Mark Lewis

Middlebury Head Coach

Recruiting is a roller coaster




Recruiting is a roller coaster. There are ups and downs and twists and turns that all wreak havoc on everyone’s state of mind. Before you even get on the roller coaster, expectations are high and you bristle at the thought of meeting college coaches and visiting campuses. Before you know it you are headed up the incline of junior year, working hard to excel at everything. Often there are moments of feeling overwhelmed. You try to remain grateful that you get to play squash and that you love the game and that the game is a respite from the stresses of classwork and test prep. Then again, you find yourself worrying about getting enough wins on court to show your potential value to a college coach.

The student-athlete must prepare themselves for the academic rigors of high school and stay on top of their game with training and tournament play. It is all very stressful. Add to this the need to figure out where they really want to attend college and you have a recipe for psychological turmoil.

To get through this ride, there is much to consider. I suggest each student-athlete consider size, location, and strength of academics and strength of squash team for starters. As you get further into the process, I suggest talking to and meeting the coach and some team members to get a feel for the team. The best insights into the team will come from current team members talking about practices, work/study/social life balance and how team members get on with their coach.

As you sort through potential schools coaches are looking at all of the pieces (grades, test scores, on court results, match history, behavior on and off court) to find players who will fit into their team. This is no easy feat because each player will hopefully grow, mature and change during their college years. Coaches are trying to see what a recruited athlete’s future might look like and if it matches the vision the coach has for their team.

Perhaps the biggest intangible a coach looks for is the character of the recruit. How will the student athlete handle pressure? How will they deal with adversity because it will come. There will be times of real stress on every front – academic, athletic, personal. I believe that many coaches today believe as someone once said that competition does not necessarily build character, it reveals character. Coaches look for the player who can call their own double bounces, who can call strokes against themselves. Coaches look for players who respect themselves, their opponents and the game.

Towards the end of the recruiting process, the part of your brain that drives instinctual decisions based on a feeling of connection to a school will be the best source of a well-informed decision. Basically, after you have turned over every stone to create your best self, listen to your gut. Problems arise when your gut doesn’t fall in line with a recruiting spot. You want to go to school “X” but there isn’t a spot there for you. Then you have to decide if you’re going to put your eggs into the basket of your dream school or if you’re going to fish around for a recruiting spot at another school. I suggest that you push all the buttons to attend your dream school and if that does not pan out, you can reset your sights and dive into another school.

In the end, I suggest that if you are a student athlete or parent that you enjoy the process of getting to know schools and coaches. It is an opportunity for a high school player to really get to know themselves and what’s important to them. From the coach’s perspective, they are always looking for an impact player. Someone who raises the bar for the team. This can mean that the student athlete is an exceptional player and it can also mean that they bring a level of passion and enthusiasm to the team that will elevate everyone’s play. As my predecessor John Illig used to say, “swing for everything.”