What Are They? Should You Go?

With the ink just now dry on the National Letters of Intent for 2008, college coaches have rapidly turned their attention to the class of 2009. Throughout the country the more aggressive Division I staffs are now beginning to hold their first round of “Junior Days” or unofficial visits for prospects in the next recruiting class.
These programs take various shapes. Throughout February, schools usually try to schedule these programs around home basketball games to provide entertainment for prospects and their families. By NCAA rule, an unofficial visit is anytime a prospect and his parents visit a college campus at their own expense. Schools are not allowed to pay for travel expenses, hotel bills, or meals. The only entertainment allowed is three complimentary passes to each prospect and his family/friends—thus the need for a basketball game or other athletic contest. In warm weather states, spring baseball is also an option.
Usually this is the first opportunity for the junior prospects and coaches to get a look at each other. They wouldn’t have had an opportunity to legally meet unless the prospect had attended that university’s football camp the previous summer. Prospects and their parents will usually tour the campus, meet with counselors and learn about academic opportunities, and most importantly meet and talk with the coaching staff.
Later this spring, most universities will hold similar programs around their spring practices, particularly their spring game, and then again in the summer, usually a Saturday in June or July. This latter summer program may also be held just prior to a summer football camp session, providing a potential springboard to a prospect attending the school’s camp.
By mid February many juniors have been receiving mail from universities. It is important for families to realize that just because they receive recruiting letters and propaganda for a university, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their son is being offered a scholarship. That simply means he is “on the list”. Most of the big time schools will be mailing similar materials to over a thousand prospects while they seek to learn more about them, evaluate tapes, talk to high school coaches, etc.

Here are some important points for prospects and their parents.

1. Fill out all questionnaires for all schools. It would be foolish at this point to cross anybody off your list, prior to receiving a scholarship offer. You just don’t know where your destiny as an athlete will take you.
2. Take the ACT/SAT test this spring. Try to take the test by at least March. That way you have a score when college coaches visit your high school this spring. You must have a test score for a college to accurately evaluate you academically. Don’t put all your eggs into one basket by waiting to take your initial test in the fall. Those fall tests are all on Saturday mornings and most players are playing a game either on Friday or Saturday. Peak performance is essential for taking the test and you don’t want to be hurting, tired, or distracted.
3. Make sure you have a backup plan. Take athletics out of the equation and make application to a couple of schools that you would attend if you weren’t an athlete. Know the requirements, know the application deadlines, and get admitted.
At this point a prospect that is receiving mail for a college football program is a name in a computer database. If the school has had an opportunity to watch videotape on the prospect, he now becomes a vision on a TV screen. What the prospect and coaches both want is to change that into a real-life vision. They both want to meet. Thus the importance of attending these unofficial visit/junior day programs.

One of the keys to successful recruiting is to maximize your face-to-face contact opportunities. If you are high school junior and you want to be recruited by a certain university, find a way to meet face-to-face with those coaches. By rule that can only happen on the college campus until next December, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to visit the school (s) of your choice. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to make one of these programs, create your own. Write a letter, make a phone call; get in the family vehicle and go.