The domino effect of squash recruiting

By Julian Illingworth

co-founder College squash insiders

9 time us national champion and yale 06'


When will coaches be able to tell me anything concrete about their recruiting spots?  

This is one of the most common questions we field at CSinsiders, and the resulting lack of clarity is one of the most frustrating parts of the recruiting process parents and applicants often endure.  

To understand why this issue exists, you need to look at college squash recruiting as a transaction.  All things being equal (academics, profile, personality/fit, etc), college coaches want the best squash players they can possibly get, and families in general want their kids to get into the "best" school possible as they define it.  

Coaches are put into a difficult balancing act between trying to attract players who would improve their team - that are also likely to commit to the school if given support.  Applicants like to keep their options open, and are often wary of telling schools "I'm not interested in you".  Coaches on the flip side are looking for the best recruits they might have a chance at, and thus are wary of committing to support a player that isn't in their top tier.  

What that means in practice, is that coaches wait until their top targeted recruits are off the board (have committed to other schools) before they will commit to other recruits.  This doesn't usually happen until last minute, so that last month can be very frantic as coaches and applicants jockey with each other.  We refer to this as the domino effect in recruiting, once player X is off the board, then the coach can committ to his 2nd choice, player Y.  

One thing to note is that we've found college squash coaches across the board are truthful with their applicants, and generally will not string an applicant along.  If they say explicitly that they are giving you a recruiting spot, its yours and they won't go back on that.  But to read between the lines, if they aren't telling you this, that means they may be holding out to try and get a stronger player or applicant.  

We recommend clear and direct communication with a coach.  Don't be afraid to have the "tough" conversation with them.  Ask how many players they are waiting to hear on, and where you stand squash wise in relation to the other applicants they are considering.  All parties benefit by knowing where everyone stands in the process.  

This is one of the biggest reasons why schools push early decision, because early decision brings clarity and forces the applicant to commit officially to one school (although "early action" does keep their options open).  This is true for normal applicants and recruited student-athletes, however normal applicants are often "rolling the dice" by applying early to a school where it is unclear they will gain admission.  Student-athletes have a huge advantage in this regard, as coaches can often get a pre-read (or at least an indication), and be quite confident that the applicant will get in if they apply early.  

Last thing to remember is that college squash recruiting is vastly different depending on the school.  Talk to the coaches, be direct, be truthful, and be realistic.  Coaches can offer a wealth of knowledge, and will know the specifics of how their institution works.  

The process is complicated and nuanced - we can help talk you through these issues, and act as a sounding board for you as you go through this process

Good luck!