Fall is the season when a lot of recruited athletes will start taking their official visits. You probably already know that you’re allowed to take up to 5 Division 1 visits, per NCAA rules. Official visits mean that the school pays for your (not your parents’) transportation, lodging and meals during the 48 hour period that you are on campus. Division 3 official visits are not limited to 5, but realistically very few D3 schools have the recruiting budgets to offer official visits.
Accepting Official Visit Offers
As an athletic recruit, the first time a coach mentions that he’d like to get you out to campus for an official visit, it’s pretty exciting. When they send you your airline tickets and you get to miss your Friday high school classes, you might feel a little bit like a rock star.
After your 5th official visit, when you’re behind in your AP calc class, missed homecoming and are fighting a cold you picked up along the way – you might feel less like a rock star and more like a harried business traveler.
The point is, official visits can take a toll on your body, your school work and your athletics. Don’t feel you have to take all 5 visits just because they’re offered. By the time time you get to this point in the recruiting process, you should have a pretty good feel for the coach and program. I’m sure you’ve done your research, so the official visits should really just be about meeting potential teammates and seeing facilities from the inside. My recommendation is to pare it down to 3 official visits – your body and brain will thank you come November.
What Happens During the Official Visits?
Prior to arriving on campus, the coach will send you an itinerary for the weekend with things like, “academic presentation from 10:00 – 12:00″, and “free time with host”. All you really know is that your getting whisked off with a sleeping bag and a backpack and your going to be shaking hands with about 300 different people and walking, lots and lots of walking around campus.
Here are a few excerpts from The Essential Guide to Ivy League Athletic Recruiting that give a first-person account of what happens on an official visit.
Thursday I finally landed about 11pm, where Coach was waiting at the gate for me We shot the breeze while we waited for my luggage . Then we hopped in his car and drove to the hotel where another recruit was waiting already in the hotel room. She’s a nice kid and we clicked pretty well. We talked for about 15 minutes then called it a night.
Friday I awoke around 7am to get ready. By 8am we had walked down to the lobby where another recruit and her father were waiting as well. Coach arrived and took our stuff and sent the other recruit’s dad on his way home (they drove). Our first destination was the Commons where breakfast was being served. Upon arriving, we met my host Kim. The food was fairly delicious, something I could get used to.
After breakfast, I went off with Kim to attend a Biology class while the other girls went to Government. After an hour of that, we left to attend a Psych 101 class. I really liked this class. The professor was engaging, even though there were about 1000 students in attendance. We sat with a captain on the team and a TA for the class. We met Coach after Psych and then for then next 5 hours (11am to 4pm) we toured the whole campus on foot, talked with some academic advisors about our potential areas of study, met the coaches, ate lunch, did an area tour with the car, then went back to the facility for practice. (We couldn’t participate, of course)
All the girls were super friendly and really close, which was cool. After practice, Kim and I headed back to her dorm and started to get ready to go out.
We walked to a fraternity that was having a big party. It was a little intimidating, but ended up being pretty fun – I just drank water, of course. Around midnight, Kim, myself and her friend all walked to get a bite to eat and got home about 12:30 am (they said this was early for college) and just went to bed. I was on the floor, of course. But it was a good experience.
Saturday We woke up around 9am and I showered. Now we’re preparing to go to a street festival with some other girls. After that, we pretty much have all day to do what we want (hopefully study some Calc?!) and then at night the team might go bowling. I’m going to have one last sit-down with coach and I’ll fly out tomorrow morning.
Questions to Ask and Questions to be Prepared to Answer
At the end of this visit, the coach will want to have a chat with you. If your parents came with, they can be part of this – but they should mainly sit back and listen while you and the coach talk. The main thing the coach is going to want to know is what other schools you are considering, if you’ve received any offers already and when you’ll be ready to commit.
He’ll also ask if you have any questions at all about the school or program. You should sit down with your parent before the visit and write down a few things you’d like to know. Questions about practice schedule, accommodation for class schedules and academiic resources for student athletes are good ones to start. But what you’re really dying to know, is where you fit on his recruit list and how he sees you contributing to the team.
So go ahead and ask. The best time to remove the ambiguity and uncertainty from the process is while you are sitting face-to-face with the coach. You won’t get a direct answer unless you ask a direct question.
So relax, enjoy yourself, BEHAVE and try to get a feeling for being part of the team.