Grove City College Sees Record Number of Student-Athletes

GROVE CITY, Pa. – Grove City College has 540 student-athletes on campus – accounting for 24% of the student body – setting a new school record for participation in varsity athletics.

“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,” said Grove City athletic director Todd Gibson in a statement. “Being specific in what we are trying to do has attracted the students that want what we are offering. We are winning in all of our sports, that helps for sure. 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 among Grove City’s NCAA Division III teams. Coaches are willing to spend time developing relationships with prospective student-athletes and the admissions office works closely with Jordyn White, 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,” she said. “That combination is hard to find.” 

White coordinates campus visits for students and families, recruiting events and oversees a database of thousands of recruits. She brings her own experience as a former Grove City women’s soccer player and current assistant coach.

“I can share my personal experience as a student-athlete at GCC and how it impacted my life,” White said. “That’s given me the desire to have an impact on others in some way over their four years here – 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 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 and how they cross our path,” said Grove City women’s volleyball coach Leo Sayles. “Our success is not so much about what we do, but the connection of athletes with their program of choice at Grove City College. 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. Volleyball can be the icing on the cake.”

Derrick Baney, assistant football coach and team recruiting coordinator, asks potential student-athletes what’s important to them. He adds their answers usually parallel 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. 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.”

Sayles said the mission as a college and athletic department is to be committed to a culture dedicated to excellence.

“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 [Presidents’ Athletic Conference] championships,” he said.

Women’s soccer standout Gianna D’Amato, who earned PAC Newcomer of the Year and first team all-conference in spring 2021, said committing to Grove City 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. She attended a team clinic that summer.

“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 City promotes.”

Grove City fall sports started last week with women’s tennis, volleyball, cross country, soccer, golf and football in competition. Follow the school’s athletics HERE and find out more about attending Grove City HERE.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.