College Recruiting: Official/Unofficial Visits + Recruiting Rules Recap

Previously: Intro || The recruiting timeline + what to consider || What do coaches look at? || Contacting coaches, pt. 1 ||  Contacting coaches, pt. 2 || Contacting coaches, pt. 3 || Contacting coaches, pt. 4 || Highlight videos + the worst recruiting emails

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There are three main rules regarding recruitment that you should be aware of, regardless of whether you’re looking at men’s teams or women’s teams.

1. Most athletic departments apply NCAA bylaws to all sports, including men’s crew even though it is NOT an NCAA sport due to Title IX.

2. Depending on what division the school/program competes in (Division 1, Division 2, or Division 3) the bylaws can/will differ. There may also be variances across different leagues (i.e. no “dead periods” for men’s rowing in the Ivy League).

3. Outside of providing general info, contact from the coach to the athlete isn’t allowed until July 1st following the completion of your junior year of high school. This means that coaches are not allowed to initiate contact or return phone calls to students who are not seniors. (You however, as has been mentioned many times before, can initiate contact.)

There’s a lot of comprehensive and limiting rules that govern the different types of permissible contact and evaluations during the recruiting process and while it’s good to be aware of the rules, it’s not imperative that you know all the nitty gritty details. (And trust me, after having to read the NCAA handbook (all 470+ pages of it) and take a test on it all last year, be thankful you don’t need to know a lot of this.)

Alright, so official and unofficial visits. I’ve talked about these before and given details on what each is, what they entail, etc. so since the majority of the info shared at camp is the same as what I’ve already written, I’ll link that post down below and you can check it out on your own.

Related: Official vs. Unofficial Visits

There were a lot of good questions that came up outside the general stuff, most of which had to do with unofficial visits. As long as the school isn’t paying any of your expenses, you can stay with friends on campus, sit in on classes with them, watch practice, etc. as many times as you want at any point during your high school career.

One thing that many of the coaches (and college athletes) said was that visiting when school is in session is your best opportunity to see what real student life is like and get a general sense for the pace of people’s daily routines. It also gives you another chance to meet the people who make up the overall community. As convenient as going over Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring, or summer break is, you won’t get to experience the same “energy” that you would if you went when classes were going on so it’s worth it to miss a day or two of school if you can make it happen.

Related: Can a coxswain back out of a verbal commitment? I want to tell a very good D1 school that I will commit to go there but my coach said I should wait until after HOCR because I might be able to go to a better school if I do well. What should I do? Can you still go on an official to another school if you verbally commit?

If/when you go on unofficial visits, reach out to the coaches to let them know you’re coming too. Do this at least a week or two in advance of your trip (the sooner the better) and try to look at the team’s schedule before contacting the coaches instead of sending an email asking “will you be around”. If they’ve got a race lined up for that weekend, bets are that Thurs/Fri/Sat/Sun aren’t going to be ideal days to visit because the coaches will either be busy prepping or on the road. You can obviously still go on your trip if it’s something you already have scheduled but just know that you might not be able to do anything rowing-related while you’re there. (And if the coaches are able to make time for you, thank them.)

One of the athletes on the NRC panel who rows for the women’s team at Yale said that she sent a short email to each coach of the schools she “unofficially” visited that contained a brief intro (who she was, where she rowed, filled out questionnaire on [date]) and said that she’d be coming to visit campus on [date], would it be possible to meet up, see the boathouse, etc. From the coaches point of view, one (from the women’s team at Bates College) said that unofficial visits are a good opportunity for coaches to put faces with names and learn more about your interests in a slightly more low-key environment than an official visit provides (since they’re not just learning about you on that trip, they’re learning about 3-5 other people as well).

Related: What to wear on official visits, part one and part two

Something that was stressed by several of the coaches was that not being offered an official visit doesn’t necessarily mean they’re uninterested in you. Some teams can’t afford to bring kids out because they’ve either maxed out their budget or the money wasn’t there to begin with. I heard several stories from coaches who had to deal with situations like this during the recession when their budgets were cut. Keep in mind too that even though that was seven years ago, not all programs are back to the level of funding they were at before the downturn so if a coach tells you it’s not in the budget, don’t automatically assume that they’re just trying to soften the blow or feed you a line because it’s very likely they’re telling you the truth.

Related: What can I do during an official visit that will help my chances of being a recruit? I am one out of 35, and they choose about 10. Also, do you have any links for previous posts on this subject? Thanks!

At the end of your official visit(s), you should spend time talking with the coaches about where you stand, the role they feel you could play on the team, and the likelihood that you’ll be admitted and/or supported through the admissions process. Coaches should be up front and honest about this so don’t be afraid to straight up ask them these questions – just be respectful and casual about it. Coming off like an entitled douche is a great way for a coach to go from interested to uninterested really fast.

Next week: Recruiting without scholarships

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