Andrew Maier ('20)
Story originally appeared in the 2020 February Issue
The recruitment process is, arguably, one of the most stressful periods in high school for a student-athlete. From visits to interviews to choosing a major to pursue, these athletes have a lot to keep track of while being recruited.
The college recruitment process varies from senior to senior. The option to pursue a sport along with their major comes as a huge choice as well.
Eddie Grant (‘20) played midfield for East’s Varsity soccer team and will be playing for Lafayette College starting next fall. He grew up playing soccer and his passion for the sport continued to grow during freshman year when he began playing for East. He has also played Varsity all four years of high school.
Not only does Grant play soccer at East, but he also plays for South Jersey Elite Barons (SJEB) Rush. He was surrounded by a competitive atmosphere that allowed him to develop certain skills and sportsmanship. He and his team won the US Club Soccer National Championship in 2018, which was and still is a big deal to Grant.
Emily Mahaffy (‘20) will be attending Rutgers University this upcoming fall and will be a coxswain on the Women’s Rowing Team. Her passion stemmed during the winter of her freshman year. Her role was serving as a coxswain — a ship driver — for boys. Being a new freshman in the district, Mahaffy found a way to channel her personality into rowing. The sense of being “in control” empowered Mahaffy and allowed her to branch out as a newcomer in a new school environment. Her stepsister’s experience and her parents seeing how rowing positively influenced her was the push for Mahaffy to give rowing a try. Mahaffy is a part of the South Jersey Rowing Club that pulls kids from all over the South Jersey area to row. She has placed in Youth Nationals twice, during her sophomore and junior year.
In May of her junior year, Mahaffy received an offer from Rutgers. Not quite ready to accept, she kept up the dialogue with her coaches. The coaches’ encouragements were a big reason why Mahaffy decided that Rutgers was the college for her
“I felt as though I had the capacity to be a high performer rather than just a number,” said Mahaffy.
Rutgers was her first and only official visit. Mahaffy committed the day of return from her official, or college-paid, visit and ended the recruitment process with other schools, including self-paid or unofficial visits to Duke and Georgetown.
Grace Yoon (‘20) played a wide range of sports during her middle school years. She was an active athlete in cross country, track and soccer along with swimming competitively for her club team.
As freshman year came around, she decided to make swimming her primary sport and priority until senior year. Yoon has been swimming for Wahoos Swim Club since a young age and the East Girls’ Swim Team since she was a freshman, and her best events are the long course of butterfly and breaststroke.Swimming had not been on her mind when it came to college until the peak of her sophomore year.
Yoon began her early commission June of her sophomore year by sending emails to coaches. She toured Harvard on her official visit in April of her junior year and found that she wanted to be a part of the team.
“Once I committed, I had a renewed sense of motivation,” said Yoon.
On her official visit to Harvard, Yoon was impressed. Going with her gut feeling and evaluating other factors, Yoon found that Harvard would suit her personal and academic priorities best. She is more than excited to be a part of a unique community that immerses herself with different people of different backgrounds.
“Around 6-8 girls are on the team per class,” said Yoon. “[Getting accepted] was definitely a special day.”
Yoon describes the recruitment process as a very stressful one. She explains that it was difficult at first to balance good grades, swimming and college applications. Yoon was unsure what was suitable and realistic for her, but when visits and recruiting began, Harvard soon rose to the top of her list.
During the recruitment process, a common element in the college’s sports team stood out: teamwork.
Mahaffy recalls on her official visit a distinct memory that displayed active elements of teamwork. Watching the girls was like a ripple effect to Mahaffy. When the fastest girl finished her piece of the workout, she would cheer on the next girl. The process continued until a whole crowd of girls cheered on the last girl to complete her training.
“That was the team atmosphere and support that I wanted,” said Mahaffy.
Yoon remembers admiring the girls perform swimming events on her official visit to Harvard.
“I was in awe that these girls could live like that every single day, almost like a vacation,” Yoon said.
Yoon wanted to be on a team that embraces teamwork and learning from one another.
On the other hand, Grant hit a bump in the road that altered his progress.
“I broke my femur my junior year, a time when many students are in the process of looking for colleges,” said Grant.
Grant was unable to play soccer for months, having to undergo surgeries and physical therapy. The tedious recovery process prevented him from displaying his talent during the school year. However, Grant’s drive and determination allowed him to strive for and achieve his dreams in the sport by playing for Lafayette College.
“I was looking for a school where I could play soccer on a Division I level,” said Grant.
Mahaffy recounts her first year of freshman year as the “new kid.” Rowing allowed her to meet some of her closest friends from all over the South Jersey area. Mahaffy says the struggles and accomplishments are what make up her identity, and she is grateful for them.
“Being in control the first day forced me to toughen up,” said Mahaffy.
Yoon describes that the biggest challenge for her was finding a balance between swimming, keeping her grades up and the recruitment process.
“It was tough to balance,” said Yoon, “I had to give up a lot of things.”
Swimming has taught Yoon how to manage her time. Without swimming, she would have had a different college search experience and not meet some of her closest friends.
“I felt a lot of emotions, good and some bad, but ultimately swimming has done a lot for me,” said Yoon.
Several sets of challenges came along with pursuing the sports. Each athlete had his or her own ups and downs, but cannot imagine life without the sport. Their sports have become a part of their identity.
“Strive for your goal and commit the time and practice into the sport to improve,” Grant said.
Grant believes that in order to achieve your goals, a player must commit the time and effort to improve on their technique and skills.
“It’s important to allow sport to be a passion of yours, not a chore,” said Mahaffy. “[Being] in the presence of your sport as much as possible is important.”
Mahaffy encourages aspiring athletes to be a constant learner of their sport. Having a passion for the sport means enjoying the team members and the atmosphere.
For future and current college athletes, Yoon offers some advice:
“Don’t stress too much as long as possible,’’ said Yoon. “It is important to enjoy your high school experience as much as you can to prepare for the future.”