Feature: how Luther recruits student-athletes


Photo courtesy of Photo Bureau

Luther football holds a camp for high school students to meet the coaches and practice with the team.

Student-athletes at Luther are brought here through a variety of different ways, but they all stem from the recruiting process. Recruitment is the process of coaches and recruitment workers travelling to high school sporting events to observe student-athletes. This helps Luther coaches decide who they want to contact, invite for an on- campus visit and gauge their interest in participating in sports at Luther. But because Luther is a college that competes in Division III of the NCAA, the recruiting process functions differently.

As a DIII college, Luther cannot offer sports scholarships to student- athletes; Financial aid must be awarded under the same procedures as for the general student body. Addtionally, Division III institutions cannot use Letters of Intent, or the signing on of students to participate in sports before they have committed to come here.

If a student-athlete is interested in a subject that Luther has a strong academic program in, they are more likely to come and visit. According to Luther College Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Softball Coach Renae Hartl, if students are interested in an academic program Luther doesn’t have, it makes less sense to persuade them to come to campus.

“If we find a softball student-athlete that we really like on the field, we need to find out a lot more about her before we decide if our program or Luther College is going to be a good fit for her and us,” Hartl said. “We specifically tend to recruit a lot of young ladies who are looking to be in the medical field and other academic areas that Luther knocks out of the park.”

The next step of the recruitment process is reaching out to the student- athlete to check in and put Luther on their radar. Sometimes students take the first step and submit a recruitment letter, which is a form on the website that allows high school athletes to contact Luther coaches directly.

“Yeah, so a lot of the time when we first get info on an athlete we haven’t been in contact with before, we set up a profile,” recruitment worker Gretchen Blain (‘21) said. “One of the apps we use is called Frontrush, and we use that as kind of our recruitment database. We get their profile set up, and that communicates with Slate, which is what admissions uses, so those two go back and forth. I usually send a text or email just introducing myself and just go off that.”

At this point it is up to the student to decide whether or not to respond, and this gives a gauge for their level of interest.

“Often times [student- athletes] don’t respond, which is the most challenging part,” Blain said. “Sometimes if they don’t respond, that doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Sometimes it just falls through, or they’re uncomfortable and don’t know how to respond and forget to.”

Once the student athlete has been contacted, it is up to recruiters to bring them to campus. Once on campus, recruitment workers and coaches try to gauge if the recruit will be a compatible member of the team. Cross country captain and recruitment worker Andrew Millan (‘20) says that bringing a recruit to campus and seeing how well they fit into the team is one of the most important parts of the process.

“It does take a lot of effort to get kids to campus, and once they are on campus it’s about showing them the best of what we are and who we are,” Millan said. “[Recruitment] is a full team effort. It takes contribution from everyone on the team. It’s not like us pressuring them to come to Luther; it is us giving them our best impression so that they can then be the driving factor. We want them to fit into Luther, and that fit is about more than just the running.”

According to Caleb Glodowski (‘22), who was recruited to play football, the visit to Luther was one of the most important steps in his decision.

“They had a football player come and walk us around campus,” Glodowski said. “They took us into a room and we watched some highlights of their season. Then we went into Decorah, went to Mabes and the Springs. After that, we stayed on a floor in Dieseth with a bunch of football players. They really try to make you feel special.”

After this process has concluded, it is up to the student to consider all the factors involved in making such a decision, and then make the choice from there. According to Hartl, the recruitment process at Luther emphasizes the environment on campus more than anything, and many coaches and athletes believe that is the driving factor in student-athletes decisions.

“The recruiting process is really important for us and has helped us with retention on the team and Luther College,” Hartl said. “If we start to get to know our prospective students when they are 16 and we build on that relationship during their junior and senior year of high school and start to connect them to our team prior to them enrolling here, that is really helpful for them and us. We want them to feel they are a Luther College student-athlete prior to even stepping on campus in the fall.”

Photo courtesy of Luther College
Andrew Millian (’20) works as a recruitment worker at Luther College.
Photo courtesy of Luther College
Gretchen Blain (’21) works as a recruitment worker at Luther College.
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