Humans of Baldwin: Being Recruited to the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC)

Naomi Jefferson-Sambanis explains her recruitment process to Williams College.

Naomi Jefferson-Sambanis ‘23 was recruited to Williams College to play squash at the end of her junior year. Jefferson-Sambanis has been playing squash for nine years, but only decided last year that she wanted to play at the collegiate level. Williams is part of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which consists of 11 schools: Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams.

Jefferson-Sambanis has a unique perspective on what it is like to get recruited by a school in the NESCAC, and she has some advice to share with junior squash players hoping to get recruited. I spoke to her about her recruiting process, and here is what she had to say:


What were the specifics of your recruiting process?

The initial process began mid-junior year when I started sending emails to every school, whether it was a reach, safety, or a school I wasn’t sure I was interested in– I just had to get myself out there and let coaches know I wanted to play in college. I sent an email with my rating, ranking, and some facts about me just to introduce myself. 

Then, if they were interested, usually they would write back and, since my process was during COVID, they would ask to hop on a Zoom to chat. I would have the Zoom and then depending on how well the Zoom went, I would visit the campus and meet with the players to get a sense of how it was to be a player on the team and what the coach-player relationship was like. I ended up making my commitment to Williams in June of my junior year.


Did you look into schools outside the NESCAC?

I didn’t think that I could get recruited to a top Ivy League team because my squash was lacking at the time, so not really. I was thinking about Dartmouth, but then they filled up all their spots, so I was basically just looking at schools in the NESCAC. 


Do you know how the recruiting process differs for squash from schools in and out of the NESCAC? 

The Ivies have to get their recruitments done by a certain time and that’s normally around mid-junior year, so they can start earlier than schools in the NESCAC. Schools in the NESCAC usually start recruiting towards the end of when Ivies stop recruiting, so there is little overlap. I know some people got recruited to an Ivy their senior year, and there’s always going to be exceptions to the timeline, but the bulk of Ivies finished mid junior year and the bulk of schools in NESCAC finished early to mid-summer.


What advice would you give to junior squash players hoping to join you at a school in the NESCAC?

What separates schools in the NESCAC from Ivies is that schools in the NESCAC put academics first and squash second. I would recommend focusing on academics your junior year and not prioritizing squash to the point where you lack in academics. Coaches are trained to see talent if they see you play and they like your playing style– so even if your form isn’t perfect or polished, that’s okay. 

Coaches can see that you have potential and whether or not you’d be a valuable player to their team. Your only job is to pull your weight and keep up your grades, so you can meet the academic threshold as well as the athletic one.