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 and play at the college level. Joe is a former college athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe 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.
The college recruiting process is full of myths and misconceptions. From complicated recruiting rules to student-athletes, parents and coaches not being on the same page, the recruiting journey can be tricky to navigate. In fact, NCSA Founder Chris Krause was inspired to start our company in 2000 after falling for the misconception that any mail from a college means you’re being recruited.
What makes things even more confusing is the reality that most parents and athletes are going through the process for the first time. Being a rookie can definitely add to the confusion and frustration. But don’t worry — a little education goes a long way. To help you avoid pitfalls and unexpected surprises during your process, we’ve come up with five of the most common recruiting myths for student-athletes.
Myth One: Division I coaches can answer your phone calls anytime
In the past, NCAA DI recruiting rules were very strict on when coaches could contact athletes, but pretty relaxed when it came to athletes taking the initiative to talk to coaches. This loophole allowed coaches to answer incoming phone calls from athletes and have a conversation at any time. But with the recent rule change, no incoming or outgoing calls are allowed until June 15 after an athlete’s sophomore year of high school. Sending a coach an email before this date could still help you get on their radar, but just know that they aren’t allowed to respond. Keep in mind — Division I football, baseball and men’s and women’s basketball still allow coaches to answer incoming calls from athletes at any time.
Myth Two: You can meet with Division I coaches on unofficial campus visits anytime
One of the other new Division I recruiting rules puts stricter rules in place around official and unofficial campus visits. In the past, if your family covered the cost of your visit, you were free to have a recruiting conversation with the coach during your time on campus. But to help curb early recruiting, coach contact is no longer allowed during these unofficial visits until Aug. 1 before an athlete’s junior year. You can still check out a college campus before this date, but you can’t stop by the coach’s office. Keep in mind — unofficial visits (that include coach contact) are still allowed anytime for Division I football and women’s basketball.
Myth Three: College coaches will find you if you’re really good
Fact: Only about 7 percent of American high school athletes go on to play college sports. And even if you’re the best athlete on your team, your recruiting process is not going to look like that of a 5-star athlete. Most coaches have a limited travel budget and can’t afford to visit high schools and actively recruit beyond their region — even in Division I. To cast a wider net, you need to create and continuously update a high-quality highlight video. You need to attend camps and clinics where coaches will be in attendance. And you may even want to consider investing in a recruiting network like NCSA to take your exposure to the next level.
Myth Four: D1 scholarships are always full rides
In reality, there are only six Division I sports that guarantee full ride scholarships: FBS football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, women’s tennis, women’s volleyball and women’s gymnastics. The NCAA calls these headcount sports. All the rest are considered equivalency sports. For these sports, coaches are given a set budget and are free to award scholarships as they see fit. While some coaches may give huge scholarships to prize recruits and fill the rest of the roster with walk-ons, others may divide up their budget equally and give partial scholarships to all.
Read more: How much scholarship money can you get?
Myth 5: If a Division III coach recruits you, your roster spot is 100 percent guaranteed
NCAA Division III student-athletes get academic aid instead of athletic scholarships. In most cases, this works out great and recruited athletes are able to get the bulk of their college costs covered. However, one of the implications is that the coach isn’t spending their own athletic budget on recruits. In a few cases, this has resulted in a coach backing out on a verbal offer and rescinding an athlete’s roster spot. In addition, this can happen because a coach switches schools — their successor may want to bring in their own recruits.
Keep in mind — open and honest communication can make a big difference. When you talk to coaches at camps and campus visits, ask if there’s a chance you could commit to the team and then get cut. If the coach says yes, you may want to look elsewhere.