This image is all too common. The dad chanting to his son to score a goal while pacing the sidelines, the mother racing from her minivan with a Tupperware of cut up oranges and a package of Capri Suns and the budding young athletes sweating profusely on the field or court; at this age playing purely for enjoyment. Little do these boys know that as they kick this soccer ball or spike that volleyball, in a matter of years, these sports will turn into a passion and potentially their tickets into college.
Today, many Samo students are in similar transitional situations, their hard roads to becoming skilled athletes are finally beginning to pay off.
Junior Dane Keckin, a member of the Samo boys’ volleyball team has grown up around volleyball. Inspired by his father and uncle, both of whom were on Samo volleyball in their high school years, and older sister who was on the girls’ volleyball team, keckin began playing volleyball at a young age. This early exposure, helped shape him into a skilled player.
“I always played with my [father] on the beach until sixth grade when he signed me up for a club team,” Keckin said. “I chose to stick with volleyball over football because during my volleyball practices I really enjoyed playing and I had a lot of fun. [When I was playing] football, only the games were fun.”
Though Keckin had always played simply for enjoyment, he began to take volleyball more seriously in high school.
“In my sophomore year I was on one of the best club teams in the state. It made me realize that I could actually do something with volleyball,” Keckin said. “Getting into a good college [has] always been number one on my list.”
According to Keckin, who has received letters of interest from multiple colleges, including the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC), in order to contact a college, many athletes send out emails or a highlights tape to their prospective schools. These tapes show brief snippets of the best moments in their games.
“My club coach has connections with many NCAA [National Collegiate Athletic Association] coaches so he has put in a good word in for me,” Keckin said. “I would say what separates good coaches from great ones is how many kids they send to the next level. A coach plays a pretty big role in recruiting.”
Junior Joselyn Hayes has only ever played volleyball. She claims it’s the only thing she knows, and recently it has brought her many letters of interest and recruitment from colleges. Hayes has narrowed down the list of the colleges she is interested in. Currently, she is vacillating between San Diego State University and the University of Colorado.
One of the reasons Hayes has stuck with volleyball for so long is because she has always known it would eventually take her to college.
“Before being recruited, I knew that volleyball was my way into college, so I tried hard and did my best,” Hayes said. “Now that I’m being recruited, I feel that I can try a little less now but still keep up the [strong athletic image] for college coaches.”
Because Hayes always had this mentality, being recruited didn’t affect her love for volleyball.
“I still enjoy it, but then sometimes I don’t. My attitude [about volleyball however,] has always been the same,” Hayes said.
Junior soccer player Emily Paymer is a member of a local club team and has recently been getting letters of interest from several colleges, which she is not able to give the names of. According to Paymer, having colleges interested in her doesn’t make her feel like she can take a breather. Instead, it makes her work harder.
“A lot of people think when you get recruited you can just cruise and relax but that’s not the case,” Paymer said. “You have to keep up your play and academics and get ready to play at the level your [college of choice expects].”
Paymer believes that in order for an athlete to excel, they need to think ahead.
“There is a certain point when you decide on your goals and have to adjust your game depending on what level of play your college is,” Paymer said. “If it is a D1 [Division 1] team you’re looking at you will most likely be on a top club team and will love improving.”
Since the high school coach plays an important role in the game of the player and the player’s future in athletics, Paymer stresses the importance of being on good terms with him or her.
“Once a college is interested in you, they will probably contact your coach to know what you are like,” Paymer said. “For this and many other reasons it’s extremely helpful is you have a good relationship with your coach.”
Senior varsity football player Kori Garcia received many letters of interest and recruitment. The attention pleased him and he feels it positively affected the team’s morale.
“It feels great because on our team this year we have many D1 prospects that are getting looked at. It’s bringing a lot of attention back to this community,” Garcia said.
Though he received letters of interest from Yale, Columbia and Colorado State in the fall, Garcia has committed to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo on a full ride football scholarship.
Sophomore Christine Maddox has played tennis her whole life. Because she’s had so much experience with the sport, she’s caught many colleges’ eye since her freshman year. Because colleges have stated their interest in her, she’s had to build up walls to keep focused on tennis.
“I was [also] a pitcher in softball and the pressure was always on me to throw the right pitch,” Maddox said. “It just takes practice to ignore outside distractions and try to do your best no matter who is watching.”
No matter how much pressure Maddox is under, it hasn’t changed the fact that she loves tennis, nor has it changed her natural ability to play the sport.
“It happened to work for my body and I was built perfectly for it. An activity is always fun to play when you are good at it,” Maddox said.
However, some non-athletic students find that it is unfair that athletes have certain weights lifted off in terms of getting into a good college. Even though they need to maintain a strong GPA, colleges have an undeniable attraction to good athletes, which increases these athletes’ chances of getting into a top choice school.
“I have worked very hard throughout high school and would definitely feel a bit of envy if I was not able to go to my top school because an athlete took my place,” senior Charlotte Biren said. “School has been about academic excellence for me and to reward someone for something else is something that I still am not quite used to.”
Nevertheless, it is without a doubt that many players are anticipating playing at a college and that getting recruited is the first step.
“When I found out I had an opportunity to play a game I love that could help me get into college it just got me more excited to play,” Paymer said.