If you’re an athlete and want to play your sport in college, but think the future is bleak for your chances, listen to CaptainU field hockey athlete, Nicole Leighty, who thought the very same things. Little did she know, using CaptainU, working her hardest, corresponding with college coaches and accessing helpful athletic resources landed her a spot on a DIII field hockey team.
Nicole Leighty, Field hockey, Goalkeeper.
When did you start playing your sport? How did you decide to play your sport as opposed to another?
I started playing field hockey when I decided soccer wasn’t really for me anymore. I had been playing soccer with the same club team for as long as I can remember, and when I got into middle school, I just didn’t feel as excited to play anymore. My parents then signed me up for field hockey, since it was the only other fall sport to play in my hometown. My first season of field hockey was going in to seventh grade. When I first started learning, I was a field player. It was a whole different world compared to soccer. Then, my coach asked for a volunteer to play in goal for a game, and I had found my place. The excitement in playing sports was back and ever since I stepped foot in that goal in seventh grade, the thrill hasn’t left me.
What do you like most about your sport?
In field hockey, things can get kind of slow sometimes, but in the goal, its constant movement. Whenever the ball enters the circle, I can feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. I also like that not everything is super easy to learn. There is a challenging aspect to the sport.
What are the biggest obstacles in your sport that you’ve overcome? How did you overcome it?
During my high school career, I encountered a serious injury. I was dealing with shoulder pain that I thought was nothing, to then later find out that I could have a torn labrum, and the only was to completely fix it is surgery. To this day, I still deal with the pain but not as often as when it first arose. I do strengthening exercises to ease the pain and help prevent it. At all my games and practices, I come prepared with cooling wraps, and Tiger balm to help ease things.
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?)?
My recruitment process was one of the biggest obstacles I have ever encountered. My last two years playing for my high school team, my coach and I did not see eye-to-eye. There were several conflicts of interest between the coaching staff and the players. Due to me noticing these conflicts, I was penalized in what is an athletes worst nightmare; I was not played. I went from always playing to not playing at all my senior year. It was absolutely terrible. It made me question why I was still playing and if I was even good enough. I even felt like my coach was trying to prevent me from being recruited. I overcame all of this though by advocating for myself. I stopped letting my high school coaching staff do it and I took control. I set up my CaptainU profile and contacted coaches on my own.
How do you balance being a good athlete with being a good student?
Practice makes perfect. When I first started out being a student-athlete, I was always thinking this will never work out, but it did. I learned really fast how important any free time can be. Whenever I have the opportunity to sit down, I’m always studying. It doesn’t come easy at first but the more you do it, the better you get.
When did you realize you wanted to play college sports?
I was never one of those kids who was dead set on having to play in college. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and then be let down if nothing played out. My mindset was that if it is meant to be, a college coach will want to see me play, I will then go visit the school, and if I like it, I will pursue it, and that’s exactly what happened.
Where did you first turn for recruitment tools, platforms, strategies, etc.?
I had no clue what to do when I decided that I would set up a recruitment profile. I happened to just do a Google search and CaptainU came up. I did the free trial and loved it so my parents agreed to pay for a few months. After awhile, I was getting notifications that colleges were finding me in searches all the time. The way CaptainU is set up really helped me learn the recruitment world really fast.
What things have worked and what things haven’t/didn’t work when trying to get in touch with coaches?
Email is great to quickly get in touch with your coach but it turns out coaches really like when you ask to speak with them over the phone. It shows that you are open to communication and aren’t afraid to speak up.
How was your family involved & how was this helpful?
My mom and dad both helped me through the college search and I can’t thank them enough for it. To put it in perspective, my parents were my managers. If I was interested in a school, they set up a tour for me and managed to get me out there.
What tools, platforms, and strategies did you use throughout the whole process?
I was on my CaptainU profile everyday. I emailed colleges that I knew I was interested in attending, and then once the coach had responded, I would then ask to email them through my personal account so it would be a lot easier. The one and only platform that I stuck to throughout my process was the fact that I was advocating for myself. I didn’t have anyone writing the emails for me, or calling the coach for me; I did everything.
What worked best for you on CaptainU / what was your favorite CaptainU tool?
I really like the event function on CaptainU. It was like putting an event on my iPhone but all the coaches I was interested in could see it on my profile. It was awesome.
What would be three recommendations you have to athletes trying to play in college?
1. Advocate for yourself
2. Be open to communication
3. Be persistent
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 have been recruited by a Division III university to play in the fall of 2014. My goal as a college freshman will be to make the stat book. However, while I am still in high school, I am a proud member of the U19 Landsharks Field Hockey club. I went to the Disney College Showcase for 2014 and my team also qualified for the National Indoor Tournament.
Connect with thousands of college coaches, access helpful tools and attend events with a free CaptainU profile today to take your game to the next level!