SportsYouth Sports


Beyond the Score: Fox Valley's top athletes discuss 'stress' of changing recruiting landscape

Beyond the Score: Fox Valley's top athletes discuss 'stress' of changing recruiting landscape
Posted at 5:30 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-09 14:22:47-04

GREEN BAY — The college landscape is changing. There’s name image and likeness, the transfer portal, coaches coming and going and so on. Many say it’s not like it was say, 4 years ago.

I talked to top athletes from around the Fox Valley to find out what it’s like to go through the new recruiting experience.

“I think that up to this point, it was the biggest decision of my life,” said Oshkosh North junior star forward and Iowa State commit Xzavion Mitchell.

Before making that decision of where to go college – first comes the recruiting process. Kaukauna junior and star softball pitcher Karly Meredith had schools calling her when the clock struck midnight on the day softball players could start being recruited during their junior season.

“It was definitely a little stressful because you’re trying to schedule all the calls and the calls you missed,” said Meredith. “Luckily we didn’t have school that day so it helped a lot.

As high school athletes narrow down the schools they are interested in, they take visits.

“You're usually up bright and early,” said Neenah junior safety and running back Grant Dean who recently committed to the Badgers. “I remember after football games when I was going on game days, we would leave at 1 to 2 in the morning sometimes to get to places.”

Those visits may be a little of a hassle time wise, but when the athletes get there, they say it's special.

“I liked the wining and dining obviously,” said Meredith. “They’re like taking you out everywhere and that was really fun."

It may be loads of fun to travel around the country, but during the recruiting process as a whole, the athletes, parents and coaches all told me the same word: Pressure, like the pressure of making a choice that will change your life.

“They still have to be teenagers, they still have to be high school kids,” said Kaukauna head softball coach Tim Roehrig. “I think there’s extra pressure out there to say well, I still gotta make this decision. It’s kind of in the back of your head all the time.”

Then there’s pressure of feeling bad for the schools you don’t choose.

“It's a hard decision,” said Mitchell. “Obviously don’t want to feel bad for those schools because you want to do what’s best for you but you have to because they’ve been constantly being with you, going to your games, calling you, texting you.”

Then there’s the pressure of dealing with the changing college landscape, like the transfer portal. Schools might not value high school players like they have in the past.

“Now with the transfer portal a lot of the schools are looking at a proven commodity,” said Steve Meredith, Karly’s father.

And with college players going from team to team now, Kaukauna head coach Tim Roehrig says when programs talk to him, one question he gets asked by coaches calling to recruit his players is how committed are they?

"They want to know is this kid going to stay,” Roehrig saud. “If they say they’re committed, are they going to stay here and play for me through the highs and lows?”

He also says, now the timeline for committing adds pressure as well.

“That was never really a big thing and now it’s we need to know by this date,” Roehrig said.

Now athletes are now able to profit off their name image and likeness (NIL). College coaches are getting used to it…

“You can’t be naive about the landscape that’s changing and know that’s going to become more and more of a factor,” said UWGB women’s basketball coach Kayla Karius.

The players, like Xzavion Mitchell are getting used to it as well. He says it’s special to be part of the new recruiting generation where players can control where they go and also have a chance to make money down the line.

“I just think that being able to save my money and figure out ways and best figure out you know just how to use the nil deal and the NIL money for not only me but just for my family too,” he said.

But for Mitchell, potential money isn’t everything.

“I'm there to go and win and compete and NIL is just a side piece,” he said.

And once all these athletes factor in all these different things and decide on a college – it’s a huge weight off their backs.

“It was very very nice to just get it off my back and think about the future and get it over with and play in the moment now.”