I hope by reading this, any young athlete whether in high school or middle school can read this and realize how exciting the recruiting process is, but how important it is to take your time and be sure that you pick the right school for you.
Looking back on my college career, I cant help but think of how lucky I was to find the absolute best school for me. What makes the story so great, is how exactly I ended up at The University of Louisville because it is probably unlike every other athlete's story out there.
For starters, I didn't always know I wanted to go there, because I honestly didn't know that I wanted to play field hockey past high school until my junior year. Like mentioned before in many many posts and interviews, I thought I was going to be an ice hockey player and my goal was to play college hockey. During the summer going into my junior year, I played in the Bay State Games on the metro/north team and many of my teammates were talking about the festival team they were trying out for. I was playing in Bay States with two of my high school teammates and we were kind of in awe of those players and thought their club teams sounded so cool and so advanced. The tournament was winding down and one of the moms mentioned to my mom that their club team was looking for a couple additional players to try out and we figured, sure why not. So, we got in touch with Chelsey Feole the North East Elite club director but it turned out that I couldn't make it to the tryout because my high school team was attending an overnight camp at Bentley University.
Well, Chelsey being the legend she is, she drove to the Bentley camp during one of the nights we were playing games, watched me play and let that serve as my tryout. She invited me to NEE's summer camp to watch me play a bit more and so I could get to know some of the players.
WELL. A few weeks later Chelsey e-mailed out the roster for festival and I didn't see my name. Bummer. I thought, well okay I've never played club before so I'm probably just not ready to play at a more-elite level yet. My mom sent Chelsey an e-mail thanking her anyway and to see if there were any more upcoming clinics or trainings I could be a part of to get better.
It turns out that Chelsey thought my name was SARAH and I did make the festival team, but when I looked at the emailed roster I figured Sarah Woods was just another player with the same last name. I was pumped, I actually made the festival team in Florida and couldn't wait to go.
After the first game at festival, Chelsey and our other coach Erin came up to me and asked me what colleges I had reached out to so they could watch me play .
..............I didn't know I should have done that. Given the fact that I was a Junior, about to go into my spring semester I was beyond late in the recruiting game and most kids are committing to colleges already. Well, Chelsey and Erin worked some serious magic and got a couple schools just to give me a look.
My goal was to stay within two hours of my house in Beverly, MA because I wanted my parents to be able to come to my games, and I wanted to be close enough to home yet also far enough away. So in my realm of schools I hoped to reach out to was BU, BC, UNH, Umass Amherst, and Providence. I went on tours at UNH and Providence, and attended the junior day at BC and Umass. All of the schools had great programs, beautiful New England campuses and offered the program I wanted to study. Since I was super late to the recruiting game, and all of these tours were then happening in the spring time of my junior year, there
really weren't a lot of opportunities left for scholarships or roster spots- most schools were done recruiting their 2014 graduating class.
Then, on a random day I got a message from the University of Louisville. I went online and started finding out more about it. When I saw their facility and stadium I nearly passed out I could not believe that a field hockey team would have a stadium like that and they didn't have to share with any other team. I replied to Kirsten their assistant and arranged a phone call with them a few days later. They mentioned they had seen me play at Festival and they were inviting me out to their 7v7 play-day so they could watch me play again in-person.
(The real story is that they mistakenly watched the wrong kid at Festival and weren't really interested. Then, for some amazing reason, they looked back at the film from my festival games and realized they didn't actually watch me. When I played for Justine later on, she always mentioned 'The Hockey Gods' well I can certainly thank the hockey gods for getting them to check the video!)
So, my mom booked us a flight and we flew out during the last week of March. (March Madness was going on and Louisville became the 2013 National Champions- what an awesome time to visit) I was a little beside myself that I was flying to Kentucky and all I could imagine was the school in the middle of farmland so I really wasn't sure what to expect. We landed, and drove to the field and coaches offices for a meeting and a campus tour. I was relieved, the campus was on the outskirts of downtown Louisville and there were no farms in sight. Next, I was meeting with Justine the head coach.
She asked some pretty thought-provoking questions like "if you play for me what do you hope I say about you during your senior banquet" and "what do you think your strengths and weaknesses were" well, lucky for me Chelsey told me my go-to move the 'Y-Dodge' was a definite weakness and I needed to find a new move. So, I told Justine that my ability to see the field and find passing lanes was one of my strengths, and my weakness was to trust my skill more and stay strong on the ball rather than use the Y-dodge. After about a 45-ish meeting, she turned to me and said "I like you from this meeting, and if I like you on the field tomorrow I will offer you a spot on our team." They were just about finished with their recruiting class for my year so again like most schools, there wouldn't be a scholarship offer, but the chance to have a roster spot was enough for me.
At the end of the play day, I felt like I had played pretty well. It was a lot of playing and everyone on my team 'was a forward' so I was stuck having to play defense. Every. Single. Game. I was kind of annoyed but I sucked it up and managed to still showcase what I could do. Justine called me over at the end of the day, and very calmly said "I can see that you do like that y-dodge." I wasn't sure if I should laugh or if that was going to be the reason why they didn't want to recruit me. I don't remember exactly what she said next but it ended with "so we are going to offer you a spot on our team" omg. I was freaking out but had to keep calm. Since there was no scholarship available, she said they could offer me a scholarship on my textbooks. You would have thought I had just been offered a full-boat scholarship by how much my mom and I celebrated. I was going to be essentially one step up from a walk-on but I didn't care, I was going to play DI in the ACC at Louisville!
I didn't commit on the spot but I went home, talked it over with my parents and it was a no-brainer, I was going to be a cardinal! I picked up the phone after school the next week, called Justine and verbally committed! It was April of my junior year, so late but not too late.
I worked my way up during my time at Louisville and earned that scholarship. I think a lot of kids now get stressed out when other kids start to commit to schools and rush into it. Recruiting has become a race and I cant help but think that if I were in high school now, my path would have truly been too late and I never would have found the right school for me. I hope high school players and even younger athletes can read my recruiting story and realize that you don't have to be offered a full-scholarship, nor do you have to be offered a spot by junior year. It is so important to find the school that is right for you, with a program you would like to study.
I know the journey can be daunting and extremely nerve-wracking so if any athletes out there have questions or just need to chat it over you can always send me a message on social media, or through this website!