Recruiting athletes is a year round process at Loyalist

Loyalist men's basketball coach Rich Whitfield talks to his team during a practice in the gym. Forward Matt Miller looks on. (Photo courtesy of Matt Kerr)

One of the toughest jobs for any college or university is recruiting prospective athletes for their schools sports teams.

Loyalist Athletic Director Jim Buck says the schools uses their history of academic success to help entice potential athletes to come to the school.

“We have had more academic success with our student athletes than most colleges,” said Buck. “That’s the thing that we try to hold up here as opposed to championships, because we don’t win a whole lot of them.”

Every athletic department has a different way of recruiting athletes. At Loyalist they make sure the school and what it has to offer, works for the student.

“What we try and sell the kids on here is obviously; you got to get the right program academically, said Buck. “If you have the right academic program, usually that is a stepping-stone to success.”

Loyalist coaches will admit Loyalist doesn’t have as many programs as other schools, but it does specialize in a select few.

“I love when kids say they are (interested in) justice studies or media studies or nursing,” said women’s basketball head coach Chris Eligh. “Programs that I really believe in at the college level.”

Loyalist men’s basketball coach Rich Whitfield agrees. He believes that the school and program has to be a good fit for the athlete for them to succeed.

“You don’t want a kid that the school doesn’t really appeal to and you kind of almost force him to come by promising him stuff,” said Whitfield. “You want kids that want to come to the school. That the school is a good fit for them and that they are a good fit for us.”

Eligh believes that they have to be interested in a specific program in order to recruit the student.

“If kids say they are not interested in certain (programs) I can’t recruit them, I don’t bother. I wish them the best of luck but I can’t recruit just based on skill I need a student athlete.”

Martine Gauvin a member of Loyalist’s women’s basketball team, she came to the school because of the customs and border services program.

“I love (my program). I have really finally found what I want to do,” said Gauvin. “I was ready to stop playing basketball but I was pretty happy to keep doing what I love. It was a plus.”

Loyalist men's basketball coach Rich Whitfield talks to his team during a practice in the gym. Forward Matt Miller looks on. (Photo courtesy of Matt Kerr.)

Fellow women’s basketball teammate Jenni Thompson also came to Loyalist because she found the right program.

“I wanted to play basketball that’s for sure,” said Thompson. “I read that (Loyalist) was one of the top schools for academics and that basketball was a big thing. So I wanted to try the recreation and leisure program.”

The common phrase, “winning is everything,” doesn’t resonate around Loyalist, as many feel that academic success has to come first.

“I never want to be in the position of having the best athlete in here but he doesn’t go to class and pass,” said Buck. “If there wasn’t the academic part of it we wouldn’t be doing scholarships, (academic success) has to be first and foremost.”

The school does hand out athletic scholarships to a select number of players each year, but only to deserving student athletes.

“They have to be earned, said Whitfield. “They have got to go class, they have to pass all of their classes and be in good academic standings. They also need to have a positive influence in the school and out in the community and they have to be an impact player for us.”

Recruiting athletes, is a joint process between the athletic department’s administration and coaching staffs.

“I like to leave most of it up to the coaches, said Buck. “I think that it is important that they get out there and identify athletes and make contact with the coaches of high school and club programs.”

For most coaches, the process is a lengthy one.

“It’s always busy,” said Whitfield. “You are always looking. You always want to improve players and your lineup so you are constantly looking. I am very hands on actively talking to kids on a weekly basis, if not daily.”

Loyalist College athletic department is hard at work all year around trying to recruit players for their many different sports teams and sometimes the players make it easy for them.

“It’s an interesting process,” said Eligh. “A couple if my top recruits this year definitely approached me first.”

Most of the time players will be drawn to a program because of it’s successful history or because of a certain coach that has shaped a good program.

“I look back when we were the most dominant men’s volleyball program in the province and one of the best in Canada,” said Buck. “The coaches still recruited hard but we had a lot of players coming to us most of the time because they knew we were successful.”

The run Buck is referring too happened from 1994-95 to 2002-03 when the Loyalist men’s volleyball team won six championship titles. Buck said sometimes the school will get lucky and have players come to them, other times it’s hard work and perseverance.

“Recruiting for us at the college level, if you do it right, is non-stop,” said Buck. “You can’t sit back and expect the blue chip recruit to come to you, you have to go out and get them.”

Whitfield agrees saying that in order to have a good team you have to be active.

“The guy that stops, the guy that doesn’t actively look all the time is the guy that falls behind and the program ends up struggling,” said Whitfield.