New team, new teammates, new trials

Illinois student athlete transfer rates increase throughout all of sports

Where a student goes to high school is everything to a teenager. It determines who their friends are, the way they act, and sometimes their identity as a whole. However, bouncing around from school to school has become a more common thread throughout Illinois athletics. The reasoning for sending a student to one high school instead of another has shifted from academic strength, proximity to one’s house, or for the social interest of the teenager to athletic excellence and the program that will yield the highest chance of college recruitment. Saint Viator has been no exception as student athletes have transferred in and out of the school with the main motive being athletics.

Fitting into new environments is not easy for anyone, nonetheless someone who does it from year to year. Making new friends, meeting new teachers, and navigating different social scenes is an adjustment for all students coming into high school.

“[It] Depends how much they have switched schools” stated a senior who plays varsity basketball and football who asked to remain anonymous “Someone who has only transferred once would probably fit in better then someone who has attended multiple schools.”

High school is a time for students to develop into people who are to soon begin their lives in college and beyond. For some families, their main focus is to prepare them for the college court or field which can be a controversial topic.

“I believe every family makes a choice on what high school is the best overall fit for their son or daughter.” Said Coach Michael O’Keeffe who is the head varsity basketball coach and a counselor at Wheeling High School, “Athletics can be one factor that goes into selecting a high school, but other aspects of the high school experience are just as important, and hopefully more important, than athletics.”

Teams like Yorkville Christian High School, the 1A boys basketball Illinois state champions, lost eight of their varsity players to the transfer portal. Notre Dame College Prep lost four of their five starters to the transfer portal. Some students are deeming this unfair.

“Illinois sports are starting to resemble that of college athletics” said an anonymous junior who plays varsity football “I think that people should do everything they can to pursue their dreams, and if that is playing sports in college, go and do that. But students who are transferring two to four times throughout their high school career seems like a new thing.”

In the same sense that parents should work to put their children in the best academic programs to set them up for success, parents should be allowed to push their children athletically if they see fit. Playing division 1 college athletics, the highest level of college sports, is something that millions of teenagers across the country dream of. Understanding how difficult it is to get recruited into one of these programs is an important insight to see why students are bouncing around from school to school to get the attention of these college scouts.

According to there 176,000 division 1 spots currently available, which is about half of the amount of Illinois high school students who participate in athletics according to the NFHS network. With this in mind, it is easy to begin to see how cutthroat and competitive the college recruiting process can be, and working to gain that spotlight can put a lot of pressure on these teenagers.

“I am no division one recruit but I play with a few of them and see the pressure they go through” said the senior. “I think people need to remember that they are just high schoolers who should be able to have fun and make mistakes even though they are excellent at their sport. I couldn’t imagine going to four different schools in four years, I think it would be really hard to make friends and build meaningful relationships.”

Regardless of how you feel about the large percentage of Illinois student athletes transferring to different schools, putting their athletic interest above all else, it is important to remember that these five star recruits are high schoolers. It is important to remember that they are teenagers who are still finding themselves and working to understand who they are as people.

“I think transferring to a new school can present terrific opportunities for a student” said Coach O’Keeffe “but obstacles and some type of adversity will most likely arise, just like it does in all of our lives.”