**Recruiting Horror Stories are posted every Tuesday to provide athletes’ first-hand experiences of what can go wrong during the recruiting process.
Wayden fell in love with lacrosse at a young age and continued to stand out amongst her teammates as she grew up. When it came time to look at colleges, Wayden was excited to look at all her offers and keep an open mind. Many of her family members had gone to the same college, and it was on her list, so she decided to check it out. While she wanted to keep her options open, she felt that going to this “family school” would make her relatives happy.
Committing to the Family School
The coach of this Division 1 school was very interested in Wayden’s talent and they scheduled visits so she could see the facilities and meet the coaches and players. Being a sophomore in high school at the time, Wayden didn’t really know what to look for in a college. She did, however, know that her family was ecstatic about the opportunity for her to play at their favorite school. Not knowing what she was getting into, Wayden chose to commit to this school her sophomore year, excited for the chance to play in college.
As happens in high school, Wayden grew both on and off the field. She was still excited to begin her college career, but it felt more of a path that was set out for her, rather than a decision she made herself.
She began her college career training with the rest of her teammates, but immediately felt like something was off. She began to question herself: Was it homesickness? Was she intimidated by the amazing players around her? Did she regret her commitment?
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The Sense of Not Belonging
Although she tried to find her place at this school, it soon became too overwhelming and she didn’t want to be there anymore. The college was extremely academically challenging and she had developed a strong case of Imposter Syndrome. Wayden felt she didn’t belong because, although her academics were good, she felt she had only been accepted because of her athletics. This sense of not belonging was constantly on her mind, but Wayden felt an immense amount of stress to continue at this school because of her family’s pressure.
After a few short months in college, Wayden went on a leave of absence to consider her options. Her family was upset with her for not trying harder to like the school. This caused a divide between her and her family, which was also hard on Wayden, especially when she had made the decision to appease them in the first place.
The pressure she had felt as a sophomore in high school was creeping back in. Should I just go back to make my family happy?
The Moment of Realization
This is when Wayden had a moment of realization: basing her decisions off her family’s happiness is what put her in this position. She did not want to spend four years at a school just to please her family. Wayden never returned to the school after her leave of absence, and instead transferred to a Division 3 school closer to home.
Being able to make this decision on her own made Wayden feel empowered. Finally, she was excited to be playing her sport at a school of her choice. She realized that having family weigh in too heavily on your college recruitment can lead to bitterness and regret. While parents and family members can be valuable as a support system as you are navigating the recruiting field, choosing a college is ultimately the student’s decision.
* Originally published on September 14, 2021, by Mary Kate Donnelly