Road to American College Athletics
Education, Education - general, Sport, Sport - general
Recent graduate of the University of Denver, retired D1 tennis player and aspiring entrepreneur. Interested in anything and everything to do with the ...
For some Division 1 sports teams it isn't uncommon to have foreign players outnumber Americans. Why is this the case and what is the process like for foreign recruits?
Question: What led you to eventually be recruited and play for an American university?
A friend of mine who was already playing at the University I subsequently went to, simply asked me if I was interested in playing college tennis, during a tournament in the summer. That's how i got in contact with the coach, who 2 month later visited me in Austria to meet me and my parents. It was a pretty quick decision making process. Overall it took 2 month from the first talk with the coach until signing the scholarship offer.
Knowing I wasn't ready to give up tennis at age 18 led me to search for ways to continue competing. Coming to the US to play a D1 sport is a long process. I had to take two academic tests. The SAT and a TOEFL test. When these tests are completed with good results you have to begin a process of applying for a VISA and also you have to apply for the University you plan to attend. There were a lot of papers to read and sign before I even could book my meeting with the embassy. I think its hard also for foreigners to actually understand everything they sign and the process, since its different from home and not in their language.
After getting the documents correct, and after an interview at the American embassy you’ll hopefully get your visa approved to study in the US.
Question: American universities put much more emphasis on athletics than do universities abroad. Do you think the American university system is better than what you would have done back home? Why or why not?
Yes definitely. It is better in both aspects, the athletic component is outstanding and uncomparable and even the academic component is better than at most foreign universities from my point of view. Obviously there are differences among american universities, just like in any other country, but the general tendency of american universities to be very project based is much better than the "learning by heart" method foreign universities apply.
I definitely think the American university system is better than back home. You shouldn’t have to quit a sport you have been dedicating your whole life to after finishing high school just because you can’t combine studies and your sport. I graduated high school when I was 18 and I was still loving tennis and I still wanted to travel and compete. I was not ready to quit just because some higher education would not allow my training schedule to work. I knew I wouldn’t be the next Serena Williams which meant I would need a quality education but like I said, I wanted to combine them both. I also think that it builds strength and good qualities for individuals who become student athletes. Its not an easy life all the time. You need to be good at managing your time, you need to be goal driven, and you need to work hard. It definitely builds character and that is something which will help me later on in life. Things I wouldn’t have gained if I “only” would have studied at a university at home.
Question: Why do you think foreigners outnumber Americans by so much in certain D1 athletics?
Well there are a number of reasons I think, but the main reason is that technology has simplified international recruiting. The US has a population of 320 million while there are curently more than 7 billion people on this planet. Since coaches have a lot of pressure to form a competitive team, it only makes sense to start looking abroad for a top recruit, if they were not successful at getting the american top recruits.
Well, first of all I think there aren’t many foreigners in certain sports just because these sports aren’t big in Europe. Such as Lacrosse, American Football, Basketball etc. However, sports such as golf and tennis are very popular in Europe and these are also very expensive sports. You have to finance your own coach, you have to be a member of a club, you have to pay to use the courts, the balls, and travel to compete costs a lot of money. College is a steppingstone for some people who wants to compete and still train hard to maybe play professional after college and become better players while having a scholarship that can help finance your dreams.
Question: Do you think NCAA coaches take advantage of foreign players and their lack of exposure to American universities and athletics?
No I don't think they take advanteage of them. I don't see how they could do that, since it's a win-win situation for the player as well as the coach.
Not really, I would maybe think its the other way around. Foreign players can just leave and go home if it doesn’t suit them. They still have an option to keep studying (not doing their sports maybe) but it's not like they don’t have a plan B. Coaches put in a lot of time and money on recruiting the perfect fit for their team. Sure, I'd say many foreigners do not understand the culture of American universities and athletics, It’s not as “easy” as some movies portray for example, but that’s almost the attitude I can hear from people when discussing American universities and athletics. I think it would be better if NCAA coaches really explain and put emphasis on HOW it really can be. HOW much that you have to live up to. Not only in your sport but also off the court. Foreign players often just google the school they plan to attend and base their decisions on how the pictures look like. In reality it becomes a surprise for many.
Question: Knowing what you know now, what would you change about college athletics, as a foreign recruit or otherwise? What would you change about the recruiting process itself?
That's a good and very extensive question, since there are many things that can be improved. The most important aspect that absolutely needs to change though is the recruiting process, which is why I am working on www.smarthlete.com. It's a social network for prospective student athletes and college coaches. Internationals (and even americans) lack a certain knowledge and exposure about the recruiting process, which is why many of them fall into the trap of recruiting agencies, which take advantage of their knowledge about the recruiting process and significantly overcharge their services. The recruiting process itself is actually fairly easy as long as you know what you have to do. You just need to know, whether you are good enough to be on a college team and if so, which college to contact. Many prospects contact the wrong coach, which is why they end up failing at gaining a scholarship.
Hard question, I don’t really know but as for myself I kind of wish that I would have spent more time doing research about different schools and what I could potentially study. Not all schools offer the same possibilities in terms of facilities, and education. Other than that I think the process is good, it shouldn’t be easy to come over to the States and study. You have to separate the people who really want it from the people who just kind of want it. It’s a privilege, and not a right, as a foreigner to have a scholarship paid for and to experience the things you do. I loved every second of it.