For Berkeley High School (BHS) athletes, chasing the dream of collegiate sports takes hard work and perseverance.
“It’s been really tough, but I’ve had people that are with me along the way [and have] helped me and pushed me through challenges,” said Chase McFarland, a senior in Academic Choice (AC), when describing his journey of being recruited to play water polo at Stanford University.
On Monday, May 2, McFarland was one out of 11 BHS seniors in attendance at the ceremony where student athletes signed for the colleges they will represent next year.
Dawit Fesseha, an AC senior who will run track and field at the University of Dubuque, Iowa, said, “I’m in that very lucky group [of students] that gets to still play sports in college, which a lot of athletes in high school don’t get to enjoy, and … that’s something I’m really grateful for.”
Hazel Waters, a soccer player in AC who is recruited to Macalester College, echoed this message by saying, “A huge part of soccer and sports at BHS [is] that last game of your youth career, so it’s been really wonderful knowing that that wasn’t my last soccer season, and that I get to play more competitive soccer, and represent my school, which was always really fun to do here.”
The college recruitment process often refers to college coaches reaching out to offer prospective student athletes scholarships. However, getting recruited with a scholarship is “not the only way to play sports in college,” said Annie Jay, a cross country and track and field runner in AC who signed for Carleton College. “There’s a lot of different ways to get there,” she added.
Applying to college through sports shifts the admissions process, so many people reach out to coaches after being admitted to the college to be recruited to a team.
“Going [to college] knowing I’m gonna have a community right from the start is really important, especially with all the anxieties that go with going away to college. … It is a little scary to be so far away [from the Bay Area], but knowing that I’m going to have that team is a really nice feeling,” said Jay.
However, for McFarland, the knowledge that he has been recruited “affects every single day that [he’s] doing anything,” from his ability to focus on classwork to practices and training. And he’s not alone.
Maya Curry, a tennis player in Communication Art and Sciences (CAS), agreed with this statement. Curry is recruited to Holy Names University, and said, “[Playing tennis in high school] was pretty stressful, there was burnout at times.” “[B]ut I think it all paid [off] because I’m here,” Curry concluded.
College recruitment can open new doors, like for Yael Kelley, a CAS rugby player recruited to Queens University of Charlotte. After recruitment, she was offered the opportunity to play in the USA womens team for the Maccabiah Games this summer. She will be the youngest player, and though this is nerve-wracking, Kelly said, “I like to push myself and I think I’m ready for the challenge.”
“This is the first time they’re allowing women’s rugby to be in the [Maccabiah] program, so I can say, ‘I’ve been there from the beginning.’ That’s something that I’m really proud of,” Kelly said.
Overall, college recruitment, and college in general, is really different for everybody. “There is no right path to follow, even if you aren’t following the paths that people tell you [to],” Waters said. “You’re gonna get to a great place in the end, and there’s so many amazing things about every college.”
Kelly explained that she is excited to push herself and improve her skills as an incoming college freshman. She spoke on comparing herself to others as an athlete.
She added that, “It’s important to remember … [that] it’s not where I am in comparison to [others], it’s about where I am in comparison to where I am when I started four years ago.”