By Henry Large '18
The Founders Cup is a mark of athletic excellence in the IAC. Every year, it is awarded to the IAC school that finishes best in regular season games and end-of-season tournaments between 10 sports: cross country, football, and soccer in the fall; basketball and wrestling in the winter; and baseball, golf, lacrosse, track and field, and tennis in the spring. For a few reasons, it’s been years since St. Albans has won this award.
Fortunately, St. Albans rarely comes in dead last in Founders Cup standings. In recent years, STA cross country, soccer, and tennis have been the usual IAC champions, and baseball and track and field occasionally win titles. However, St. Albans hasn’t won a basketball title in my nine years at St. Albans, and the football and lacrosse teams often come in dead last in the IAC.
It’s simple. Teams with better players win more games, and St. Albans has a harder time bringing in talented athletes. St. Albans is at an inherent recruiting disadvantage compared to other IAC schools. The first reason is that St. Albans has a lower school, but Georgetown Prep and Episcopal are just high schools. This makes athletic recruiting much more difficult.
For example, Georgetown Prep takes about 120 new freshmen every year. If admissions allow 25% of that class to be football players, then Prep can bring in 30 football recruits. On the other hand, St. Albans takes about 20 new freshmen every year. If admission allows 25% of incoming freshmen to be football players, then St. Albans can bring in 5 football recruits. In many sports, football especially, sheer numbers can be the difference between a championship team and a last-place team.
In addition, St. Albans’ selectivity and academic rigor deter many potential athletes. Often, middle school athletes hoping to play at St. Albans don’t meet the high admissions standards. Furthermore, elite middle school athletes aren’t always looking for a challenging course load that might get in the way of their athletic aspirations.
Finally, St. Albans has few D1 commits. Charles Snowden ‘17 (UVA football) and Clark Klitenic ‘19 (Duke baseball) stick out, but compared to other schools, D1 commits are rare at St. Albans. The best athletes in 8th grade often choose whichever high school offers them the best chance at a D1 scholarship and, for this reason, they choose schools like Georgetown Prep over St. Albans.
So what can we do? I don’t know the solution, but I can tell you my experience in St. Albans recruiting. In 8th grade, Zach Schauer ‘18 and I played on a travel baseball team with Chase Daneker ‘19 and Cole Matthiesen ‘19. At the time, Chase went to Pyle Middle School, and Cole went to Sidwell. Both were applying to many high schools at the time, and while Zach and I can’t take credit for their decisions to attend STA, we encouraged them to apply and told them how great of a school, community, and athletic program St. Albans is. Today, Chase is a key contributor to the varsity soccer and baseball teams, and Cole is a dominant three-sport varsity athlete.
While we can’t control St. Albans’ admissions’ standards, we can encourage athletes to apply. If you know middle school athletes hoping to compete at a high level while receiving a topnotch education, tell them about St. Albans. It could help us win our first Founders Cup in years.