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Athletic Recruiting – Why Not Plan An “Unofficial Visit” with the Coach?

So, you want to play sports in college.  If that’s the case, then you should start checking out potential colleges of interest a little earlier in your high school career than your non-sport-playing peers.   Even though it may seem crazy when you’ve barely started high school to be looking at colleges, visiting schools to get an idea of what they’re all about is never a bad idea.  Take opportunities when you can.  Stop by a school when you’re traveling somewhere on vacation.  On a Saturday, check out schools that are close to home.

If you’ve identified a college that may be of interest to you, make a special point to visit that school.  While on campus, why not make a little time to visit with the coach?  Meeting with a coach is a great opportunity to ask questions about the school and the athletic program that you are interested in.  Not only will it give you more insight into the program and help you decide if you like the coach, but it’s also an excellent chance to market yourself.  Be sure to contact the coach in advance of your visit to schedule an actual appointment.  You don’t want to show up on campus hoping to speak to a coach and have no one there to see you!

Before you go, it’s also good idea to do a little bit of research about the college so that you can highlight to the coach the particular reasons why the school appeals to you.  Spend some time on the school’s website.  Read up on the school in one of the guidebooks to colleges.  Check out YouTube to see if the school has a virtual tour, or go to one of the websites that offers virtual campus tours such as ecampustours.com  or Youniversitytv.com.

For your appointment, be sure to take:

  • A copy of your transcript, so the coach can see what kind of student you are
  • A copy of your athletic resume

When you go, there’s no harm in having a parent be there with you.  It may even be beneficial since your parents will ask questions that you won’t.  Be nice to your parents, however!  The coach will be observing you, and you want to leave the best possible impression.  Coaches don’t want disrespectful players on their team.

Because you have initiated the contact with the coach, and you are paying for everything having to do with your visit (i.e. transportation, food, lodging), you are considered to be conducting an “unofficial visit”.  “Official visits” are those where the athlete is invited by the coach to spend time with the college’s team and the athlete’s expenses are paid for by the school.  (Note that “official visits” can’t happen until after a student’s junior year in high school.)  There is no such thing as an “official visit” in NCAA Division III sports, since those schools will not pay to recruit athletes.

If you are on an early “unofficial visit”, and you don’t really know where you stand with respect to the team and the recruiting process at that school, frame your questions as exploratory (e.g., “Playing my sport in college is very important to me, so I’m interested in understanding your approach to the team and the student experience on the team and at the school.”)

If you are further along in the recruitment process, and you appear to be clearly on the coach’s radar for recruitment, then you can be more direct and specific with your questions.

Either way, don’t be afraid to ask questions of the coach when you meet.  You need to have as clear an understanding as possible about where you stand as an athlete with that school and, if you attend, what your experience will be like when you get there.

For a great list of possible questions to ask the coach, see my colleague Mark’s blog post here.

Andrea Aronson

College Admissions Counselor

Westfield, NJ

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