Roseville families learn do-it-yourself recruiting
Charlie Torgerson had no idea where to start for daughter Claire. John Adams followed the footsteps of those older than son Elliott. Alicea Coy took the wheel because it was expected of her.
With November comes national letter of intent signings for high school student-athletes who possess the goods in uniform and the classroom. Claire Torgerson will take her gymnastics from Byers in Roseville to Sacramento State. Elliott Adams of Granite Bay will continue diving at Cal Poly while he studies engineering. Coy was weighing an offer to wear new school colors after graduation – from Roseville orange and black to the University of Delaware blue and yellow – while continuing her softball career.
Looking deeper than signing their names, the quests of the three 17-year-olds to further their education while playing sports cools two popular theories – that it’s the high school coach’s job to find scholarships, and that kids need to attend schools that are successful in their chosen sport “to be seen” by scouts.
“It’s not your high school coach’s job. It’s you and who you play for (on the traveling circuit),” said Alicea, a three-time All-Sierra Foothill League second baseman with the Tigers. “A lot of people think just playing high school is going to get them seen, and that’s not it at all.”
The kids and their parents share a few key beliefs:
1. It’s on the families to give themselves the best opportunity to gain a scholarship, which is hard to come by in some sports.
“Some scholarships are down to one per school (in a given sport),” said Judy Torgerson, Claire’s mom.
And, John Adams said, “There’s a lot of competition to get that one slot.”
2. Exposure is key. All three families assembled video to show scouts and pounded home their interest through e-mails to college coaches.
“If I sent out 75 e-mails, maybe I get 10 to 12 responses. Now I got them looking at me, and it only takes one,” said Kevin Breault of Roseville, who served as college liaison for the California Breeze while Coy was a player with the softball program.
3. Students need to maintain a solid grade-point average.
“Grades are easy to slip,” John Adams said. “One C can affect it.”
4. Athletes need to stay on top of their game.
“Continue to be a standout in your sport, and as you’re competing, watch what the older age group is doing, and where they’re going, and how they’re getting there,” Adams said.
The journeys each student-athlete and their parents have taken down the recruiting trail, and the lessons they learned along the way, can be found at www.rosevillept.com.
Bill Poindexter can be reached at email@example.com.
Claire Torgerson, gymnastics
Torgerson, a senior at Christian Brothers in Sacramento, doesn’t even have a high school team with which to compete. But she’s a national-caliber gymnast at Byers in Roseville, and like the parents of Granite Bay diver Elliott Adams and Roseville softball player Alicea Coy, the Torgersons did most of the recruiting.
The summer before Claire’s junior year, Charlie Torgerson visited the NCAA’s website and used that as his guide to self-recruiting.
“There’s actually a cookbook way of doing it,” he said Tuesday night, sitting in a quiet office with wife Judy and Claire, her tights and skin layered in chalk from a workout while Byers bustled with dozens of little girls learning all the disciplines.
Charlie learned there were 64 Division I gymnastics programs and 85 total, from which the family selected more than 20 to pursue, mostly in the West and based also on Claire’s ability. They registered Claire with the NCAA, filled out school questionnaires, opened Claire an e-mail account, assembled a video of her highlights and put it on YouTube.
Rhonda Hawkins has coached Claire for six years, and while Byers has had “eight or nine athletes” gain full-ride scholarships, Hawkins said the last occurred five years ago. Having the Torgersons share the dos and don’ts of their recruiting experience has helped educate the next group of parents and gymnasts at Byers.
“I can talk to coaches, but in gymnastics, it’s 95 percent the parents. They have to do the footwork,” Hawkins said. “It’s not a money-making sport. (Colleges) can’t send the coaches out. You have to go to them, even if you have to go cross-country.”
Ultimately, it was a performance by Claire during a meet at Sac State that sold Hornets coach Kim Hughes last January, according to Charlie.
“He saw Claire and saw something right off the bat,” Charlie said.
More offers came after the Level 10 Junior Olympics in May in Dallas. Claire, a former state champion in the vault, was on a seven-woman regional team that finished second overall. Hawkins said Claire contributed to that victory in the vault and floor exercise, her best events.
“It’s really amazing I could do this,” said Claire, 17. “I honestly never thought I’d get a full-ride scholarship to any school because I never really thought I had the potential or that I was good enough to. My coaches noticed it. They knew I had it in me.”
So did her parents.
Elliott Adams, diving
Adams’ diving career started when he was 9 with older brothers Ryan and Christopher tempting him to do crazy flips. His dad, John, signed him up for a camp at Oakmont High School.
The coach said Elliott had talent, he joined the Dos Rios Divers, and the goal since was that his talent would get him into college. Elliott plans to study environmental engineering – and dive – at Cal Poly.
Elliott certainly has the talent. He won back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section championships in 2008 and ’09 and was the runner-up last year. Elliott has competed in club, regional, zone and national meets since he was 12, and he attended an AAU camp in China. His signature one-meter dive is a reverse 2½. Elliott also played water polo for four years and won section titles with the Grizzlies in 2007 and ’09.
He said his coaches – Mike Brown at Granite Bay and club coach Dede Crayne– “did as much as any coach can do.” They shared thoughts on colleges they thought would be a good fit for Elliott and wrote letters of recommendation.
But it was his parents – John and mom Marilee – who took the lead in finding their son a school. John learned from parents with older kids what needed to be done: “You have to find the schools you want to go to, get to know the coaches, and pursue them.”
Elliott won the section championship as a freshman and began receiving letters, including interest from Ivy League schools. The Adamses held onto those letters and eventually registered Elliott with the NCAA Clearinghouse.
John said they followed clearinghouse guidelines on when they could make contact with colleges, “which is limited to letters until July 1 before senior year.
“If we happened to see them at a meet (at a campus of Elliott’s interest), he’d … introduce himself to the coach,” John said.
Contact rules are strict. Elliott, 17, recalled being “surprised” by an incident at a national diving meet last year at the University of Arizona. A close friend, a high school junior at the time, was interested in the school and approached the coach, who wouldn’t talk to him. His friend didn’t understand why.
“I talked to my coach and found out coaches can’t try to recruit at a meet like (that) because it wasn’t college diving season,” Elliott said.
The Adamses narrowed their focus to 10 schools and assembled an information packet that included directions to a website featuring Elliott’s achievements, a résumé and video. The website went up at the end of September.
Looking back, John said that because recruiting trips occur in October and signings in November, the website should have been up in August, “if not July.”
“You have to have your trips done ahead of time,” John said.
The NCAA provides five paid trips. Student-athletes can be on a campus for 48 hours maximum, and they generally stay in the dorms. Parents travel on their dime.
The Adamses solicited 10 colleges for a trip and received “a couple of offers,” according to John.
“Some said, ‘Sorry, we’ve already filled our slot,’” he said. “They’re only taking one or two people per year. For the swim team, they’ll take one long-distance person; diving, one person. There’s a lot of competition to get that one slot.”
Alicea Coy, softball
The Roseville senior has played competitive softball since she was 9, and when she joined the California Breeze, the Coy family learned there was much more to the program’s success than trophies.
The Breeze runs a college-like environment: Players room together on trips, and parents aren’t allowed to approach the dugout to talk to the players. Trips sometimes include team visits to a college campus.
The Breeze also was big on players taking charge of their interest in college softball, as Alicea quickly learned.
“They expected you to do the work,” she said.
Kevin Breault of Roseville served as college liaison for the Breeze. His daughter, Courtney, played for Woodcreek and the Breeze. She’s now home on holiday break from the University of Arkansas, where she’s on scholarship.
“It’s up to you to make it happen,” Breault said. “I put a lot of emphasis on the parents. When you have a kid 15, 16, 17 years old, they have a lot on their plate. They’re not comfortable contacting coaches, potentially to get attention from that coach. It helps when parents get involved in that process.”
The Coys’ involvement included making sure Alicea played on a traveling team. Nothing against high school softball, mind you – Alicea is a three-time All-Sierra Foothill League second baseman at Roseville – but the fact is college coaches in softball and other sports flock to showcase and national tournaments, where they can watch hundreds of players in one weekend instead of perhaps one player in a high school game.
“For female sports, it’s not likely they’re going to come watch you during high school,” said Alicea’s mom, Laura. “They only have so (many) funds to travel, and they have only so many contacts they can make in their season of recruiting. They want to get the most bang for their buck.
“Alicea has been very focused about this since a very young age. That’s why she is where she is.”
On this particular Tuesday night, Alicea is sitting at her dining room table in a bright yellow University of Delaware sweatshirt weighing an offer from the Blue Hens. She recently took a recruiting trip to the campus.
“I loved it. It was so pretty,” Alicea said. “I always wanted to go to school on the East Coast. I don’t have a problem with cold weather.”
Well, what about warm weather? Alicea also has received interest from Sonoma State and Hawaii-Hilo.
During her time with the Breeze, Alicea was expected to contact a minimum of 25 colleges by e-mail and follow up again and again. The e-mails, introductory at first, also included dates, sites and game times so coaches knew where to go.
“Get your name out there so they come out and watch you,” Alicea said.
Alicea tore ankle ligaments while sliding into home plate and missed last summer between her junior and senior years, a key recruiting window. Sending a video to Delaware helped compensate for the injury time. Delaware was recruiting a teammate of Alicea’s but also needed a second baseman. Alicea said videos should be organized and can be a combination of game highlights and practice drills.
Oh, and she had one other tip:
“Leave out the music.”
Bill Poindexter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Breault of Roseville served for five years as college liaison for the California Breeze softball organization. His daughter, Courtney, is a Woodcreek High School graduate who now is on scholarship at the University of Arkansas. Breault said he uses principles from the book “Preparing to Play Softball at the Collegiate Level” by Cathy Aradi.
“It’s a step-by-step process if you want to play collegiate softball, and it applies for other sports,” Breault said. “It’s something people need to engage in.”
* Create a minimum list of 25 schools.
* As you get responses, those are the schools you push.
* Be proactive. Send e-mails every two weeks to between 25 and 50 schools.
“Some coaches don’t pay attention because they get 400 to 500 e-mails before a showcase (tournament),” Breault said. “Others notice: ‘Maybe I should take a look.’ ”