The road to becoming a college athlete


Allie Buikema

When Jacklyn Vandepoel stepped of the plane in West Virginia she was greeted by her sister and a surplus of West Virginia swimmers. Immediately, she felt welcomed into the the team and felt already like family. “The girls were all super sweet and were very helpful with answering any questions I had.” During the visit Vandepoel was able to go out onto the football field during a home football game and truly get a first hand experience of what games would be like there. Every meal for the three days Vandepoel was at West Virginia was paid for. “We went to California Pizza Kitchen and were able to order whatever we wanted from the menu, it was super nice of them!” Vandepoel sure seemed to get the royalty treatment and this could have possibly been what made her visit so exceptional.

Becoming a college athlete takes years of hard work, dedication, and definitely some blood, sweat, and tears. Colleges don’t just give a free ride to anybody, athletes truly have to earn it. Vandepoel knows exactly what kind of dedication you have to have in order to become a recruit. Vandepoel has been swimming for “as long as she can remember” and even quit tennis so she could swim year round in order to become as fast as possible. Vandepoel has visited a total of three schools that are interested in recruiting her, Old Dominion , West Virginia, and Florida Atlantic.

“Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to swim in college. Swimming has always been my favorite sport, and after both my sisters decided to commit to college swimming I kind of just followed in their footsteps.” Swimming is physically one of the most exhausting and demanding sports out there, so to be able to stick with it for as long as Vandepoel is quite impressive. “I can’t imagine my life without swimming. I wake up, go to swim practice, go to school, go to swim practice, go home, go to bed, and repeat day after day.” Waking up at dreadful hours of the morning, snuggled in the warmth of the covers, and having to get up out of bed to go jump in a freezing cold pool is not as easy as it sounds. Committing to do this for four more years is a big deal, let alone having to adjust to the difficult college practice load.

Deciding where to go to college is stressful by itself, but also having to choose where to spend 1/3 of the day (the pool) is extremely difficult. That is why it is so crucial for recruiting visits to go well because if the athlete doesn’t like the team, the sports complex, the coach etc. there is a good chance they won’t go there.

“West Virginia was my favorite visit because I loved the team, the girls were super nice and supportive, and the overall atmosphere of the campus was exactly what I was looking for in a college.” Vandepoel has been involved with West Virginia for over 5 years because her older sister Haily Vandepoel was recruited to dive for them back in 2010. Jacklyn also visited Old Dominion University which is where her older sister Colleen swims. “I definitely liked West Virginia better than Old Dominion. I don’t know why but I just enjoyed the overall visit to West Virginia more.” The pressure is now on for Jacklyn as she has to choose which college she’ll be swimming for in the next two weeks.