MVP Sports Recruiting
Prospective student athletes (PSAs) often ask how they should prepare and what they should expect on recruiting visits to prospective colleges. What will my itinerary look like? What will I do and who will I meet with? What should I wear? What questions can I expect and what are good questions to ask? What kind of athletic prep work should I do? Any last minute tips?
It is certainly a validation of your hard work and skill (academically and athletically) to be recruited for college athletics. PSAs are very lucky to get a sneak peek at what their college years could look like: classrooms, training, living and socializing with their college teammates. Do not be nervous about the recruit trip. Enjoy it and BE YOURSELF, as that is the best way to see how you will fit in to the school and athletic program. In many ways, recruiting trips are the single best way for you to learn about a school and for the school to learn about you.
Depending on your timeline for applications, it may be in your best interest to go on recruiting trips early in the fall to allow you enough time to compare and contrast different schools/programs.
What to Expect
Typically PSAs will stay in the dorms with a member of the team, attend class, go on a college admissions tour, meet with the coach(es), socialize with the team, etc. You should make sure to schedule time to meet with the coach to confirm your interest in joining the program.
While on the visit, it is important to take a notebook to record thoughts, impressions and questions in addition to the names and contact information for some of the team members. It is important to do this so that you are able to compare your thoughts on the various campuses and programs that you have visited.
While visiting, be yourself, authentic and likeable. Be attentive, act interested, be curious and cognizant, always be honest and ask a lot of questions. DO NOT SPEND A LOT OF TIME TEXTING OR ON THE PHONE with your friends. If you are lucky, you may leave the campus with a clear impression of whether it works for you, or just as important, if it doesn’t. That is a good thing, as it narrows the search or fine-tunes what your criteria are!
You may face temptations on this visit. This is absolutely not the time for drinking, sexual activity, or outlandish behavior. Trust me, this all gets back. Even if the players are headed to a keg party, do not follow the “When in Rome…” philosophy. Also, this is not the time to discuss your views on abortion, get a tattoo or bash your high school coach. USE GOOD JUDGEMENT!
Per NCAA rules, PSAs are allowed up to five “official” visits (lasting no longer than 48 hours each) to five different Div 1 or 2 campuses (unlimited official visits to Div 3 schools). There is no limit to the number of unofficial visits that an athlete can take or when they take them. Depending on the college and their recruiting budget, the school may pay for all, some or none of the costs of an official visit.
NCAA rules prohibit PSA’s from practicing with the team, but the coaches may offer you an opportunity to practice on your own or work out in an open gym session with some of the players. For the unsigned senior or recruit, this can be an unofficial tryout. Engage with the players and have fun. If appropriate, ask one of the players to show you a skill you observe. This kind of sincere interest will make a positive impression that you believe in self- improvement and will undoubtedly get back to the coach.
Prior to the trip, identify your best skills, sharpen them and develop a plan to demonstrate them. This is not the time to address weaknesses from a teaching perspective. Shooting workout yes, shooting teaching no. Ball handling workout yes, new move development no. In other words, take your sharpest knives, and sharpen them some more.
What to Bring/Wear
It is very important to look neat and clean on your trip. For guys, it is recommended to wear a collared shirt, nice jeans or khakis and to be clean shaven. Also avoid hats, hoodies and jewelry. For girls, a skirt or slacks or jeans is appropriate. The skirt shouldn’t be too short or tight! It goes without saying to limit the amount of cleavage showing too. The goal is to look respectful and as though you care enough about this particular team to make the extra effort. Make sure you bring a pen, paper, a list of questions that you want to ask, the contact person’s information including dorm room/address, an extra copy of your transcript, your resume and perhaps some of your homework if you need to get work done. Don’t forget some pocket change for the airport, student union, etc.
Most colleges will schedule recruiting trips so that PSAs are on campus during a school day. Make sure you attend a class that might be of interest to you and observe different activities on campus. Here are some things you might want to consider while on the trip:
- Is the professor capable? Do you like this learning situation?
- Ask the athletes how hard it is to balance athletics, academics and social life.
- Ask about the training regimen.
- Ask the athletes if they are enjoying the program and how they feel about the coach and the assistant coach.
- Who do you think you would be training under?
- How does the coaching staff interact with each other and with the team? Do they respect them?
- Do you like the athletic facility? You will be spending a LOT of time there.
- Does the team socialize together?
- Do the teammates enjoy each other?
- Do they live together?
- Will you be able to have a complete collegiate experience?
- Is there fallout from the team? Why do athletes quit the program at this school?
As a recruit, you want to determine if you will have a good relationship with everyone as they will become your second family for four years and maybe for the rest of your life. Make sure that the team is friendly and fits your personality and that you will be able to make friends with them. It is also recommended that you ask the athletes which other programs they had applied to and why they ended up at where they did. Talk to the first year athletes but remember that if it is a fall recruit trip, they are totally new to the team themselves and may have only just started team practices. They may only be able to address the first couple of months of their new experience, i.e., captain’s practices, orientation and initial dorm life. It is therefore important to get the perspective of the older athletes too.
Check out the other recruits on the trip. While you need to formulate your own opinion, talk to them and get their impressions of not only that team but any other teams they have visited and what their impressions are. Why did they choose this particular recruit trip? While not all of them will choose this school, could you see yourself with them for four years?
Here is a sample itinerary:
12:00 pm Arrive at the Airport where you are met by the Assistant Coach
1:00 pm Meet your host and head to their dorm room
1:30 pm Attend a class on campus
3:00 pm Observe afternoon workout and team meeting
5:30 pm Dinner in the dorms with other recruits and their hosts
After dinner Free time, sporting event, party with the team
8:00 am Wakeup call
9:00 am Breakfast
10:00 am Admissions Department Informational Session followed by College Tour
12:00 pm Lunch at the Student Union
2:00 pm Attend Football game
6:30 pm Team Barbecue with coaches
8:00 pm Free time with upper classmen host
8:00 am Wakeup Call
9:00 am Breakfast with the Coach
9:45 am Leave for the airport
12:00 pm Flight home
Meeting with the Coaches
As the meeting begins, ask the coach “do you mind if I take notes?” and write down answers in your notebook. Your notes will help you organize your thoughts and compare schools after the visit.
It is important to ask the coach what the average GPA and test scores of the team are as they may be different from the overall school average. This will give you an indication of whether or not you could handle the academics. Inquire as to what percentage of the athletes stay on the team for four years. Determine if you like the coaches’ style, goals, philosophy and reputation. Is it a good fit? You should feel comfortable asking the coach where he/she sees you fitting in on the team. It is important to ask meaningful questions, but refrain from questions that should have already been researched on the website (i.e., enrollment in the school, breaks, majors, etc).
Sample Questions to Ask Coaches:
My Athletic Career
1.) What position will I play on your team?
2.) Have you personally watched me play? If so, why do you think my skills fit into your program?
3.) Describe the current players competing at the same position. What skills do they possess?
4.) How many freshmen are being recruited for my position?
5.) Where do you see me fitting in the program this year? Years 2, 3 and 4?
6.) What chance do I have to win playing time as a freshman?
7.) I know you have a list of potential recruits for this position. Where am I on that list?
8.) Can I “redshirt” my first year? Under what conditions do you typically redshirt players?
9.) What are the physical requirements each year? (training commitments, weight, etc.)
10.) Will I receive a written contract or tender?
11.) What are your expectations of me as a player? As a person?
The Coach and Coaching Staff
1.) How would you best describe your coaching style?
2.) Where do you place your emphasis (offense, defense) during training and games or matches?
3.) When does your head coaching contract end?
4.) What is each of the assistant coaches responsible for?
5.) How does your team treat walk-ons?
6.) What is the typical year like for your student athletes? (off-season training program)
7.) What is the typical day like for your student athletes during the season? During the off-season?
8.) How important is this particular sport to your school’s athletic director?
9.) What is the current status of the college’s relationship with the NCAA (or NAIA)?
Sports and Academics
1.) What percentage of your players on scholarship graduate in four years?
2.) What is the team’s GPA from last year?
3.) Describe the typical class size.
4.) What do you do to academically support your players? (Tutors, study hall requirements, staff, class load)
5.) Am I allowed time to make up classes and tests missed because of the competition schedule?
6.) Are tutors provided for athletes?
7.) How do students compensate for time out of the classroom?
8.) What are your policies for missed practices or being late due to class commitments?
9.) Do you have a solid academic advising center? How many players take advantage of it?
10.) How many credits are required for me to be eligible to compete?
11.) How many credits are required for me to keep my financial aid?
1.) Do the players on the team all live in the same dorm?
2.) Will I be required to live on campus all four years?
3.) Where state/region do most of your players come from?
4.) Are there any unique team-building activities you do in your program?
5.) How many games/matches are there in a season?
6.) How much travel do you have in a typical year?
7.) What tournaments do you play in?
8.) What are the most impressive accomplishments of your program in the past five years?
9.) What are your team conduct rules? Are they the college’s minimums or are they tougher?
10.) Am I expected to stay in town during the summer?
11.) When does the season begin? End?
12.) What are my off-season responsibilities?
Finances and Scholarships
1.) Specifically, what expenses does the financial aid and/or scholarship package cover? (Tuition, room, board, books, special assessments, supplies)?
2.) Is financial aid available for summer school?
3.) If I’m injured, what happens to my financial aid?
4.) What are my opportunities for employment while I’m a student?
5.) What conditions are used to determine annual renewal of scholarship?
6.) What medical expenses does the college cover? Do I need other insurance?
At end of meeting ask: ”Is there anything about me that makes you think I might not be a perfect fit here?” Then address that possible previously hidden objection respectfully but confidently. Do not dismiss the objection. Coaches know you have weaknesses. Explain your plan to take valued feedback and turn it into an action plan. Tell a story that demonstrates you have done this with another weakness and how it is a strength now.
If you feel very positive about the team while you are there, make sure you let the coach know that the team feels like a “fit” to you. Depending on the coach, they may or may not make you an offer while you are there or soon after returning. They may ask you to verbally commit, but you should not feel any pressure to do so. You can say, “I really like this school and it feels like a fit and it is definitely one of my top 2 choices”. Or, you can turn the school down, give them your verbal or tell them that you want to go home, think about it and discuss it with your parents and your coaches.
After the Trip
No matter what decision you are making, immediately after each trip, a PSA should contact the coach and thank them for the opportunity to come on an official visit. A recruit should always send a hand-written thank you note to the coach the day you return from the visit (it will go in your file!). Be specific in the thank you. ”Thanks for showing me that cool off campus pizzeria – just the type of thing they don’t show you in the school catalog.” ”Thanks for being candid enough to tell my ball-handling is weak … I worked out two hours on it this morning.”
Take the interview feedback and use it as your developmental blueprint. Players at this stage have often ignored development as they have been focused on exposure. Well, that weakness list you received means you were exposed. We all get exposed so don’t be disappointed. Meaning, if you have not addressed fundamental flaws, magnified strengths, then you are really only playing for conditioning and perhaps to strengthen your IQ thru reps. College players who excel, develop body, mind, and skills. Playing more games, scrimmages etc., rarely addresses body or skills. You need to thank the coach for the feedback so they know you are willing to do the work. Magnify strengths, address weaknesses. Improve every day.
For many campuses, the number of visits a coach is allowed is extremely limited. It is a privilege and an honor to be invited on a trip. Take it seriously. Conversely, do not go on a trip if you know upfront that you would not choose that team, as it could be the “dream team” for someone else. Be respectful of the process. But, if you have the opportunity to go on 5 recruiting trips to viable choices, it is in your best interest to do so as it will help you to compare and contrast to make the most informed decision.
If after a visit, you decide that you are not interested in their program, as hard as it is, be honest and upfront with the coach. They want to be liked as much as you want to be liked and you are both looking for the right fit. If it isn’t a fit, then graciously move aside for the athlete for which it is a “dream” school. If the coach makes it difficult for you, then that alone might solidify your decision!