November 29, 2020

Gathering Gorloks: Why student athletes choose Webster

Webster University coaches find out about out-of-state recruits through referral letters, combines and showcases. It’s after discovering these recruits that coaches send letters to the recruits’ high schools and junior colleges.

The letters let the recruit know the coach is interested in them becoming a Gorlok. It’s the first step in the recruiting process for the potential student athletes.

“(Cross-country) coach (Dusty) Lopez sent me a letter,” said Eroica Stackhouse, a sophomore cross-country runner from Tipton, Ind. “The first sentence was something to the effect of, ‘Do you want to be a Gorlok?’ I’m like, ‘What’s a Gorlok?’ The next sentence was, ‘Do you want to know what a Gorlok is?’ It was just a simple one-paragraph letter. From there I started emailing the coach.”

The letters establish communication between the recruits and coaches, and it’s the first time these recruits find out about Webster. After emailing back and forth, and phone calls between recruits and coaches, a campus visit is scheduled. However, not all recruits are able to visit Webster.

“A lot of the coaches don’t have an unlimited supply in our budget to fly a kid in,” said Michael Siener, tennis coach. “At a higher level some of these schools fly recruits in.”

Amanda Arcangel, a senior on the basketball and track teams, wasn’t able to fly in from Los Angeles.

“I looked at the pictures on the website,” Arcangel said. “I kind of based it off what they had to offer, the pictures and what the coaches told me.”

For those who are able to visit Webster, coaches give recruits a tour of campus and present them with what Webster has to offer athletically and academically.

Academics end up being one of the most important factors in bringing in a recruit to play sports at Webster.

“Webster had everything I was looking for,” Stackhouse said. “Not many schools did because I wanted to be able to take art, French, biology and run. Webster allowed me to do all of those activities.”

Webster’s small class sizes interest recruits as well.

“I really liked the School of Communications’ program,” Arcangel said. “All the resources on campus, how it was small class sizes and how in the class you weren’t just a number. You and the teacher actually had a relationship.”

Recruits also like the size of Webster.

“I liked that it was a small university,” said Hanna Brindisi, a senior softball player from Howell, Mich.

Along with meeting the coaches on campus visits, recruits get a chance to establish relationships with current athletes, which ends up playing a role in the recruits’ decision.

“I went for a run with some of the girls,” Stackhouse said. “I got to kind of meet everyone ahead of time. That was cool. I kind of knew who everyone was before I decided.”

Establishing a relationship with current athletes helps the recruits feel like they are already a part of the team.

“If you were to look at the work that Mike Siener was able to do with the women’s tennis program, they were able to connect on their own via Facebook,” Director of Athletics Tom Hart said. “They began to build a community even before they got here.”

Marissa Lewis, a freshman from Owasso, Okla., was able to establish that relationship with the women on the tennis team.

“Meeting the coach and people from the team really did it for me,” Lewis said. “They were just really welcoming.”

Webster has the advantage of being located in a major city as well.

“The only reason I was really looking at Webster as an out-of-state school was because of St. Louis,” said Matt Moore, a senior baseball player from Colorado Springs. “I’d heard great things about the city. Quite frankly it’s an awesome city. That had a lot to do with it.”

Many factors — location, academics, athletic success, relationships with current athletes — convince recruits to play a sport at Webster. These same reasons, which interest out-of-state recruits, can interest local ones as well.

Hart said the location student athletes are from isn’t as important as their talent level. It’s important to find the talent and make sure it’s a good fit for both the student athlete and the university.

“It’s important to get athletes,” Hart said. “I don’t know if it necessarily matters where they’re from, as long as we’re able to tell the story of what we have here, what we believe in and see if it’s a fit.”

To see recruitment from the coaches’ perspectives, click here.

For a recruitment interactive infographic, click here.

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