Soccer Star Ellie Maxson on Athletic Recruitment to College
College admissions seem to be on every senior’s mind, but for current Walls senior Ellie Maxson, this mountain is one she has already climbed. Ellie Maxson was one of an esteemed group of high schoolers in the United States recruited to play a sport in college. In the fall, she’ll be playing soccer for Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C.
Still, the process of athletic recruitment is a strenuous one. Even before the recruitment begins, students applying often have years of experience in the field that make unathletic types like myself mildly embarrassed for our own athletic shortcomings. Maxson has been playing soccer since she was five, but began playing more seriously on a team when she was eight years old.
This background experience is only part of what allows students to pursue athletic scholarships. Kip Smith, the SWW athletic director of eleven years, offered insight on the process of athletic recruitment and its history at Walls.
In terms of his involvement in the process, he describes talking “to different student athletes on what they want, where they want to go, what their aspirations are and kind of help them along the way. [I] make sure that they know the NCAA eligibility, make sure they know they’re doing what they need to do here at school.”
What they need to do for the athletic recruitment process can begin at various stages and years, depending on the student athlete. According to Mr. Smith, “Some of them are recruited extremely early, middle school, and some are recruited in their senior year.”
Maxson began the recruitment process in her sophomore year, amidst the pandemic. “When we finally started to go back and play,” Maxson said, “it was a lot of emailing and reaching out to coaches and you play at showcases, where colleges come and watch you and your team.”
She went on to say, “It was certainly pretty stressful. There’s lots in your control but there’s a lot of it that’s out of your control, like if a coach needs your position or if they just happen to see you on an off day in a game, so a lot of it is up to chance.”
Maxson is one of few such recruits at Walls, despite the school’s numbers in athletic programs. “It’s usually one to four [recruits per year],” Mr. Smith said. “In the past, we’ve had maybe one or two that end up playing collegiately, but for the most part, a lot of our kids who are recruited at the next level, they end up going to a school that focuses more on their academic endeavors than their athletic.”
Applicants face many challenges along the recruitment journey. “A lot of the challenges are oversaturation in certain sports,” Mr. Smith said. “Also chasing Division 1: A lot of student athletes, not only here at School Without Walls, chase Division 1 programs until they figure out that they’re a D[ivision] 2 or D[ivision] 3 athlete.”
And while the process is admittedly challenging and stressful, it has also been hugely rewarding for Maxson. While detailing that the process was also very fun in getting to demonstrate her skills to coaches, Maxson also has a love of soccer, more than any other sport she has played partially because she “loves the team aspect.”
She went on to say, “I had offers from two other schools, but Wofford just seemed like the best option because I liked the coach, and it’s D[ivision] 1.”
Walls wishes her luck at Wofford next fall!