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Advice from Recently Committed Track & Field Athlete: Justin Henderson

Snapshot of Justin Henderson, track & field athlete

from Kent Ohio

Committed to Northwood University - Midland

"Persistence is key! Contact coaches from ANY school you have interest in regardless of what division the school is. You never know what the coach is truly looking for until you ask them directly. Good grades are essential because you WILL lose opportunities due to lacking academics regardless of how talented you might be. Lastly, don't let the process control your life. The less time you spend stressing over which colleges want you, the more time you have to improve yourself, and make yourself more appealing to coaches."

While in high school, what other teams and/or sports were you playing? Did you know all along you wanted to play your sport in college?

In high school I played football my freshman year. After that season I realized it wasn’t reallyfor me, so I decided to focus 100% on track. I always thought it’d be cool to play a collegiate sport, but honestly didn’t think I’d ever be in the position to until my junior year.

Why did you ultimately choose your college? How many other schools were you looking at?When did you start getting interest from college coaches? Were they knocking down your door, or were you reaching out to them? If so, how?

I chose Northwood University because it’s somewhere I can see myself being happy and

successful for the next 4-5 years. Unlike all my other visits, the people on campus we’re extremely friendly and welcoming throughout the entire visit. They made me feel as if I was already a part of the team. The campus was beautiful and there was also a very active social life along with plenty of different things to get involved in. I began getting interest from schools in October of my junior year. At that time I wasn’t able to receive calls so my E-mail account would blow up with different e-mails from coaches introducing themselves. Throughout the entire 18-month process, I myself made contact with or was contacted by at least 400 different coaches whether it was through phone, BeRecruited, e-mail, or in person. I was VERY proactive in my college search. I developed an E-mail that I would send to any coach I had interest in throwing for. It was a set of 15 questions that let me know a lot about their program, but also made them aware of my strong interest, which is key if you want to be recruited to compete anywhere. I think I had a very fortunate recruiting process. While I wasn’t a top recruit sought out by most of the top SEC and ACC type schools like UNC or Tennessee, I was a prospect that caught a lot of coaches’ interest most of which were on the D1 and D2 levels. That’s not to say I didn’t receive interest from those types of schools though. I had no offers from those conferences, but I received interest from schools like Wake Forest, Louisville, and even Cornell. A lot of coaches recruited me based off of potential as opposed to my high school statistics. Basically most coaches looked at me as a person instead of my numbers and said that I had what it took physically to make the transition to college very well.

How did BeRecruited help you make the connection with your committed college?

It was a HUGE help. My future coach actually discovered me on BeRecruited. Along with 242 other coaches who viewed my profile in the time I had an active account.

Who was pivotal in helping you through the recruiting process and why? (Parents, a coach, a hs counselor?)

My father was the most pivotal figure in this process for me. He himself was a collegiate thrower at the University of Akron from 1979-1983. He knew how the recruiting process would be and was able to help me through it.

What role did you club coaches/hs coaches have in helping you get recruited? How active were your parents in the process?

My high school coaches were completely blind sided by the fact that I intended on competing in college up until a week before my signing day. While I’m not certain of it, I believe my club coach who is also a college coach put my name out there a little bit. I saw a few connections within the process that seemed a bit too peculiar for him to have no part of.

What was the most challenging part of the recruiting process, if any?

The most challenging part is finding a college that fits you in every aspect. While on their search every recruit will find a school that has great athletics and poor academics or poor athletics and great academics. Or the first school you find with both might be a little too large in size for you. It’s just all about finding the right fit. If you don’t go somewhere you’re happy, then you’re just wasting your time and your coach’s time.

To date, what do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment in your sport career?

My biggest accomplishment to date is being named sole captain of my team this year. To me that’s bigger than any award because it shows that my coaches respect me and as athlete and as a person and trust in me to lead my team to a conference championship this spring.

What tips or advice do you have for student-athletes who want to continue their sport past high school?

It all starts in the classroom. I didn’t do as well as I could have in high school and I certainly lost quite a few opportunities because of it. Next, you’ve got to get your name out there. Winning a state championship isn’t the only way to get a coach’s attention. Send E-mails or make a call. Once you establish a relationship with a particular coach, MAINTAIN IT! A coach isn’t going to call you every week unless you’re his or her top prospect, which in most cases isn’t how it’ll be. Constantly updating them lets them know how high your level of interest really is. Lastly, the recruiting process is like the business world. Don’t ever cut ties with people or ignore any coaches. An NAIA school may contact you, and you might have absolutely no interest in competing at that level. What I’ve discovered is that if you’re polite and let them know its not in you’re interests, they’ll understand and more than likely refer you to a friend who coaches at another university, which more times than not is a school that competes at a high competition level.

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