The many paths of CWU Recruitment

Grace Godfrey warming up her throwing arm. Jacob Thompson

Jacqueline Hixssen, Staff Reporter

Whether it be the academics, the sports program or the quaint college town, CWU provides a commodity that is the selling point for student-athletes, many from all over the world. Over 500 student-athletes call CWU home, hailing from places including small Alaska towns, New Zealand, Australia, the UK and states all over the U.S. 

The recruiting process looks different for each athlete. The commonality for all student-athletes, they said, is that CWU stood out from other colleges, providing the athletes with their home away from home.

Shaylee Coulter-Fa’amafu

Women’s basketball player Shaylee Coulter-Fa’amafu had a recruiting journey that differed from many student-athletes. Freshman guard Coulter-Fa’amafu did not just travel through state lines, she made a move across the world to play for CWU. 

Originally from Brisbane, Australia, Coulter-Fa’amafu said she heard about CWU through her basketball trainer.

“He came over to America for college a few years ago,” Coulter-Fa’amafu said. “He had a few close contacts with some coaches over here and sent them out a few emails with my information and my highlights … and he got a response from the coach over here at Central.”

Coulter-Fa’amafu had other colleges she was considering. According to Coulter-Fa’amafu, one of the reasons she chose CWU was because of the communication between herself and the women’s basketball head coach, Randi Richardson-Thornley. 

“The other colleges that I spoke to, usually the assistant coach would be talking to me, which made it seem that the head coach wasn’t as interested,” said Coulter-Fa’amafu. “It is part of the recruiting process, but with the coach over here, it was the head coach that was talking to me and we got along really well.”

Coulter-Fa’amafu is not the only international athlete residing at CWU. There are 10 athletes, between the two rugby teams, that are also international players.

“My coach got me on a Zoom call with a few of the rugby players that are over here because they have a lot of international players,” Coulter-Fa’amafu said. “They had three Australian boys that live close to where I do in Australia, so that was probably one of my favorite parts [of recruitment].”

According to Coulter-Fa’amafu, talking with her teammates for the first time over Zoom was one of the most memorable parts of the recruitment process.

The first time Coulter-Fa’amafu saw CWU was with her coach. According to Coulter-Fa’amafu, her coach was her moral support.

“I was pretty nervous at first but [my coach] didn’t seem like it was a massive deal; she made me feel really comfortable,” Coulter Fa’amafu said. 

CWU may not have been the only school Coulter-Fa’amafu was interested in, but she said the decision was not too difficult for her to make.

“I definitely knew before I came over,” Coulter-Fa’amafu said. “I just think that talking to the coaches and the team made me feel really comfortable with them.”

The freshman guard has many more seasons with CWU. This last season, the team went to the NCAA Division II West Region Tournament semi-finals, where the team fell to Western Washington University 64-58.

Grace Godfrey

Grace Godfrey is a freshman outfielder on the softball team. Godfrey grew up in a small town in south central Alaska. Homer, Alaska is home of halibut fishing and the world renowned spit, but Godfrey decided to step away from commercial fishing to play collegiate softball. 

Godfrey’s home town of Homer didn’t have a club softball team, so she prepared to play for a club in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage is a five hours drive north of Homer, so when COVID-19 hit, Godfrey said her plans became undetermined and essentially not worth the long drive.

“I was initially planning on getting on that team [in Anchorage], and then COVID hit and everything went up in the air and I never ended up playing for them,” Godfrey said.

Playing only high school sports makes the recruitment process harder for student-athletes in Alaska, according to Godfrey.

“Definitely not being on a club team that travels down here and gets exposed to coaches, and also the different level of play, it is just so different down here than it is up there in my super small town,” Godfrey said.

The Alaskan did not have the traditional recruiting process; she became a walk-on which means she didn’t receive a scholarship to play as a freshman. 

“I actually walked on here,” Godfrey said. “So I had initially been talking to their previous coach in spring of 2020, and then everything got shut down really soon after that.” 

According to Godfrey, COVID-19 affected her high school seasons and her recruiting process.

“It obviously skewed a lot of my softball plans,” Godfrey said. “I didn’t get a season that year and club softball wasn’t really happening.”

COVID-19 almost put a halt to Godfrey’s softball career completely.

“I didn’t really initially continue to pursue this [recruitment]; I actually was planning on going to University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA).”

UAA does not have a softball program, according to Godfrey. 

Godfrey’s senior season was in 2020-2021, and despite COVID-19, the league was able to play, according to Godfrey.

“We actually ended up having a senior season and after that ended, I knew I needed to try and play.”

When deciding what school to play at, the small town of Ellensburg played a part in Godfrey’s decision. 

Being from a small Alaska town, Godfrey intended to pick a school that resembled the quaint town characteristics that she was used to. 

“I like the small town vibe; I came from a small town in Alaska so I didn’t really want to go into a big city or a huge school within a bigger city.”

Kass Jaggard

Freshman soccer goalkeeper Kass Jaggard grew up in the large city of San Diego, California. 

“Being from San Diego, it’s an entirely different vibe … Being able to have an opportunity to live somewhere else that I have never experienced was definitely an eye opener for me,” Jaggard said.

According to Jaggard, the differences between San Diego and Ellensburg are immense but adapting to the changes has not been difficult for her. 

“Definitely a culture shock for me has been what there is to do here and how limited it is compared to down home where I can drive five minutes and go to Chick-fil-A and a Cane’s is across the street.”

The coaches made all efforts to maintain a relationship with Jaggard throughout her recruiting process to ensure she played for CWU at the collegiate level. 

“It was really welcoming, [the CWU soccer coaches] were constantly reaching out to me,” Jaggard said. “Every tournament I had, I would send them my schedule and I would always see the old CWU coaches there and I knew they wanted me to come here.”

Jaggard knew CWU was the school for her early on in her senior year of high school.

“Right when my senior year started, I knew this was the place I wanted to be,” Jaggard said. 

Upon seeing CWU’s campus for the first time, Jaggard said she loved the notorious brick buildings. 

“I loved how much brick it was, for being a west coast school it definitely gives that east coast vibe with the old brick,” Jaggard said. “I love all the trees around campus and how green it is with the mountains and everything.”

Jaggard was talking with five other schools before naming CWU her home away from home. 

According to Jaggard, throughout her youth she doubted she had the ability to play soccer at the collegiate level. 

“Checking out different places that I could play at the collegiate level for, because I never thought I had the opportunity to do that growing up,” Jaggard said. “Once I was given that opportunity I definitely took it and ran with it.”