Welcome to VolleyballRecruits.net's Part 2 of Get to Know a College Program! Periodically, we are going to share with you interviews with college vballers, who are here to tell you how they chose their program and what it's like to be a part of their college team.
Our second player is Madeline Hughes, a recent graduate from Northern Illinois University. She chatted with us about what it's like to be a NIU Huskie and the path that took her there. Hughes had a very successful career as a Huskie. As the starting libero, Hughes was named the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Second Team All-MAC, and has taken home four MAC West Division Defensive Player of the Week awards. Hughes also had great academic success and majored in Nursing. Here's what she had to say!
On the Recruiting Process
In what ways did you make yourself accessible to coaches?
I was lucky enough to play for a great club, Club Fusion, and was on a heavily recruited team. Being on the team put me in the position to get noticed from college coaches and from there I emailed back and forth with them.
When did you first receive personalized contact from coaches from your program?
I had a very unique recruitment because my assistant club coach was my assistant college coach. I was verbally offered at the end of my sophomore year of high school so I never actually filled out any questionnaires.
How often were you contacted by coaches from your program?
I obviously stayed in contact with my assistant coach a lot. I was able to talk with my head coach at tournaments.
When did you go on campus visits? And what other schools did you visit?
I went on a campus visit in June after my sophomore year. I never visited another school, which I regret, because the other schools that were recruiting me were so far away and I committed before they could give me an official visit.
What separated your school from the rest of your top choices?
I really enjoyed the fact that my assistant club coach would be my college coach. I was also extremely happy with the offer of a full ride scholarship, which I was not sure another school would give me.
Do you have any suggestions for future athletes’ visits?
I would say visit as many schools as possible and try not to make any presumptions beforehand. Visit a school no matter what you think it will offer you because you never know when something will surprise you and make a great connection.
What relationship, if any, did you have with current players on the team during the recruiting process?
I did not know any of the current players and wish that I would have tried to make a better connection or had something to compare it against. The way NIU handles recruits now is a lot different than how they did things when I was being recruited.
When did you verbally commit? When did you sign the National Letter of Intent?
I verbally committed in the winter of my junior year of high school and signed my letter in November of my senior year.
If anything, what would you have done differently in your recruiting process?
I would have visited a lot more schools and not have felt pressured to commit before I had seen all my options. I should have also done my research on all of the volleyball programs instead of just thinking about how much each school was offering me financially.
On Being a Student-Athlete
What were some things that you discovered about your school once you began attending that you think it would be important for recruits to know?
My school had a large enrollment, but felt small in a good way. The athletes are very good about supporting one another and since our Greek Life is small compared to most schools athletics gets a lot of attention. Also, once you live off campus it is hard to get around without a car. Although buses are great for taking you to class, the stores aren’t within walking distance.
Describe your campus’ location. Urban? Rural? What are some of the pros and cons?
My campus is rural. I personally like that it is because then the university is the center of the town instead of just being a part of it. We are about 70 miles away from Chicago, which translates to about a little over an hour away. My friends and I have gone to the city a lot either by train or car. So I would say Northern Illinois University has the best of both worlds.
Please describe a typical class at your school.
It is hard to say what a typical class is like at NIU because we have so many different majors and classes. We have lecture halls where you could have 200 in a class as well as small classrooms where you will have about 12. Each class varies.
Are there mandatory student-athlete study sessions?
Freshmen are required to do between 8-10 hours a week of study tables their first semester. After that if their grades are good enough they are not required to do hours anymore.
What kind of academic resources are available to student-athletes?
Any academic resource you could imagine is available. Free tutors for any class, school supplies, printing, computer access, proof-reading, and computer loans are just a few I can think of.
What did you major in? Are there any well-renown majors at your school?
I majored in Nursing. This is actually quite a fete because my coach allowed me to miss practices to attend classes mandatory for the major. At times I was only able to go to 1 or 2 practices a week. From what I have heard my coach was very unique in letting me do so. I would advise you to ask what your coach’s policy is on missing practice for a class in case there is a conflict that cannot be worked out another way. I have known many athletes who have had to pick a different major for this reason. NIU has very good programs all-around they are well known for their accounting program.
What are off season workouts and practices like?
Off-season workouts usually entail lifting at 5:45 am followed by practice for 2 hours each day. My coach was very good about giving days off if you worked hard.
What was your travel schedule like?
We had two tournaments away in preseason, one you would fly to the other drive. Once conference started all away games were about 6 hours away by bus. We would leave on a Thursday night, play Friday and Saturday, and then return home right after our Saturday match ended.
How did you balance volleyball and academics?
Balancing volleyball and academics was hard because traveling takes a lot out of you. I would advise spreading studying out and asking teachers for study guides at the beginning of each unit so you can get each part done right after learning it. This really helped me. Also don’t be afraid to get a tutor even if you are an “A” student. Having a tutor can make your load lighter and give you an edge in a class.
Describe your living options. On-campus? Off-campus? What years?
My freshman year we lived in dorms. Now NIU has freshman live in suite style dorms with an athlete of another sport. This is nice because it gives you a chance to meet people from other teams. After freshman year most athletes move off-campus to apartments, but still have the option to live in upper-classman dorms.
Describe the athletic facilities.
Our athletic facilities were all built within the last 10 years. The most recent athletic facility, The Yorden Center, was built four years ago and houses a state of the art weight room and our football team. Women’s Volleyball at NIU has their own gym and locker room.
Was it possible to participate in any extracurricular activities?
It wasn’t really possible for us to participate in extracurricular activities because volleyball and volleyball related activities took up so much time.
Explain a day in the life of a player during fall season.
Wake up eat, go to class, grab lunch either at home, the dorms, or restaurant. Each scholarship athlete is given money (around $500 per semester) toward food called Huskie Bucks. The money is on your student I.D. and most local restaurants accept them. After lunch there would be some down time to study, sleep, or relax. Lifting is usually around 5:00 PM, but can become individualized depending on people’s class schedules. Practice is usually from about 6-9 PM. Our coach had practices late because this the time you would play at and was the only time that fit everyone’s schedules. Then SLEEP!
Is there any additional information about your school you feel would benefit recruits?
Get to know the girls on your team really well because although there are thousands of people on campus, these girls will be with you everyday. Usually coaches tend to recruit similar personalities. These girls will be with you good or bad for four years.
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