EV athletes with Next Step Mentoring

Macy McClain, a graduate of Valley Christian who plays volleyball at Concordia University in Nebraska, and Andrew Mason, a Perry grad who plays football at NAU, are two of 15 Arizona natives to join Next Step Mentoring, a program geared toward pairing young athletes with those in college to have help with the recruitment process. 

Macy McClain knows all too well how overwhelming and difficult the college recruitment process can be for high school athletes.

She went through it herself for volleyball out of Valley Christian High School in Chandler, where she graduated in 2021 and was sought after by four-year universities. Her recruitment came at the height of the pandemic, which brought along even more hurdles some athletes today are still dealing with.

But nonetheless, she navigates the process and landed at Concordia University in Nebraska. There were tears and there were moments of triumph, but she got through the grueling process and now joins a team of college athletes who aim to help guide high school-aged athletes through recruitment, so they don’t do it alone.

“Everybody’s recruiting process is completely different,” McClain said. “Mine was very up and down. There was a point where one of my top schools told me they didn’t have an offer for me, and I remember I cried to my mom and wanted to give up. I did some research and found my school.

“I love that I’m in a position to give advice to young athletes that want to play in college and the parents.”

Next Step Mentoring, an innovative program still in its infancy, partners student-athletes ages 13 and up through high school with college athletes to assist them through the recruitment process.

In total, the program has 30 college athletes ranging in divisions, with many playing at a high level in college and for various sports, including volleyball, soccer, football, basketball, track and field and wrestling.

Of the 30 college athletes who have signed on as mentors, 15 attended high schools in Arizona. Seven come from the East Valley. Now, they’re spread out at universities across the country.

“We are spread all over,” McClain said. “Right now, it’s been mostly shared through word of mouth. But Mario (Diaz), the owner and founder of Next Step Mentoring, he’s so passionate and has kids that are athletes so it’s personal for him.”

Along with McClain, Justin Stinson and Chandler Carter, two former Valley Christian football players, joined the Next Step Mentoring program. Joey Lujan, a former Perry soccer player, also joined along with Taylor Lawson, a senior alumni mentor from Desert Ridge.

Shane Van Huizen spent his high school basketball career playing for the national team at Arizona Compass Prep, a small school in Chandler that has become a basketball powerhouse.

Andrew Mason didn’t need much convincing to join the program. If anything, he felt honored to be considered among other top-notch athletes.

Like McClain, the former Perry football player had a difficult road during his recruitment to Northern Arizona University to continue his career. It came during the peak of the pandemic, when the NCAA granted seniors another year of eligibility due to canceled seasons.

For universities like NAU, some seniors were able to extend it even further as the Lumberjacks didn’t see the field until the fall of 2021.

“There were a lot of recruiters coming to Perry and unfortunately with the extra year of eligibility, colleges didn’t have scholarships,” Mason said. “It was very hard because it was slim pickings with schools that had opportunities for us. I feel like I have a lot of info to share with parents and athletes based on what I went through.”

Next Step Mentoring pairs each mentor with young athletes across the country. With their help, they receive knowledge that will assist them in navigating through the recruitment process.

Every mentor can share their own personal stories with recruitment. Often, parents of the athletes need just as much help.

Through a one-hour sessions, or more, young athletes and their parents can ask mentors questions to better understand the process. Often, new recruits are not familiar with questions they can ask colleges to receive more funding through scholarships.

The mentors also can stress the importance of grades and help connect the athletes with Next Step Mentoring’s tutor service, which features teachers for various subjects and individuals who can help with essays, which many scholarship programs require.

Overall, the program aims to help put young student-athletes on the right track with recruitment while alleviating any concerns they may have.

“It’s really cool because it’s not someone older, it’s an actual student-athlete living the life a high school athlete wants to live,” Mason said. “I hope I can share my knowledge and I hope I can change someone’s life and change their thought process on recruiting. I wish I had something like this to help guide me in the right direction.”

While still in the early stages, both McClain and Mason have already felt themselves making an impact on the lives of young athletes. They’ve walked them through the process of gathering film to send to colleges, how to email coaches and the next steps from there.

They recognize the level of impact sports can have on an individual and their future, especially if paired with a high GPA that allows them to receive a college education at a discounted rate.

They feel like they are making a positive impact on the lives of young athletes, and they look forward to continuing doing that for years to come.

“My biggest advice is to not give up,” McClain said. “It is such a tenuous process and there is so much to do. I remember freaking out in front of my computer not knowing what my next step was going to be. Just the fact that I can have an impact on someone’s life and help them find their way, it’s so awesome.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480)898-5630 or zalvira@timespublications.com. Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira


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