Goshen College: Boosting Recruitment with Junior Varsity Athletics

Interview with Athletics Director Josh Gleason

Founded in 1894, Goshen College is a four-year, private liberal arts college located in Goshen, Indiana. With approximately 800 undergraduate students, Goshen is using athletics to drive enrollment with the goal of enrolling more than 300 student-athletes and 1,000 total students by 2020 and eventually 400 student-athletes and 1,200 total students. We spoke with Goshen Athletics Director Josh Gleason about setting enrollment goals, determining the process, and adding junior varsity programming.


How did you determine a student-athlete enrollment goal of 400?
When we created the athletics recruitment plan in 2016, Goshen’s overall enrollment had been trending down. However, athletic enrollment numbers had held steady and even exceeded expectations. For example, in 2007-08 there were 830 undergraduates with 205 student-athletes. In 2015-16 there were 652 undergraduates with 243 student-athletes. The percentage of student-athletes increased 13 percent.

On average, student-athletes make up approximately 33% of undergraduate enrollment. An institutional enrollment goal of 1,200 had been set, so athletics applied the same ratio which equals 400.

How did you decide which varsity sports to add?
First, we considered what facilities were already available. The campus has plenty of outdoor space, but indoor space is limited so we decided to expand track and field and cross country. We also took into account what sports are growing in our region and men’s volleyball was at the top of the list. Indiana has more than 70 high schools sponsoring men’s volleyball, but Goshen will be only the fifth college and second NAIA school to offer the sport.

What made you decide to add junior varsity programming?
Goshen sponsored junior varsity teams in the past, but we didn’t do it well and ended up having budget and retention issues. So we decided to pull back and reassess the process. When re-implementing junior varsity, we started with limiting the junior varsity rosters and using a three-year approach. The men’s soccer program reached capacity a year early and women’s soccer is on schedule for the three-year plan. Since this effort has been successful, it made sense to expand junior varsity to other sports including baseball, softball, and both men’s and women’s basketball.

How does junior varsity help?
Junior varsity offers student-athletes options. An athlete may be number 25 of the varsity roster. He is working just as hard as the starters, yet not getting to play. He may choose to move to junior varsity, practice a little less, get to play in games, and continue to earn a college degree. Other student-athletes may value athletic participation over competition and junior varsity allows for this.

What are other considerations?
To achieve our enrollment goals, we felt it was critical to have all of our head coaching staff on campus. This helps them better engage with not only the student-athletes, but the campus as a whole.

Another area of focus is retention. In general, it’s harder to retain junior varsity student-athletes. This means we have to focus on finding student-athletes that are a good fit for Goshen overall, not just athletically. While this can be challenging, it’s critical to helping us achieve our enrollment goals.

Has the effort been a success so far?
Yes. Our goal for the first year was to increase the number of student-athletes by 36 and net $484,000. We exceeded both of those goals and are on track to meet our second year goals.

What’s the next step?
We need to expand indoor facilities. To do this, we are in the process of repurposing the existing recreation center from a community membership facility to a student-centered facility. This will make a significant difference in the ability to further expand junior varsity programming.

Why is the NAIA a good fit for Goshen?
The NAIA offers the ability to compete at an extremely high level, while supporting Goshen’s core values, especially through the Champions of Character™ program. Our student-athletes are not only skilled on the field or court, they will positively impact the world beyond athletics long after they graduate.

Experience NAIA- Return on Athletics