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Building the Team

According to Marilee Jones, dean of admissions, more and more students enter MIT having played varsity sports in high school. A decade ago, fewer than 30 percent did, but by 2003, that number had jumped to 56 percent. What MIT does not do is recruit athletes. While MIT coaches can take note of athletes interested in their sports, talk to them, and invite them to visit campus, they are not given any admissions “slots” to fill. “Everyone we admit has the SAT scores and high-school grades to do well at MIT,” says Jones. “We do not admit anyone-no matter who they are-with lower scores or grades because they would be value-added’ in some way, as many other schools might do.”

“That being said,” Jones continues, “we like athletes very much because they generally have already developed the characteristics required of successful MIT students: discipline, focus, goal-setting, resilience, tenacity, humor, leadership.”

Because MIT does not recruit athletes, coaches have to build their teams from the students who show up-and do it while maintaining the unequivocal line that academics come first. “You need to be a coach who is interested in being a teacher,” says John Benedick, assistant director of athletics. “Our coaches are not simply able, through recruiting, to build a program and then guide it. We really have to take what we receive and build a cohesive, effective intercollegiate team.” But, he’s quick to add, “MIT athletes are highly competitive in nature because they’re highly competitive in the classroom. So when they come on the athletic field, they are equally as competitive. And that competitive nature can make up at least a little bit for talent.”

With only a two-hour practice window every day-and with students regularly late or even absent from practice due to class demands-it would seem that MIT coaches would have to give up their dreams of coaching championship teams. But in the last 10 years, MIT has sent nine teams to NCAA national championship competitions.

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