USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Joe is a former college-athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. He is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Why is it that whenever you look up rules everything seems like tiny fine print and it all just becomes mumbo jumbo? Unfortunately for sports parents, NCAA regulations are no different.
One of the hardest parts of the recruiting process for families is truly understanding when coaches are actively recruiting your student-athlete. While some coaches have players on their radar as early as eighth grade, the recruiting process for Division I and Division II programs “officially” kicks off June 1 of your student-athlete’s junior year. From that moment, every move coaches make—from official visits to calling—is strictly regulated by the NCAA through recruiting calendars, which vary by sport.
In fact, it’s a pretty tight schedule. The NCAA lays out four kinds of “recruiting periods” throughout the year that limits the type of interaction coaches can have with student-athletes: contact periods, evaluation periods, quiet periods and dead periods.
While college coaches must abide by these rules, student-athletes can reach out at any time and initiate contact with a coach. That’s why it’s so important for your family to stay proactive and understand how the recruiting calendars work. First you should visit the NCAA website and download your student-athlete’s sport calendar. Then, use our guidelines to easily decode the definition behind each period and learn how to make the most of them.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE CONTACT PERIOD?
Exactly that—all communication floodgates are open. During this period, coaches can have face-to-face contact with a player, watch them compete, visit their high school, email, text, call them, and connect on social media. Mostly this is prime time for in-home visits, where coaches, student-athletes, and parents get to know one another better.
At this point in the recruiting process, coaches are ready to solidify their offers. And meeting with student-athletes and their parents in person, whether it’s at the high school or at home (get ready to clean every nook of your house), helps them complete their evaluations and ensures their top prospects would be a great addition to their program.
Likewise, your family gets a unique opportunity: unlimited access to a college coach. You can ask in-depth questions about the program and gain a genuine understanding of what it would mean for your child to compete and attend school there.
Insider tip: It’s common for coaches to meet with student-athletes and their high school coaches at their high school. To ensure a successful visit, alert the high school staff a coach will be on campus and ask their guidance counselor to have official transcripts on hand. Also, check that your child is dressed appropriately and displaying good behavior (this isn’t the day to show up late for class). Even small things, like cleaning out their locker, will leave a good impression.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE EVALUTION PERIOD?
The evaluation period is like the contact period with one major difference: coaches can’t have any face-to-face contact with a student-athlete off their college campus. Usually coaches visit high schools during this period to evaluate multiple recruits and watch their top prospects in person for the first time, but they can’t meet with the recruit personally.
Have you ever heard of the “bump rule”? This is when it happens. Coaches can’t actively recruit athletes off campus, but they are allowed to briefly say hello to recruits they happen to “bump” into when conducting evaluations. Engaging beyond that point, though, would be breaking NCAA rules. This means that coaches can have eyes on a player, but can’t participate in any lengthy conversations.
Insider tip: During an evaluation period, it’s common for a college coach to leave their business card with your student’s high school coach and let them know a good time to call. That way your child can initiate contact and call the coach directly.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE QUIET PERIOD?
The quiet period is stricter than both the contact and evaluation periods. Here’s why: the only time a coach can have in-person contact with a recruit is on the college’s campus. This means no visits to the high school and no watching sporting events or practices. But student-athletes can still receive emails, calls, texts, and social media messages.
Since coaches aren’t permitted to watch student-athletes compete, they typically encourage recruits to take unofficial visits and explore campus life. More and more athletic programs are using this time to host “junior days,” where they invite a large group of recruits on an unofficial visit to tour the facilities and talk with coaches.
Insider tip: Coaches tend to use these visits as an introduction to the top student-athletes of the next recruiting class. That means they may only pull aside and talk to five or so prospects. If your child isn’t speaking with a coach, you can assume they’re only in the general recruiting funnel. To make the most of this period, your family should focus on scheduling visits with schools showing a genuine interest and work on building stronger connections with those coaches.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING THE DEAD PERIOD?
The most restrictive of them all, a dead period forbids coaches from having any face-to-face contact with student-athletes. They also can’t visit high schools or watch recruits compete. The only contact allowed is email, phone calls, text, and social media messages.
Dead periods typically fall right before students sign their National Letters of Intent so that coaches won’t have a significant influence over an athlete’s final decision. They can still call and text to maintain a strong relationship—they just can’t meet in person.
Insider tip: While it’s the coach’s responsibility to follow the recruiting calendar, you should always double check and make sure your athlete doesn’t have any visits scheduled during a dead period. If they do, they won’t be able to meet or talk to the coach. And if your student-athlete is unsure of which program to attend, they should use the dead period in the way it was meant to be used: take time to reflect on all the options and feel confident in the final decision.
Knowing what these periods mean, and when they occur, will help your student-athlete maximize their opportunities and effectively reach out to college coaches.