal position at split end and used as the starting tailback because of need. While I was still able to gain all conference honors, it wasn’t the position I would be playing in college and I wasn’t able to get much school interest. I wasn’t promoting myself to schools and I didn’t know how. All I knew was what I needed to do on the field. I didn’t know how to be proactive in the recruiting process so schools would really know about me.  

The D-I schools that my coach was able to gain interest with wanted me to come on as a preferred walk-on. They said I was a better athlete than most of the individuals they recruited but they had already used up their offers months ago. I decided to hold off signing a letter of intent until after track season. I also decided to sit out basketball again so I could train for track season. I knew my best chance to compete at the D-I level was with football and track and I didn’t want to take any chances.  

After receiving all state honors in three events at the state meet, I still only came out of high school with one D-I scholarship opportunity from Western Michigan University, who wanted me to be their next “up and coming” decathlete. While I enjoyed my time at WMU, I accepted their offer because I didn’t know what other choices I had. I didn’t take full advantage of what D-II or D-III programs had to offer, and I was never once proactive in promoting myself to schools I was interested in at the D-I level.  

My recruiting story is one of an athlete who fell through the cracks. If I would have had a program like NCSA in 1997-98 I would have been able to rebound more from my set backs. I have no doubt I would have had opportunities nationwide and been able to find the best fit for me. I didn’t know the facts then and that ultimately hurt my opportunities. Now however, I have the opportunity to pass on what I’ve learned so young athletes don’t make the same mistakes I did.