CaptainU athlete Rylee Shumway started pursuing her dream of playing college a bit later than most people, but has since earned herself a spot on a soccer team at an Ivy League school. She encourages any athletes who want to play in college to never give up on your dream, even if you seem behind the game compared to other people on your team, and to not be afraid to be a little bit annoying to coaches, making sure they notice you.
Read Rylee’s story to find out more about her experience with her club and college coaches, overcoming recruiting obstacles and more.
Rylee Shumway, Senior, Soccer goalkeeper
When did you start playing your sport? How did you decide to play your sport as opposed to another?
I started playing soccer when I was five. I played many other sports as well, including softball, basketball, and tennis, but around seventh grade I decided that soccer would be my main focus. As I got older, I eventually only continued on with both soccer and tennis, because those were the two sports that I really enjoyed the most. Ultimately I chose soccer over tennis, because I loved the feeling of being on a team, which was something that I didn’t get to experience as much in tennis.
What do you like most about your sport?
As I mentioned, the thing I love most about soccer is being a part of a team. The kind of relationships that you form with your teammates is different than just a regular friendship. Yes, we care for, respect, and support each other, but we also push one another to be better. Through our wins and our losses together, we make each other stronger. It may sound cheesy, but for me, that’s the best part about playing soccer.
What are the biggest obstacles in your sport that you’ve overcome? How did you overcome it?
I think probably the biggest obstacle that I’ve overcome in my sport is my shyness. I wasn’t always the loudest person, so the necessity of being vocal, especially as a goalkeeper, is something that I had struggled with when I was younger. With the encouragement and support of my coaches and as I became more comfortable with my teammates, I was able to overcome my feelings of uncertainty and lack of confidence. I can now proudly say I am one of the loudest people on the field!
What are the biggest obstacles in the recruitment process that you’ve encountered and/or overcome? How did you overcome it (if you did yet?)
One of the hardest parts about the recruiting process that I’ve encountered is waiting to hear back from coaches and then never receiving an email from them. I’ve found that you just have to keep sending them emails, reminding them that you are interested in their school, and asking if they have gotten any of your messages. At some points, I may have felt like I was being pretty annoying, but the persistence is almost always rewarded.
How do you balance being a good athlete with being a good student?
At my school, it is fairly easy to balance being a good athlete and a good student. Both my teachers and my coaches have always been very supportive and understanding of the fact that I have commitments to both soccer and school. However, I always put my academics before my sports. My first focus is school, knowing that there will always be time to improve my skills in soccer after I have done my work as a student. One of the most important things that college coaches look at first is if you have the grades to get into their school. Before they can even consider what kind of player you are, you have to meet their academic standards, so putting time and energy into academics definitely pays off, even if it might not seem like it at the time.
When did you realize you wanted to play college sports?
I realized that I wanted to play soccer in college during my Junior year of high school. That was the year that my club soccer team got a new coach, and he really encouraged all of us to pursue the opportunity to participate in sports at a collegiate level. I’d never seriously considered it before or thought that I would be good enough, but my new coach made it seem like an actual possibility. I realized that soccer was one of the things that made me special, made me stand out to schools, and if I didn’t use it to help me get into the college that I wanted to go to, that would be crazy.
Where did you first turn for recruitment tools, platforms, strategies, etc.?
I first looked to my coaches for recruiting advice. They were extremely helpful. They had put together a packet of emails and letters that their previous players had used to communicate with college coaches. My club coaches were really instrumental in helping me get started. I could email them with any questions that I had, and they even volunteered to make phone calls to coaches of colleges I was interested in, which was phenomenal. So, if you’re stuck somewhere in the process, I would definitely recommend asking your coaches for help. They will no doubt be enthused to help you through the frenzy of talking to college coaches and are an invaluable resource.
What things have worked and what things haven’t/didn’t work when trying to get in touch with coaches?
I think that something really important to do when emailing college coaches is to give them something to look at. I’ve found that coaches are most responsive when you send them some sort of game footage or a practice video. Initially, when I just sent coaches emails telling them that I would be at a specific tournament, I didn’t always get a lot of responses. However, when I included a link to my recruitment video and asked them to come to see me play, I got many emails in return. The ultimate goal is to make yourself stand out, so if you can give coaches a look at what kind of athlete you are, I think that really helps them take notice of you.
How was your family involved & how was this helpful?
My family was very supportive throughout the entire process. They always made sure to get me to any showcase tournaments that I needed to be at, and they encouraged me to go to scouting clinics and ID camps. Even though I took pride in writing all of my own emails and editing my own recruiting video, my parents were always a constant source of advice. If I was ever unsure of how I should respond to a coach’s message or what I should say to them on the phone, I could always ask my parents for guidance. Just knowing that they were with me one hundred percent made the whole process a lot easier.
What tools, platforms, strategies did you use throughout the whole process?
CaptainU was definitely one of my biggest resources. I used it to organize all of my emails to different coaches, and it helped me to keep track of which colleges were the most interested by letting me know who was opening my emails and looking at my profile consistently. The whole profile system on CaptainU was extremely helpful, because it allowed me to put all of my contact and recruiting information in one convenient place. This way coaches could easily access all of my information at once (which I know is something that is very much appreciated) and be more likely to actually remember who I was.
My other huge resource was my coaches. If I was ever unsure about what I should say to a college coach or when I should make contact, I could always ask them for tips. You should never be afraid to ask for advice, because chances are your coaches will know a lot about the recruiting process and will be able to offer some great suggestions. They may even know a coach or two that work at a college you are interested in!
What worked best for you on CaptainU / what was your favorite CaptainU tool?
The one thing that I found most helpful about CaptainU was its email organization. I know that if I had just used my personal email to send and receive messages from coaches, I never would have been able to keep track of which schools I had been corresponding with. It was extremely useful to have all email communications from different colleges separate from one another. This compartmentalization helped me to keep a record of all communications with a given college, and it made it easy to see which schools I had been hearing back from the most.
CaptainU’s email outlines were also super helpful, especially right at the beginning. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what I should say in my emails to coaches, but the model CaptainU emails had great suggestions to get me started. Then, once I got the hang of it, I didn’t even need to use the examples anymore.
What would be three recommendations you have to athletes trying to play in college?
First of all, it’s never too late to start trying to get recruited! I didn’t start until the second semester of my Junior year, and I was still able to get seen by college coaches. If you can, it may be a good idea to get a head start on the process, but if it is late in your high school career, do not think that you can’t still get recruited!! It only takes one time for a college coach to see you and take notice. I only went to one college showcase, and by some random stroke of luck a coach from a college I wanted to go to came to one of my games. He wasn’t even there to see me; he came to see one of my teammates! A lot of this process can just be luck, so don’t ever give up just because you don’t think there is enough time left. There is always time!!
Secondly, don’t be afraid to be a little annoying. College coaches are busy and they get hundreds of emails from kids who want to play at their school, so they may not always respond the first time you send them a message. Don’t be discouraged! If you don’t get a response within a few days, send them another email!! Ask if they got your message, or send them some new information about yourself or your team. Persistence will show that you are really passionate about going to their school and playing on their team! With any luck, coaches should eventually take notice of the fact that you have sent them fifteen hundred emails…
Lastly, get footage of your games any way that you can. If your team isn’t collectively hiring someone to professionally record your games, take initiative and do it yourself!! If you have any kind of video camera, ask your parents or one of your friends to tape the game for you. When my team wasn’t recording our games, my dad sat on the sideline and filmed me playing. It wasn’t always the best quality, but he did his best, and it is better than not having any footage to show coaches! Coaches will likely want to see some video of you playing before they take time to come see you in person, so getting them footage is very important!
Finally, what are your goals for the coming year in your sport? How are you currently doing in your sport? Have you been recruited yet?
I was recruited the summer after my Junior year to play soccer for an Ivy League university. Over the summer, I will be continuing to work on my strength and conditioning in preparation for college and will continue to hone in my skills during the end of my Senior year.
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