D.C still draws talent

Some GW athletic coaches said they were initially concerned about attracting student athletes to Washington, D.C. after September 11, but those fears have since been quelled by strong recruiting classes and athletes saying they were not afraid to attend GW.

Men’s soccer head coach George Lidster said he initially thought what had once been his strongest selling point, the city, would now be his biggest problem. He said he used to explain to recruits that the White House was only blocks away, that there were internships on Capitol Hill and that the campus was in the heart of a scenic and vibrant city. But after September 11, “everything I’d been using as a positive could now be a negative,” Lidster said.

Women’s soccer head coach Tanya Vogel’s initial response echoed her colleague’s.

“After the initial shock, fear and emotions of that day, I began to worry that it would be impossible to attract students to our city,” Vogel said in an e-mail. “I know that if I were a parent I would have initially been worrisome about my child coming to D.C. or New York City.”

Despite these early fears, many coaches said recruiting classes are as strong as ever. Neither the amount nor the quality of recruited players seems to have been affected by September 11.

“Had there been more than one attack, it would have been a factor,” golf head coach Scott Allen said. But since it was an isolated incident, he said, prospective students were not worried about any lack of safety at GW.

Freshman cross-country runner Bridget Realmuto is from Queens, N.Y., and on September 11, she had not yet decided to attend GW.

For her, the attack “made it more concrete that I wanted to be in D.C. and get closer to our government to see how things work here,” she said. “Coming from New York, I thought that by being in D.C., I could be more understanding of why things are happening.”

While Realmuto did not have reservations about attending GW, freshman golfer Lee Hodder had a different perspective. The British native was supposed to be a freshman last year, but after injuring his shoulder in early September, he returned to England two days before the attacks and then spent time in Qatar, where his father owns a business.

Hodder said he was initially worried about returning and considered attending school in the U.K., but as things calmed down in the United States, he decided to come back. Hodder said he felt that it was one major attack and that others were unlikely to follow.

The greatest amount of concern came from the recruits’ families, coaches and athletes said. Several freshmen said parents were worried about security, but ultimately none felt it was enough to prevent them from going to GW.

“Some parents did ask questions,” Vogel said. “But more specifically, they asked about how we acted on September 11. They seemed intrigued by the events and worried about our current team, but not concerned about future events.”

Baseball head coach Tom Walter said there are always questions about security, mainly because GW is an urban campus, but he does not think there were any more fears this year than in the past.

Allen agreed, and said he drove recruits by the Pentagon during the winter “to show them how cleaned up it was, and how you couldn’t even tell there had been an attack.”

By the end of the 2002 recruiting season, Allen said he had been contacted by the same amount of athletes and had the strongest recruiting class of his tenure.

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