A look into Georgia State’s overseas recruiting

Devin Phillips for The Signal

The NCAA currently has over 20,000 international student athletes enrolled in American universities.

Canada (4,166), the United Kingdom (1,776) and Germany (1,139) send the most athletes. Here at Georgia State, out of 55 international athletes, there are 14 from England and five from Germany.

Tennis has the highest percentage of foreign athletes in the NCAA for both men’s (62 percent) and women’s (59 percent). Men’s soccer had the highest number of first-year international athletes with 312, but tennis is a close second with 309.


Assistant men’s soccer coach Ricky Davey is over most of the international recruiting for soccer. Having grown up in Great Britain, about an hour from London, Davey is able to use his knowledge to find some of the best athletes from the best clubs.

Other athletes also help convince recruits to come to Georgia State.

“We’re lucky with our team,” Davey said. “[We’ve got] a lot of British boys, so for example if we’re bringing in another one we can connect those two and they can chat and give a little more insight into the coaching staff, the day to day, how we travel and how the program operates.”

The location of Georgia State also offers another appeal to students. Athletes have an opportunity to live in the middle of a major city, something few other universities can offer.

“Our number one selling point is the city,” track and field head coach Chris England said. “For track, Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics. We have a major city with so much to do, a major international airport that’s just down the street. Also the weather is a good selling factor. If I’m recruiting against Albany, New York or somewhere in Iowa, go look at the forecast right now. It may be cold here but it’s frigid there.”


Six of the 11-man squad for tennis are from abroad, from England, France, Latvia and Brazil. The women’s tennis team has only one player from the United States.

In 2014, around 91,000 high school tennis players in the U.S. had to compete for only 2,417 available college scholarships.

The reason international athletes are so sought after is evident when looking at the numbers. Of the top 50 ITA male singles players, 70 percent were born in another country.

Diego Padilha is a freshman tennis player from São Paulo, Brazil who is here on a tennis scholarship.

“This was the kind of college I was looking for,” Padilha said. “A good tennis program, and the academics here are very good, at least for what I study.”

Padilha studies economy at the Robinson College of Business, which is one of the top business schools in the nation, another selling point for coaches.

“The biggest thing I would probably say is how it fits academically for them,” men’s soccer assistant coach Ricky Davey said. ”Georgia State, obviously a big business program, you know. That’s one of the biggest programs here. So a lot of a lot of the international kids like that because, obviously, business is all over the world.”


American universities are some of the best in the world, and they can be very tough academically. student-athletes are obligated to rigorous training schedules and must travel regularly for competitions while still maintaining a good academic standing.

“I think the biggest thing to adapt to was the timing,” Padilha said about his jam-packed lifestyle. “The time in a week, you don’t have very much. In Brazil I had a lot of time. The days were longer. I had more time to do things. And now, especially now that it’s spring when we travel almost every weekend, there’s just tennis. Everything is tennis.”

Athletes also have to forfeit getting paid to abide by the NCAA’s amateurism policy. The policy forbids any form of payment or compensation beyond what’s “necessary” as defined by the NCAA.

“For many international students, especially Europeans they have a choice after graduation to go to a university or compete [professionally] in athletics. Basically their system at university doesn’t allow them to do both.” England said. “The academics are typically so strenuous that they don’t have the time to do extracurricular activities.”

Coach Davey spoke on the same topic, stating that it’s hard to find a university system quite like the United States.

“It’s very different. It’s very rare that you can mix the two,” Davey said. “There’s nothing like, I think I can speak for most countries in the world, I don’t think there’s anything like the system here, which is great.

“You get high-level players from [abroad] that aren’t ready to make that decision maybe [to] try and make it as a professional or to be a student and go into the academic world. [The U.S. system] obviously gives you four more years of playing both and instead of deciding at 18, it’s 22 or 23.”

High school athletes from foreign countries may even have to forgo competitions to attend school, a problem they wouldn’t encounter in the U.S.

Here at Georgia State, and at almost any high school or college, athletes are excused from all academic activities missed due to athletic obligations.


Coaches have a huge role in acquiring talent from overseas. They typically make the initial impression, an impression that is remembered by foreign prospects.

“When I talked to coach England I felt really comfortable,” Anouk Prop said, freshman distance runner from the Netherlands. “I felt like … like I’m at home here.”

Most athletes from overseas never see campus in person until they arrive, so they have to make a their decision off of research and word of mouth.

Some companies specialize in connecting international athletes to universities here in the states, helping bridge the gap between foreign athletes and college coaches. Overboarder, for example, helped Prop get recruited by Georgia State.

“I went to this company and they helped me,” Prop said. “Basically they just emailed every university like ‘hey, this girl is interested so if you want her, contact her.’”

Overboarder has a catalog of college coaches and programs that they reach out to on behalf of athletes who hire them from other countries.