By: Joseph Luongo
Campus Sherpa Staff Writer, Harvard University
This is a story of one of my recruiting trips to one of my top schools during the college process and it got a bit awkward, to say the least. To protect the privacy of the school and the people involved, I will use different names. I will refer to the school I was visiting as “Wallace University”. I will also refer to my parents’ colleges as “Windsor College” for my mom, and “Sunnydale” for my dad. These are all fictional colleges from my favorite TV shows and movies (bonus points if you know where they’re from).
Since I was getting recruited to play varsity sports at the Division I level, I went through a slightly different application and searching process than someone who is not a college athlete. All sports are different, but essentially college coaches are always on the lookout for early high school talent and standouts. Their recruiting process is nonstop. As soon as they have athletes who are “committed” to their school and confirmed, they already begin finding athletes for the next year. I stood out very early in high school for my sport. Coaches were contacting me starting the end of my freshman year and were trying to establish an early connection with me in the recruitment process. A lot of coaches, teams, and colleges come and go and eventually athletes end up only staying in communication with five, at the most, of their favorite and most likely schools. These coaches usually invite you to the school to show you around, meet the team, and overall try to convince you to attend their school and be a part of their team. I had a meeting set up the summer before senior year with a coach from one of my top and favorite schools. I was very excited as he had invited me and my parents to come and spend the day with him exploring what his school had to offer.
The day had come and me and my parents were packed up and ready fly to the school, which was in the south. We got to the hotel and went to bed early because we knew we had a big day ahead of us. In the morning, we arrived at the school to meet the coach at the admissions office. He was there waiting and greeted us all with a warm smile and told us he was excited that we were here and that he had a lot to tell and show us. He outlined the day for us starting with a tour of the academic buildings and the athletic facilities, followed by lunch and then ending with a meeting in his office. Once we got outside, we realized we had underestimated the heat of the south, especially in the summer. It was about 95 degrees out and the sun was blazing. My parents and I were covered in sweat and asked to stop inside as many buildings as possible for the relief of the AC. The coach, who didn’t have a drop of sweat on him, laughed and said I would get used to it quickly. It was finally time for the tour to start. This is where things got interesting.
We started off with the academic buildings and were walking through the main campus as he pointed out important buildings and notable places, stopping inside some of them and simply walking by others. It was pretty cool that we had a head coach from a major team at an amazing school as our private tour guide for the day. He decided to take us inside one of the larger and newer academic buildings for a more detailed look. My parents and I didn’t mind since the building was about 30 degrees cooler, and we also got a specific look at where I would possibly be taking classes. There were summer school students in class and working so I got a sense of what it would be like to attend the school. The coach pointed out classrooms, labs, offices, study spaces, and so on and so forth. He began to talk about academics in detail, almost in a defensive manner. He decided that it would be best to compare this school to other schools that we would know. He knew we were from the Northeast, and since he also grew up there he was familiar with schools in the area. I still remember word for word exactly what he said next. As we were walking, he said “Yeah, you know, the education you get here at Wallace is second to none and not a complete joke of a school like Windsor.” Just as he finished the sentence, he had his back turned to us for a brief second to open a door to a connecting hallway. But when he turned around we were all stopped in our our tracks with me and my dad looking back and forth between the coach and my mom. As I mentioned earlier, my mom had graduated from Windsor. The coach just looked as us and broke the silence by asking if he had said something wrong. My mom explained to the coach that she went to Windsor. The coach was horrified and embarrassed and apologized profusely. My mom is a pretty nice person and didn’t really let it bother her and we continued on with the tour. As we kept walking, the coach, who was perfectly comfortable with the heat of outside, was now sweating profusely inside the same building with AC. A lot of people learn from their mistakes — he didn’t.
He was very clearly trying harder to pump up the school to make up for his mistake earlier. We were now heading over to the athletic facilities which my dad was particularly eager about, having been a college athlete himself. These facilities were amazing and got me really excited that this is where I would be practicing and competing if I went here. Again, he was being overly enthusiastic and pampering to us to make up for his earlier comment. For some reason, this coach felt the need to compare his school to others again. As we were in the weight room, which was brand new, he was careless for a second time. For some reason he had assumed that both my parents went to school in the Northeast since we were from there, which unfortunately for him was not the case. I don’t know why he didn’t learn from earlier to be careful about what he said. Like before, I still remember his words exactly and I know my dad does too. Thinking he would be safe comparing his school to one in the South, he said “As you can see Wallace not only has amazing academic facilities, but also brand new, start of the art athletic facilities. We believe that in order to train the best athletes in the nation, we need to have the best environment in the nation. A lot of schools with bad teams don’t care about athletics and where they’re training. I mean, look at Sunnydale’s teams and campus.” This time, it was my me and my mom looking back and forth between the coach and my dad who was very visibly not happy having his school and teams insulted. We didn’t even have to explain to the coach this time what he had done. Again, he apologized and my dad didn’t hold a grudge and we went on with the tour.
We ended up having a very awkward meeting in his office in the end. Ultimately, I chose to go someplace else for a number of reasons, but what he said certainly didn’t help from my parent’s perspective. I’m still kind of shocked that he not only managed to choose my mom’s exact school to insult, but also my dad’s. Out of every school in the country he had to choose both of those. A lesson to be learned — you never know who you’re talking to. My parents and I now laugh about it when people ask how my college search and recruiting went.