A deeper dive into the varsity sports recruiting process
Two Dartmouth head coaches, two current student-athletes and one recruit from the Class of 2027 share their experiences with the recruitment process.
For students across the country and around the globe, the collegiate student-athlete recruiting process kicks off in high school, when colleges typically recruit prospective students during their junior and senior years. Dartmouth’s unique location, coupled with its status as an Ivy League school, are two prominent components of the school’s Division I varsity student-athlete recruiting process. Two Dartmouth head coaches, two current student-athletes and two recruits from the class of 2027 shared their perspectives on the recruiting process.
At Dartmouth, academic excellence is tied with its status as an Ivy league institution. The official Ivy League website states that to increase one’s chance of admission into an Ivy League school, prospective applicants “should take the most challenging high school classes available to you throughout secondary school.”
Given this standard for academic excellence, Dartmouth coaches take grades and academic performance into serious consideration. With increasing academic selectivity, Dartmouth varsity coaches also must be more selective, according to field hockey head coach Mark Egner.
“At an institution like Dartmouth, we absolutely cannot sacrifice on something like their academics,” Egner said. “If you look at the performance of our field hockey team, we have one of the top five GPAs in the nation for the last four years, so we ensure that the student athletes we bring in are prepared for the rigor of a Dartmouth education.”
Some athletes cited that they chose to come to Dartmouth for academics and weren’t necessarily looking to play at the top school for their respective sports. For baseball player Jeff Lee ’25, academics and attending a prestigious school were the top priority during his college search.
“I always wanted to come to an Ivy League school for the academic purpose,” Lee said. “I knew that this school means a whole lot more than just playing baseball at a Division I level.”
Jenna Martin ’24, a rower for the women’s rowing team, had a similar mindset going through her recruiting process, explaining that she “wanted to go to a good school” and “didn’t really care about how good the rowing team was.”
Student-athletes often get support during the application process from the team they are looking to commit to during the fall of their senior years. According to Lee, several coaches “guided [him] through the entire application process,” which took away some of the stress from applying.
Ryan Hapgood ’27, a commit to the women’s lacrosse team, said she also had support from the women’s lacrosse team staff, who did a pre-read of her application with her. After that pre-read, she “felt really confident and excited about the actual admissions.”
In addition to academics, coaches ensure that athletes will be a good fit for the team, taking character, potential and ability to fit into the respective team cultures into account. Egner explained he and his fellow coaches have criteria to guide them during the recruiting process, which consists of “five key factors.”
“The five key factors for us within the recruiting process are their academics, their technical, tactical and their physical capacity, and then their character,” Egner said.
The recruitment process can be stressful and challenging for both potential student athletes and coaches alike. For coaches, one of the main challenges and frustrations is losing a highly-desired student athlete to another school. Egner commented that there are times when his team is competing with another Ivy League institution or another institution with a high academic standard for a player that they really want, and that that can create some frustration.
Egner and Xander Centenari, head coach of men’s tennis, said that while recruiting can be stressful, it is also one of the perks of the job.
“We get the opportunity to potentially support people in pursuing their dream,” Egner said.
Centenari highlighted the lasting bonds that can come from the recruiting process.
“Even though it’s stressful, it can be very exciting because you’re creating a relationship with a young man and his family that hopefully lasts a lifetime,” Centenari said.
For players, the process can be quite grueling, as it can be months long with a lot of traveling amidst a busy schedule. Martin said she had a very busy fall of her high school senior year.
“Dartmouth was my very last official [visit], and I did not want to go on it at all because I was so exhausted from the four other ones that I had previously gone on,” Martin said.
During the pandemic, these official visits were non-existent, and the NCAA put a moratorium on off-campus recruiting. Egner, who started his career at Dartmouth in March of 2020, said that it has been “invaluable” to get to watch student-athletes play in person and to invite them to come play on campus.
The end of the recruitment process marks the beginning of a collegiate sports career, which can have various benefits and drawbacks. Martin explained how her social life and personal time is impacted by her commitment to varsity rowing.
“I wake up very early and workout and then go to class, and then go back down to the boathouse later,” Martin said. “I can’t really stay up super late with my friends.”
Lee acknowledged that being an athlete creates a very different Dartmouth experience from those who do not play a sport.
“It’s an experience that so many people want to have, and I am very appreciative of the opportunity,” Lee said. “But I will say that because baseball takes so much of my personal time, I don’t have much personal time to get along with non-athlete friends, or participate in a club or anything like that, so that kind of limits my Dartmouth experience.”
Despite student-athletes’ personal time constraints due to practices and games, some athletes shared that the pros of being a student athlete at Dartmouth certainly outweigh any cons.
“I think that having four years to be really fit, and contribute not only to a team culture, but also to the speed of our boats is really cool, and I’ll cherish that for my whole life,” Martin said.
For Lee, he said he takes pride in representing his school on the field.
“The fact that I get to represent this school, wearing the uniform that says Dartmouth across my chest every single day, is a huge honor to me,” Lee said.