Cole Derksen was sound asleep at 2 a.m on a weeknight when the phone rang. Awakened by the provoking thumps of his iPhone ringtone, Cole received news that would soon change his life forever.
This year there has been an impressive number of students who were recruited to play Division I, II, and III sports at various universities across the United States.
Singapore American School offers 11 varsity sports. While often winning medals and excelling in their IASAS tournaments, many student-athletes feel that they aren’t good enough to play at the collegiate level. But with more students earning athletic scholarships and being invited to play on their college teams, this assumption may be changing.
Robert Moritz has been officially recruited for track at Bentley University, but hopes to secure a spot with the football team in March. Robert highlights the common misconception that athletes who are considered great in Singapore may be just mediocre in the U.S. “People underestimate how good the competition is, and how good we are,” Robert said.
But first recruiters have to actually be aware of the athletes in Singapore, which isn’t always easy. Robert said the number one priority for getting recruited for football while living overseas is “going to camps.” Like Robert, many other student-athletes at SAS were able to get recruited by attending summer recruitment camps in the United States where coaches from different universities get to see them play and compete.
Another piece of advice mentioned by Kevin Clydesdale, who recently found out that he will be swimming for Middlebury College, is to “start talking to coaches as early as you can and keep talking to coaches even if they’re ignoring you.”
Cole always considered basketball as his main sport, but towards the end of his junior year Jared Bildfell, the SAS boys’ varsity volleyball coach, started encouraging him to look into playing in college.
When asked about the process of getting recruited, Cole said, “I went to a few recruitment camps in the Northeast and I made a couple videos. As my relationship with the coaches went forward, they started asking for more game film.”
But Cole wasn’t interested in just any school, he “was always interested in a small liberal arts school.” Cole will be playing Division III volleyball at Vassar College, which he says is “just the right fit academically and athletically.”
Mikael Dahlgren was attending the Stanford Golf Camp this past summer when he realized that his skills were just as good as rising seniors in the States.
“So over the summer, I was planning on visiting five schools all on the Southeast of the United States. Stetson University was the second school I was visiting, and when I was driving up to visit Furman University in South Carolina, I got a call from Larry Watson, the Stetson golf coach, and he said he really wanted me to play for them. Right then, I knew that I wanted to go there.” Mike continues, “I get a scholarship for golf. I wouldn’t say it’s a lot, it’s not a full ride, but I still get some sort of athletic scholarship.”
Cole and Mikael discovered their passion for their respective sports later in high school, but for Damion Gillespie, it has been a lifelong dream.
“I used to watch sports with my dad a lot and I always enjoyed playing them,” Damion said. “But I knew that I was good enough when I began receiving emails from college coaches about playing at the next level.” Damion will be playing Division I football at Northern Illinois University starting next fall.
For some sports, recruitment camps are crucial for getting recognized, but Kaitlyn Richey and Caitlin Loi both say that this is not the case for swimming.
“It is relatively easy with swimming to know if you are good enough to be recruited for a certain school because it is all based on times. As harsh as it sounds, you’re either good enough or you aren’t and the numbers will tell you,” Caitlin said. Kaitlyn, who will be swimming for UCSD in the fall, said, “When I was first looking at schools, I looked at their swimmers’ times and saw how I fit in with their team.”
It turns out that the main problem with trying to get recruited for swimming is just getting the coaches to answer emails. “Some coaches will answer you, and this is usually a good sign if they’re interested, but sometimes they just don’t see an email because they get so many,” Kaitlyn said.
As glamorous as it sounds to get recruited, being a part of a college team requires a great time commitment. After finding out the men’s volleyball schedule at Vassar, Cole said, “It’s a way bigger commitment than I thought, so I mean, it is a little freaky.” His schedule consists of “three-a-day practices [a month before the season starts, and] for the next two months, it’s two-a-days. But during the season, we’re going to practice, work out and watch a lot of game film.”
At Stetson University, Mikael Dahlgren will be waking up at 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. weekly for morning practices.
For Caitlin Loi, the time commitment will not be an issue. “In college, the pool, classes, and home will all be in the same place, so there will be no commuting for a couple hours every day.” Caitlin has been learning to balance swimming, school, and her social life for so long that she knows how to handle it in college, and even expects it to be easier to manage than in high school.
For now, seniors are just imagining what it will be like, but for some of our alumni, it’s a reality. Alumni Stuart Baker plays rugby at Duke University. Stuart describes his experience by saying “for the most part, it’s what I expected. The size of the individual players here is much larger, but in terms of skill, I’d say it’s about the same as in Singapore.”
As for Tom Kim, who will be playing baseball at Johns Hopkins University, “I am extremely blessed to have the opportunity to play baseball at the next level. There are countless things that I am looking forward to in college baseball and it would be near impossible to name just one. However, I can’t wait to meet all of my new teammates and create a second family!”