La Verne coaches search for future athletes

Mike Senyo
Staff Writer
Adrian Medrano
Staff Writer

On every college campus, in every sport, a recurring role is played every year: recruitment.

Recruiting student-athletes is both a complex and tedious task. The balancing act of academics, athletics and financial aid come into play while putting a team together. Recruitment is still a key factor in athletics no matter what level of NCAA athletics a school is in.

Each school values its athletic programs and only wants the best performing student-athletes. The student-athlete is not only a reflection of the program it plays for, but a reflection of the school as well.

“We need to find a student-athlete that A) can get in school, B) afford to pay for school and C) contribute to athletic success,” head football coach Don Morel said.

Each athletic program needs the best athletes to field the best possible team. Every year players leave and new ones step into the program.

“Each sport has their own circumstance and we try to fill the voids that are left through graduation and other scenarios,” head baseball coach Scott Winterburn said. “We like to identify recruits that are good ball players and students as well.”

What many outsiders do not realize is the important role that a program’s current athletes play in recruiting.

“The role players have in recruiting is a big piece for us,” Morel said. “The job of the current players hosting a recruit is important because recruits want to know what student life is all about. Only the athletes can show them that.”

Many athletes look forward to recruiting by trying to get former teammates and friends to come to the University.

“We get a lot of leads from our players who have played with other guys in their summer leagues or while they were in high school,” Winterburn said. “It makes the process very functional because our players also know what we are missing and are trying to help the program out. “

Each team has its own recruiting process. For example, the men’s basketball coaching staff looks by attending showcases that feature top high school athletes.

“We try to identify athletes that will fit into our program,”men’s basketball head coach Gabe Duran said. “We first make sure that they have good grades. We don’t want to fall in love with a kid and then find out he only has a 2.0.”

Pat Widolff, head men and women’s track and field coach, utilizes his network of friends at the high school level to find recruits. The high school coaches give him a list of athletes that would fit La Verne standards both athletically and academically.

“La Verne has its own niche and we have to see if they fit into that niche,” Widolff said. “We won’t recruit a kid who just wants to sit in the back of a classroom and take notes.”

Sometimes an athlete will get overlooked because he is slightly undersized, or one step too slow, but he still knows how to play the game.

“Sometimes a player will slip through the cracks because he’s not as physically mature as the rest,” Duran said. “We look for guy’s who have the fundamentals.”

Being a Division III school, La Verne is unable to give athletic scholarships; this can hurt the recruiting process because sometimes an athlete who would be successful in Division III competition thinks he or she deserves to play at a higher level.

“In high school everyone wants that Division I athletic scholarship,” Duran said. “Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond.”

Despite all the work that is put into recruiting, sometimes it is the players who are not recruited, who play a major role in a team’s success.

It is a regular occurrence at La Verne for students to walk on and show greatness.

“Every year one guy in our program recruits us,” Duran said. “I love those guys because they end up contributing in one way or another. They have a fire in their belly and they tend to overachieve while guys who have been heavily recruited by many schools sometimes underachieve.”

A major difference occurs in recruiting an athlete straight out of high school and recruiting an athlete who has had experience at the junior college level.

Not only have the junior college athletes experienced competition at the collegiate level, they are also often more physically mature than a high school athlete.

According to Widolff, the biggest difference between a junior college athlete and a high school athlete is that the transfer student has a plan as to what he wants out of a school.

“Junior college students already know what they want to major in,” Widolff said. “A lot of high school students will come in undeclared. If a JC transfer wants to major in political science, then he’s going to want to go to a school that has a good political science program.”

Despite all the great qualities ULV has to offer, other institutions have good qualities as well, therefore strong recruitment is vital to the success of Leopard athletics.

Mike Senyo can be reached at msenyo@ulv.edu.

Adrian Medrano can be reached at amedrano@ulv.edu.

Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.

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