So you want to be a college athlete?

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest author is Associate Director of Admissions John Birney. JB, as we call him around the office, has been with Hopkins for more than ten years and is the liaison to our Athletics Department. We asked him to write about this role and provide advice to prospective students who may want to play for one of Hopkins’ varsity teams.

#1 Fan
#1 Fan

Although I firmly believe that most people enjoy the work they do, I also believe that there’s one aspect of their job they consider to be most enjoyable. For me, that would be working as the liaison to our Department of Athletics. Basically, this means that I work with each coach on recruitment strategies, roster size, team needs, and academic ability of players to be considered.

When teams win (and we win a lot), I feel a sense of pride knowing that I assisted the team in enrolling those student-athletes who would make the greatest contribution to both the classroom and playing field. When we lose, I don’t take it so well. 

Here’s a quick re-cap on our fall 2010 teams: 

Men’s Cross County—Finished 7th at Mid-East Regional Championships
Women’s Cross Country—Finished 7th at NCAA National Championships
Field Hockey—11-7 overall, 8-2 Conference, 3rd in the Centennial Conference
Football—Winner of the ECAC South Atlantic Bowl Championship
Men’s Soccer—NCAA Sweet 16
Women’s Soccer—NCAA Elite 8
Water Polo—6th at Easterns, #3 National ranking 

An amazing track record.
An amazing track record.

Most often, though, I’m asked what it takes to be a student-athlete. Here are some quick tips if you’re looking to play collegiate athletics:  

  • Read, and learn, the NCAA rules on recruiting. Nobody wants a rules violation.
  • Start a conversation with the coach, and start it early. Junior year isn’t too early. Coaches like students who take initiative.
  • Be willing to change position/event. It’s too often that students are dropped from recruiting because they are unwilling to change.
  • Always be in good physical condition when meeting a coach.
  • Stay overnight with the team. This allows you to get a feel for the students in an informal setting.
  • Attend home contests to see the team play, coaching philosophy, and team chemistry.
  • Present the coach with an athletic resume and academic transcript.
  • Always remember the “student-athlete” philosophy— You are a student first, an athlete second.
  • Prepare a tape/CD/DVD/web content of your playing ability. Coaches cannot offer a try-out, so bring the evidence of your playing ability to the coach.
  • Keep coaches informed about your schedule and level of competition.
  • Ask the coach about team depth and where you might fit with the team’s future rosters.
  • Customize your communications with the coaches and remember to always double check that the coach matches the correct school.
  • Ask the coach his or her philosophy on topics of interest: study abroad, research, class conflicts, playing a second sport. Then ask yourself if your expectations match those of the coach.
  • Don’t allow your parents to run this process. Coachs and the admissions staff prefers to work with the student athlete.
  • Highly consider applying Early Decision.
School spirit at its finest.
School spirit at its finest.

Now that you’ve had a chance to learn more about how to be a Johns Hopkins student-athlete, it’s time to learn more about the teams. Check out for all the latest updates.

The Nest is the place to be.
The Nest is the place to be.

When you make your visit to campus, come find me— I’m the one always wearing some type of athletic team apparel, sitting in the stands, or cheering from the sidelines—and we’ll talk sports.

One thought on “So you want to be a college athlete?

  1. Prospective student-athletes: take heed! This is excellent advice.

    My recruiting process was relatively smooth because I took the time to get involved early and to keep in consistent contact with my coach.

    Best of luck! GO HOP!

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