College athletes recruited for academic skills, not just athletic abilities

by Ashley Van Alstine

Simpson offers student athletes something more then just sports. This Division III school tries to encourage athletes not only to excel athletically but academically as well.

For admissions counselors, the task at hand when recruiting athletes is emphasizing academics.

“I love athletics, but when they are in here, I don’t talk about athletics, and I think that surprises the athlete a little bit,” Director of Recruitment Cole Zimmerman said. “I talk more about the academic aspect of Simpson College, and what they can expect over the next four years. I think that sometimes it takes the really good athletes by surprise.”

While athletic successes may attract athletes to Simpson, recruiters on campus are not able to entice prospective athletes with monetary aid through their sport.

“We can’t give athletes scholarships here, all of the scholarships that the athletes get are based on academic[s] and financial aid,” Clint Head, recruiting coordinator, offensive line coach and assistant football coach said. “That’s one thing that can be a challenge for us. Other schools, not in our conference, but some of the other schools in the area can give athletic scholarships.”

Head said athletes don’t get any more financial aid than other students.

“If you come here and play sports, you’re not going to get any more money then a regular student who’s coming to school here,” Head said. “It’s truly an extra activity just added on.”

Head said the athletes are here because they want to be here.

“That’s what makes Division III so unique and why I really like coaching at this level,” Head said. “These athletes are here because they want to be here, and they want to get better. When you win a championship at this level, it’s the purest form of winning.”

The recruiting process starts at the beginning of a student’s junior year and continues until the student-athlete has officially decided upon a college to attend. The process requires communication between both departments trying to reach the prospective student-athlete.

“Recruiting is a two-way street between coaches and admissions,” Zimmerman said. “The coaches are out talking to other coaches, and athletes from high schools and junior colleges and then they bring those names back so that we can get them on file here.”

After a student has been named a Storm prospective, the coaches try to help him or her feel like he or she should become a part of the ‘Simpson Experience.’

“We try to get out and see them play, see them in their environment to make them feel wanted,” said Jennifer Jepson, assistant women’s volleyball, basketball coach and recruit coordinator. “From there we try to get them to see one of our games and keep in contact with them, without making them feel crowded.”

Hard work including: attending games, contacting prospects, mailings and other time consuming recruiting tasks can result in a small victory for recruiters when a student-athlete decides to attend Simpson.

“My favorite part of recruiting is coming up,” Zimmerman said. “Once they have gotten the award letter, and they decide that they can afford Simpson, they will call me up and say ‘Cole, I’m coming to Simpson.’ That’s an awesome feeling because that might be a kid that I’ve worked on for almost two years.”