Small liberal college in Pacific Northwest translates to LC’s recruiting process looking different
LEWIS & CLARK is a Division III school, meaning that the college cannot offer athletics scholarships. However, this does not mean that LC’s sports programs cannot scout top high school athletes and attempt to convince them to compete for LC. So, what does recruiting at LC look like?
Head softball coach Shawna Cyrus described the typical routine for a LC athletics coach.
“We go out on the road a lot,” Cyrus said. “Coaches are going to tournaments, meeting athletes all over the country. There are recruiting services online that have videos and all sorts of information, so we can see them before offering them a spot on our roster.”
She has a goal of recruiting five to ten first-year students to the softball team every year. Almost all sports teams at LC recruit high school athletes rather than existing students. With one regular exception being the rowing team due to the lack of high school players.
If LC’s teams cannot offer scholarships, how else do they encourage athletes to play for them? According to Jimmy Chau, the head coach of men’s and women’s tennis, one of the primary reasons is that LC is a small liberal arts college in a beautiful natural setting.
“From an academic standpoint, we definitely stand out,” Chau said. “Small classes, high academics. We preach the balance between the two, where you can develop your tennis game while also achieving great things in the classroom.”
He said that LC’s tennis players are intellectually driven. During recruitment, players that are both good at tennis and academically high-achieving stand out as potential LC recruits, while a higher-division school looks at a player’s athletic statistics.
“(Our players) have a lot of other interests besides softball,” Cyrus said, echoing this sentiment. “We have art majors on the team, music majors, people who go and work in the biochem labs after softball practice.”
To some athletes, Portland’s cool climate is a selling point.
“There’s a special type of kid who likes Pacific Northwest weather,” Chau said.
He tends to focus his recruiting efforts on warmer states, where the prospect of playing tennis in damp Oregon is more enticing. Similarly, Cyrus notes that almost all sports teams at LC have a surprising number of players from Hawaii.
Joshua Arcayena ’26 is one of those players. After playing high school football in his hometown of Honolulu, he was scouted by LC and decided to attend the college. He liked the combination of academic and athletic rigor, as well as the camaraderie of the LC football team.
“Everyone’s super cool and fun to hang out with,” Arcayena said. “We’re just a great fit.”
LC was not the most prestigious school to express interest in Arcayena. He was also scouted by multiple Ivy League schools, which are similarly unable to offer athletic scholarships and therefore also rely on touting their sports-and-studying balance.
Ultimately, Arcayena chose LC because it was closer to home. “I didn’t really want to be on the East Coast,” Arcayena said. “With a lot of situations going on, this felt like the best fit for me.”
Although there is a commonly held perception that the academic scholarships athletes receive are thinly disguised athletics scholarships, all the coaches I spoke to vigorously denied these rumors.
“(The athletes) don’t get more than the regular student body,” Cyrus said. “Students ask me, ‘Oh, I heard athletes get to enroll in their classes sooner.’ Or they get more money, or whatever. But they don’t get anything more than what you get. Our student-athletes are treated the same as the rest of the student body.”
Many of the coaches view LC’s sports programs as a supplement to the college’s admissions programs. “We’re working with admissions to bring in the new freshman class,” Cyrus says. “(The athletes) want to be at a school like Lewis & Clark, but they might not have known it until I shone a light on it and said, ‘Hey, we have a great softball program too.’