February was signing month for thousands of student athletes across the nation, meaning many local high school students will become part of Clark’s sports teams and many of Clark’s athletes will move on to four year universities to continue their athletic journeys.
To many athletes, signing means making a commitment to a college’s team. However, being signed is not as easy as just being good at a sport. Women’s soccer coach Sean Janson said there are two important factors coaches consider when recruiting: ability to perform in their sport and ability to perform in the classroom. Potential college athletes need to keep their grades and scores up.
Track and Field coach Robert Williams said it’s important for athletes to start exploring schools early. “So many of the athletes wait until the very last second,” Williams said. “They want to try to get the best deal they can, and sometimes they wait too long.”
Williams said some students end up in difficult situations because they decide to wait until later on to start the signing process. He said that some students will sign with a school, visit, realize it’s not what they wanted and decide not to attend. He said some of these athletes come to Clark as a backup, but find it’s too late to get a spot on the team.
Women’s soccer team sophomore Riley Smetzler competed for Ridgefield High School and was a Running Start student her senior year.
She said she emailed Janson to establish interest after she went to a Clark soccer ID camp. Many athletes go to ID camps to get scouted by coaches, but Janson said it’s important for athletes to be proactive in contacting the coaches of schools they are interested in. Showing interest in a school and having the ability to compete do not automatically get an athlete signed.
Smetzler planned to attend Concordia University after the coach showed interest in her as a high school sophomore. During her junior year, she tore her ACL and decided to go to Clark for two years before attending Concordia because she didn’t feel ready to play at Concordia’s level after her rehabilitation.
The day before her sophomore soccer season started at Clark, Concordia’s coach offered Smetzler a spot on the team after a player dropped out, giving her a day to decide. Later she contacted the coach to confirm she’d play but he retracted his offer, not wanting to “mess with [her] eligibility” if the necessary paperwork didn’t go through in time, Smetzler said. She was later dropped from Concordia’s recruiting list.
“The growth that I had made at Clark didn’t fit into the style at Concordia,” Smetzler said. “It was a tough pill to swallow because I always thought I’d end up at Concordia.”
But, because of her time at Clark, Corban University’s women’s soccer coach showed interest in Smetzler and offered her a spot on its 2018 team. She quickly signed.
Women’s soccer team sophomore Maddison Maffeo said academics are as important as competing. Even after being signed, athletes can be kicked off their teams for poor grades. Maffeo also said academics don’t just play a part in getting signed at Clark but also at a four-year university.
Maffeo said she signed with St. Martin’s University for the 2018 season and not only did the university view her transcripts, so did the women’s soccer coaching staff.
Maffeo said she prioritizes academics above soccer. She was a soccer team captain as a sophomore and said a big part of being captain is looking after her teammates and making sure their grades stay up. She said in order to keep their grades high, she and her teammates do homework on buses when travelling and help each other with subjects they have hard times with.
She said that it can be difficult, especially during the season, but balancing grades and athletics is doable. Being signed is about more than being a good athlete, it’s about being a good student athlete.
-Written by James Fisher-Clegg