Alex Lipinsky '13 would not have come to Brown if not for the track and field team. On a recruiting visit in high school, Lipinsky fell in love with the school and decided to apply early decision. But three years later, he quit the team that brought him to College Hill. His story is far from unique.
Nearly one-third of the recruited athletes in the class of 2011 — 70 out of 221 — had quit their sports by November 2010, according to a report submitted to the provost by the Compliance Office. Director of Athletics Michael Goldberger, who said the numbers are very similar year to year, provided condensed material from the report to The Herald.
"I really enjoyed it, and I was completely dedicated, but it just got to be too much," Lipinsky said. "I wasn't getting as much out of it as I was putting in."
Lipinsky threw shot put and discus in high school. But after coming to Brown, he switched to the weight throw and hammer. He said despite the hard work he was putting into the new events, he "wasn't that great," and training alongside teammates with Olympic hopes made him realize his long-term goals did not involve throwing.
Like Lipinsky, most student-athletes who drop their sports do so between their sophomore and junior years, Goldberger said.
"You tend to see athletes turn in their equipment junior year," said Lars Tiffany '90, men's lacrosse head coach. "If you're not playing — and the opportunity to play is limited as a junior — that's where you see the greatest numbers of drop-offs."
Lipinsky said declaring his concentration put his college experience in context with broader life goals, which he realized did not include throwing hammers.
"I finally figured out what I was going to study, and I got really involved in the urban studies department," he said. "I had decided my sophomore year that I didn't really want to pursue throwing after college. So I kind of saw the end in sight and started to get involved in my coursework a lot more and started figuring out what I wanted to do professionally."
Reasons for leaving a team can include changing interests, lack of playing time, injuries and coaches' decisions. But Christopher Humm, director of sports information, said athletes do not come to Brown intending to quit.
By November 2010, there were only two recruited first-year student-athletes out of 226 total who had quit their teams.
Former basketball player Stefan Kaluz '12 was recruited by Brown, but after a year and a half on the team, he discovered that he no longer had a passion for basketball.
"I loved playing basketball in high school and was really passionate about it," Kaluz said. "But then once I grew as a person in college, my goals shifted to where I wasn't as passionate about basketball and was more focused on career goals and academics."
Kaluz said though many people he knows are happy balancing both academics and a sport, he was not.
Joseph Stall '13 was recruited to play soccer but then cut from the team in the fall of his sophomore year, after a coaching change brought in a large recruiting class at his position. Stall said even though the decision was out of his control, it opened up a number of opportunities for him elsewhere.
"At first, it was really tough to get pulled away from that and kind of left this huge hole, but in hindsight, it was really just great," Stall said. "I was never going to play pro, and it just forced me to move on, and it's allowed me to try a lot of other really cool things."
Stall said he has since joined Delta Tau fraternity, Brown Investment Group and WBRU.
A Brown problem?
Do more students quit their sports at Brown than elsewhere?
"I'd say it's a common thing just about everywhere," Stall said. "I think a lot of kids have similar experiences."
"For men's lacrosse, the team is typically 40 men and the recruiting class is typically 10," Tiffany said. "Losing one or two men on the team for the year is usually about average, and that's tended to be what I've seen at Washington and Lee, Penn State, Stony Brook and here at Brown."
"From my experience, I don't see any greater attrition rates here than any other institutions I've been a part of," Tiffany said. "I've been at scholarship schools, and I've been at non-scholarship institutions."
But that may just be reflective of Tiffany's teams.
Phil Estes, head football coach, said his team usually loses about 20 percent of each recruiting class, and Diane Short, women's volleyball head coach, said she lost five of 11 recruits from the classes of 2009 and 2010.
Goldberger said that at Brown and across the country, more female athletes drop their sports than male athletes.
Ivy League universities cannot offer athletic scholarships, unlike most Division I schools. At scholarship schools, athletes who leave their teams may have their aid package rescinded, meaning student-athletes often cannot stay in school if they leave their teams.
"When you give an athletic scholarship, you own that person," Humm said. "They have to play."
Not having athletic scholarships makes it easier for Ivy League students to drop a sport.
"I definitely think a lot of Ivy League student-athletes go through this, just because of the lack of a scholarship," Kaluz said. "The only incentive to play is if you love the sport, and some people just lose their passion."