Athletes have many variables to consider when deciding what college they should attend — especially athletes recruited by BYU who do not belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Many factors impact athlete’s decisions to attend one college over another. They have to think about scholarships, location, facilities, academics and more. But when athletes are recruited by BYU, they also have to think about religion.
“At first, I felt a bit out of place,” BYU men’s tennis player Sean Hill said. “Yet quickly I adapted to the customs and atmosphere of being at a predominantly LDS school.”
Many college athletes will tell you they chose the school that offered them the largest scholarship. This is no different with BYU athletes; many athletes are offered scholarships. But regardless of scholarships, two reasons why some nonmembers chose BYU over other options is the feeling on campus and academic offerings.
Hill was introduced to BYU when he saw a list of best value schools on usnews.com. He said after doing his research, he found BYU was affordable, had a great Division I tennis program and offered great academics.
Whether nonmember athletes visited campus, attended a camp or learned about BYU online, many said BYU felt like it was where they were meant to be.
“When I ask nonmember athletes why they chose BYU, and I always ask, it’s usually something about the feeling they got when they visited,” Student Athlete Learning Specialist Nycole Larsen said. “They liked the atmosphere and or their parents liked the environment.”
Many nonmember athletes said the fact BYU is owned by the Church was never an issue when making their college decision — either they did not have religious beliefs or they were of a different faith and content with going to a school that promotes beliefs different from their own.
“I liked the culture of the team and the high standards that the coaches here held their athletes to,” former BYU women’s volleyball player Roni Jones-Perry said. “I knew that if I came here I would be pushed to grow in all areas of my life, while still having the ability to have family be a big part of my life.”
Jones-Perry explained she was used to the culture because she grew up in Utah, but the culture was amplified on campus. She said the best part about her experience as a nonmember athlete at BYU was the amount of reflection and spiritual growth she had there.
“Being surrounded by people whose lives revolve around their religion gave me many opportunities to sit down and really think about what my beliefs are,” Jones-Perry said. “I think that this experience helped me to become more firm in who I am and what is important to me.”