College recruitment favors private schools

by Sarah Schwartz, Sports Reporter
graphic by Emily Cheng

Before his 22 goals led the boys varsity soccer team to its first-ever state tournament berth in the 2022 season, captain senior and Boston Globe All Scholastic Kamar Burris-Khan considered playing for a private high school.

In August, he officially committed to play soccer at Bowdoin College, although he said the process of applying to college could have run more smoothly had he attended a private school in the area.

 “I could have been recruited twice as much, which could have doubled my chances,” he said.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, when many Newton students left the Newton Public Schools system for private schools, Newton student athletes assess the differences between private and public schools’ college recruitment guidance.

Maddy Genser, captain of both the girls varsity soccer and basketball teams, committed to play both sports at Colby College. Before her success on the soccer field took the team to the final four of the state tournament last year, she too considered attending a private school for both the academic and athletic advantages.

Genser visited showcases and ID clinics to get on the radar of college coaches, but she said that she still could have capitalized on the support offered by many private schools.

“Private schools can be higher on coaches’ radar, and they recruit better,” she said.

Caleb Thomson, the enrollment manager, director of admissions and varsity soccer coach at The Fessenden School in Newton, said that private schools often have the resources to offer stronger sports programs. Playing at higher competitions with more connections, their athletes have more of an opportunity to be seen and recruited by colleges, he said.

“Sometimes in the independent school world, the coaching staff at the varsity level has really strong relationships and connections with collegiate coaches,” he said.

Sophomore Pete Luecke said that he transferred from South to Boston College High in 2020 because of the higher competition the private school team faces.

“South has a really good hockey team, but I just like playing at BC High because we’re playing really good competition,” he said.

Similarly, junior Claire Puffer said that she transferred to Worcester Academy in 2020 seeking exposure and opportunities to play at a higher level.

“There’s a lot of support and a lot of good opportunities to work with really good athletes,” she said.

As vice president for MCW Starz, a high level AAU club, and head coach of the Acton-Boxborough girls varsity basketball team, South campus aide Jesus Rodriguez has helped dozens of high schoolers get recruited for collegiate sports, including Genser and ‘18 graduate and current-WNBA player Veronica Burton. Club sports, Rodriguez said, are essential for college recruitment, but to play in college, athletes don’t necessarily have to attend a private school.

“You don’t have to go to private school to get recruited. It’s mostly your club team that puts you out there,” he said. 

Instead, public school students can look to clubs, which provide athletes with strong connections to college coaches and greater exposure during the recruitment process as an equally-important and potentially-cheaper alternative. 

For example, Rodriguez said that his club travels throughout the country during the summer, ensuring his athletes have the opportunity to play against the nation’s best teams and to be considered by many schools.

“We go to these showcases where we’re gone the whole month of July. We’re going to Kentucky, Chicago, Ohio, Indiana,” he said. “Hundreds of coaches are there watching the game.”

Genser’s father Reese, who founded Boston Prime Baseball, a Watertown-based club, said that participation in club sports is significant in preparing athletes for college.

“We have systems in place where we can reach out to get to the best tournaments to try and get you exposure,” he said.

Thomson said that during the recruitment process, it’s most important to stay informed and choose a school and program based on research, as there are a myriad of pathways available to high school athletes wishing to play in college — whether private school, public school or traveling with a club team.

“You just gotta get out there and find what’s going to be the right fit for you,” he said.