Nearly a quarter of Grove City College’s student body are wearing the crimson and white this year as members of one of the College’s NCAA Division III sports teams.
The 540 Wolverine student-athletes – 24 percent of the campus population – set a new College record for varsity athletics involvement, which has been growing steadily as more student-athletes discover the College’s distinctive “Wolverines Together” athletic culture.
“We are straightforward with our goal, which is to be the best athletic program in the nation, and to do it in a way that is authentically Christian,” Athletic Director Todd Gibson ’02 said. “Being specific in what we are trying to do, has attracted the students that want we are offering – and we are winning in all of our sports. That helps for sure. But it took steps to get to where we are now.”
One of those steps was to put a renewed focus on recruiting, an effort that’s yielded much success. Coaches willing to spend time developing relationships with prospective student-athletes and the Admissions Office work closely with Jordyn White ’17, who serves as the Athletic Department’s recruiting and event coordinator.
“The College does a great job targeting student-athletes who are a good fit for what we offer – high quality academics and the opportunity to compete in a competitive atmosphere coupled with a solid Christian culture. That combination is hard to find,” she said.
White sets up campus visits for students and families, coordinates recruiting events and oversees a database of thousands of recruits. She brings her own experience as a Wolverine to the job. She was a standout on the soccer team and now serves as the team’s assistant coach.
“I can share my personal experience as a student-athlete at GCC and how it impacted my life. That’s given me the desire to have an impact on others in some way over their four years here. Even if it's as small as helping a prospective student-athlete with the application process or taking a family on a campus tour.”
Coaches do their part. They find prospects through national databases, youth sports camps, social media and established relationships and rather than “selling” them on Grove City College, they stress the unique athletic and campus culture and the institution’s core values: Excellence, Faithfulness, Community, Stewardship and Independence.
“The recruiting process is fluid and based on the prospective student – based on when they cross our path and how they cross our path. Our “success” is not so much about what we do, but the connection of athletes with their program of choice at Grove City College,” Leo Sayles, head women’s volleyball coach, said. “Volleyball is only part of the process. In the big picture, we are helping them determine if Grove City College is where God is leading them to continue their growth, and volleyball can be the icing on the cake,” he said.
“I ask recruits what’s important to them,” Assistant Wolverines football coach and team recruiting coordinator Derrick Baney said. Usually, he said, the answer lines up with one or more of the foundational blocks in head coach Andrew DiDonato’s “brick-by-brick” philosophy, which stresses student spiritual, social, mental and physical development. “We’re able to make a connection between that and what Grove City College has to offer,” Baney said.
“I don’t want to recruit a young man just to play football,” Baney said. “Winning a bowl game or a championship is wonderful … but the ultimate win is when a guy digs into his faith. This is a ministry for us,” he said.
“We are clear about our mission as a college, department and team. Our commitment to excellence is very clear, and aspiring athletes want to be a part of a culture that is dedicated to excellence,” Sayles said. “Many of our teams have a vision statement similar to ours, which clearly articulates what we stand for – to glorify God with Christ-like character while striving for excellence, building authentic relationships and competing for PAC championships.”
Soccer standout Gianna D’Amato, who earned Presidents' Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year and First Team All-PAC in spring 2021, said committing to Grove City College was an easy choice for her.
The New Jersey native heard about the College from alumni and reached out to women’s soccer coach Melissa Lamie during his sophomore year of high school. “Coach invited me to the women’s soccer team ID clinic that summer. My family drove me to Grove City and I honestly never looked back,” D’Amato said. “I learned about the competitive academic and athletic environment, saw the welcoming community and experienced the Christian culture that Grove promotes.”
D'Amato has some advice to other athletes: “Trust me, you want to be a Wolverine.”
The fall Wolverine sports season started last week with women’s tennis, volleyball, cross-country, soccer, golf and football in competition. Follow Grove City College athletics at athletics.gcc.edu.