by Henry Miller | Sports Editor
In almost every sport offered at Whitworth, you are bound to find a handful of athletes who began their journey at the junior college level. The Spokane community colleges have provided Whitworth with many athletes that have improved their program rosters and made Whitworth into the dominant Northwest Conference powerhouse they are known for.
“Especially in the baseball realm, I think as technology and know-how around baseball, there is a greater piece about developing athletes. If that is taking effect all over the country with baseball, it’s going to affect junior college athletes even more,” head baseball coach CJ Perry said.
This phenomenon is no accident. Athletes who begin at the junior college level, as opposed to the division III level, are often there because they still have some developing they need to do in order to reach their athletic or academic potential.
“There are some really good coaches at the junior college level and some really good programs that work on developing players, and that’s a huge part of where we are in developing a baseball student-athlete,” Perry said.
One of the most well-documented and popular instances of junior college athletics giving rise to great success comes from the popular Netflix docuseries “Last Chance U.” The athletes featured on “Last Chance U” are former division I players or recruits who have had to transfer down to a junior college because of grades, athletic ability, or personal problems that need time to work themselves out. Many athletes are seen making dramatic life changes in order to battle back to the division one or even the professional level.
“I call juco football jail and you’ve gotta get out of it,” head coach Jason Brown of the Independence Community College football team, which was featured on seasons three and four of “Last Chance U.”
Athletes that have transferred to Whitworth often have an immediate impact on the team.
“Some freshmen are going to need a few years to develop and get used to the speed of the game, maybe get a little bit stronger. With transfer athletes that developmental curve is less because they have already been exposed to college baseball for two years,” Perry said.
The transition between levels of competition is not always an easy one for student-athletes. With new coaches, campuses, and competition moving up to a new level presents many new challenges.
“The transition went more smoothly because of the teammates I have, and the coaching,” Senior tennis layer Sean Singco said.
Whitworth athletics has gone above and beyond in their search for transfer athletes and have made the athletic community extremely inviting for student-athletes looking for a new home.
“They were one of the few schools that recruited me straight out of community college, which was nice,” Singco said. “The team came to our end-of-the-year NWAC community college tournament and I got to speak to the coach afterward, which was really great.”
Whitworth’s athletic community and desirable academic atmosphere has attracted athletes from Spokane’s community colleges.
“The one thing that impressed me about transfer students who wanted to come to Whitworth was they had a clear source of vision. They spent time at community college and refined what they were looking for in a community and for a lot of them Whitworth was that place,” Perry said.
Pirate athletes come from all over the world to compete, but the ones who can make the most impact often are working tirelessly just a few miles away to break through to the next level.