College athletic recruiting is full of pressure
Have you heard the headlines? The latest middle school phenom was offered a full ride scholarship! As crazy as it seems, with kids who don’t even drive yet getting offers to play in college, our volleyball world sees its share of early recruiting, too. The new NCAA volleyball rules aim to slow that down.
Coaches admit they don’t like all the early recruiting that much, but during their constant quest to refill their rosters, if they don’t make early offers (sometimes REALLY early offers) to the best kids, they know the next school will! The pressure is on for parents, too, as they dream of getting their kids that “golden” ticket into a good school.
And of course, the players themselves, seemingly at younger and younger ages, feel the pressure to perform so they get noticed, most training year-round just to keep up.
This week, the NCAA intends to try to alleviate some of this recruiting pressure with their latest rule change – and it all revolves around slowing down early recruiting conversations.
The 2019 new D1 early recruiting rules
As of May 1, the college recruiting rule changes for NCAA Division I schools begin. In an effort to slow the early recruiting trend, the new rules address communication restrictions between Division I coaches and prospective student-athletes (PSAs). Specifically, we have a new timeline that realigns the dates that coaches and athletes may begin those recruiting conversations.
By shifting the dates allowed for activities such as email, phone calls, visits, and offers, the intent is to give players time to make their college choice in a time frame that resembles the way a typical non-athlete would when applying for college.
It also aligns better with the college application and admissions process and SAT/ACT testing, all of which take place during students’ junior and senior years of high school.
So is the early recruiting trend finally going away?
It’s probably a little too early to tell, and as everyone makes their adjustments to the new rules, I’m sure there will be some changes. For now, the idea is to let student-athletes slow down the FOMO a bit and focus on maybe having a “normal” high school experience, while they hone their athletic skills, and work on getting good grades.
With any luck, these rule changes will have a positive effect on helping athletes and their families make better, more mature decisions that will affect their lives greatly in years to come.
What are the new recruiting rules I need to know?
Remember, these new rule changes are in place for DI schools (we’ll talk about the effects on the other divisions in a bit). There are basically two important dates to remember, both during the summer between sophomore and junior year:
- June 15 after sophomore year:
- Coaches can communicate via phone calls and/or email, text messages, direct messages.
- Coaches can also send prospects personalized recruiting materials.
- August 1 before junior year:
- Athletes can begin taking official visits.
- Unofficial visits are allowed before this date, but now athletes can also arrange to meet with coaches and/or athletic staff during their unofficial visits.
- Coaches can begin having off-campus contact (i.e. at practices, matches, school, home).
Here is a more detailed description of the D1 rule changes as of May 1, 2019:
No communication is allowed between a coach (or his or her staff) and a prospect until June 15th of the athlete’s sophomore year (the summer before 11th grade). This includes the PSA’s parent or guardian, too. “Communication” includes in-person and telephone conversations, emails, texts, private messages, instant messages, and even letters and faxes.
Up until now, athletes as young as 7th, 8th, and 9th grade could technically be contacted by a potential college coach. Contact was not necessarily “legal”, but there were a couple of ways coaches could express their interest to the PSA before the previous allowable date. They would either go through the club or high school coach to set up a recruiting conversation, or the PSA could take the chance and call the coach, who was allowed to speak to the athlete as long as the athlete initiated the call. Under the new rule, this is not allowed.
After June 15th of the athlete’s sophomore year, calls, texts, emails, and other communication can be initiated by either the coach or the prospect.
Recruiting conversations and verbal offers
Coaches and their staff are not allowed to conduct “recruiting conversations” until August 1 of the athlete’s junior year in high school. This includes verbal offers or even a hint that there might be an offer in the works. Coaches may not even casually speak with a PSA making reference to an athlete’s potential fit with their program or where he or she stands in relation to other recruits.
Coaches and their staff cannot indicate that there will be an offer of acceptance to the school, an award of financial aid, or an indication that he or she is invited to become a part of the team before August 1 of the athlete’s junior year in high school.
NOT-SO-FUN FACT: Even if you have an existing verbal commitment, if you are not yet past that June 15th date in your sophomore year, you will need to wait. Coaches and athletes still cannot have any further conversations until after June 15th.
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Official visits (the school pays) can only begin after August 1 of the PSA’s junior year in high school.
Unofficial visits (the family pays) can begin only after August 1 of the PSA’s junior year in high school.
A student and his/her family may still visit the school at their own expense prior to August 1, provided there is no athletic department involvement (e.g., contact with athletics department staff, athletics-specific tour, complimentary admission). If an incidental contact is made with a coach, there can be no recruiting conversations.
Recruiting conversations during a school’s camp or clinic also cannot happen before June 15th of the athlete’s sophomore year.
If an athlete wants to participate in a school’s camp, it’s still a great way to see if the program might be a good fit. Keep in mind, that there can be no official recruiting conversations unless you are past the required June 15th date. Previous to this rule change, coaches could speak with PSA’s on their campuses during camps, and even make early offers to their most coveted recruits. This, of course, will no longer be the case.
Athletic departments may not send any personalized athletic-related correspondence (including electronic or physical mail) to a PSA (or his or her family) unless it is after June 15 of the athlete’s sophomore year of high school.
A PSA may fill out athletic questionnaires, and receive general (non-personalized) items such as camp brochures at any time.
Off campus contact
Off-campus contact can be made with a PSA (or his or her family members) after August 1 of the athlete’s junior year of high school.
When can D2 and D3 college coaches contact me?
The new early recruiting rule changes, for now, only apply to Division I schools, so the contact rules haven’t changed for the other divisions.
However, the rules will likely have an effect on the other divisions, in regard to their recruiting timelines in general.
For example, the DII schools typically have to wait until the DI schools solidify their rosters and then receive the ‘trickle down’ players who are not committed yet.
Now those DII schools might be able to benefit earlier, with some really good talent.
What should I do during high school to stay on track?
Regardless of timelines and rule changes, I always recommend that student-athletes take ownership of their own recruiting journey as much as possible. In your early years of high school, you might be restricted from talking to coaches, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait to start your recruiting game plan.
Here is what you can do in 9th and 10th grade:
- Continue to develop athletically.
- Build your communication skills, leadership, and character.
- Improve your health, fitness, and nutrition.
- Work on getting solid grades.
- Dive in and do your research on schools – athletic programs, majors, financial costs… (make this your part-time job)!
- Reach out to college coaches (even though it’s a one-way street for now) through email, phone or text. You won’t get a response, but they’ll know you’re making a connection, and may still scout you.
- Watch great volleyball matches, follow teams and players on social media to learn the culture of the different schools and conferences.
- Avoid “slacking” just because coaches cannot contact you yet (they are still watching)!
Sophomore summer is gonna be epic!
Once sophomore summer hits (after June 15th, that is), you can now put the pedal to the metal.
Have your coach email and phone strategy planned out.
Don’t slack on this! Missed opportunities will cause you unnecessary stress (and being a teenager in high school is already stressful enough)!
If you lay the proper groundwork in your freshman and sophomore years, this part of the journey will just be the logical next step. Plan it out ahead of time and you’ll feel less overwhelmed.
And here’s where it can get exciting…
Here is what you can do in 11th & 12th grade:
- Continue to develop your volleyball skills.
- Train physically and mentally.
- Be a leader (take on responsibilities that help you grow).
- Take the SAT and/or ACT and continue to focus on taking school seriously.
- Take visits.
- Attend camps/clinics.
- Help your club and high school teams excel.
- Reflect on your priorities and seek out a college that aligns with them.
- Be ready to have those coach conversations when the time comes.
- Make your college decision when you’re ready.
What it means for your recruiting journey
After May 1, 2019, the additional built-in time before receiving offers means more opportunities to be seen by coaches multiple times before your junior year of high school.
Holding back on the communication and offers will be a big adjustment for some schools, but the positive result should be fewer athletes feeling the pressure to say, “Yes” to a school before they’re ready (or realizing they’ve made a mistake after their first season because they committed too young).
Maybe, just maybe, the race of handing out early offers can slow down a bit and kids won’t be pushed into making this big decision of where they want to go to college until they are a little more mature, a little more ready, and they’ve had a chance to develop themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Each year’s volleyball rule changes are always interesting, and I haven’t always agreed with all of them. This year, though, I believe it will have a positive outcomes for players, coaches, and their families in years to come!
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