Playing the Field

Playing the Field

An explosion in the number of potential athletic recruits
has coaches searching for ability,and intangibles

By Gerry Boyle ‰78 | Photos by Fred Field


 
On a warm afternoon in July, football players packed the playing fields at Minuteman Regional High School in Lexington, Mass. Bulky linemen smashed together, legs churning. Receivers and defenders sprinted pass patterns. Cool-headed quarterbacks fired passes in a dozen simultaneous scrimmages.

Colby Head Football Coach Ed Mestieri watched intently, one eye on the play and the other on a printout providing information—height, weight, GPA—about the 100 or so elite high school juniors on hand for what is sometimes billed as a "skills— camp. But don't let the name fool you. "They're not coming here to improve,— Mestieri explained. These players, he said, are coming to be seen.

Dozens of coaches, many from NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) schools, ranged the sidelines at the Lexington camp, one of 22 camps attended by Colby football staffers last summer. The skills camps are part of a recruiting effort that, especially for NCAA Division III colleges, has increased exponentially in volume of players and dramatically in sophistication in recent years. "The numbers are through the roof,— said Colby Athletic Director Marcella Zalot, "because kids will recruit us now.—

How far through the roof are the numbers? Mestieri began the recruiting season with about 2,500 names from recruiting services, networking, contacts by athletes, coaches, and alumni. Academic criteria culled more than two thirds of the list. So, as he headed off to Lexington that day, Mestieri knew that "as of 12:52, there were eight-hundred and five kids in our system.—

That's up 200 over last year, and football isn't the only sport in which the numbers are increasing.

The men's basketball program will start with as many as 700 potential recruits to yield two or three players. Women's Soccer Coach Jen Holsten '90, blessed with a sport that has exploded in popularity in the United States in recent years, has to contend with so many potential recruits from across the country that she tracks them on a color-coded computer spread sheet, noting each exchange of e-mail, each phone conversation with coach or player, each campus visit. "They're strong academically and they're committed to soccer,— Holsten said. "The pool is large.—
 
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