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. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle 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.
Junior year is the most important year of your recruiting process. It’s the year athletes start developing relationships with college coaches online and in person. It’s the year they visit colleges on official and unofficial visits in an effort to find the right fit. It’s the year they receive verbal offers from coaches and commit to the program of their dreams.
And thanks to the NCAA’s new Division I recruiting rules, your junior year is now even more crucial than it used to be. In the past, college coaches could answer phone calls from prospects at any time. They could also have recruiting conversations with athletes and their parents at any time during unofficial campus visits. However, to curb the growth of early recruiting and give student-athletes more time to make an informed college decision, the NCAA established four new Division I rules:
- No communication between coaches and athletes until June 15 after sophomore year.
- No verbal offers or commitments from student-athletes until June 15 after sophomore year.
- No official or unofficial visits until Aug. 1 before junior year.
- No off-campus contact until Aug. 1 before junior year.
The impact depends on the sport you play
Keep in mind — there are a few exceptions to the new recruiting rules. Baseball, softball, basketball, football and lacrosse were not included in the rule change. As a result, there is no expected change in the recruiting timeline for those sports.
For soccer, volleyball and field hockey, recruiting typically started sophomore year or earlier. With the rule change, direct recruiting and early offers will stop, but coaches will still be looking for ways to evaluate student-athletes and make their interest known.
Recruiting usually began junior year or later anyway for the rest of the NCAA sports: track and field, golf, swimming, tennis, wrestling, ice hockey, rowing and water polo. Now the new guidelines will likely speed up the recruiting timeline. Since the dates around coach communication and on and off campus contact are now much more regulated, college programs will want to start the process as soon as the deadline hits to beat their rivals to the punch.
How will the new recruiting rules impact you?
Think of the lead up to June 15 of your junior year as the calm before the storm. Since you can’t talk to coaches, you should focus on academics, skill camps and college research. Once you’ve highlighted some programs you want to compete for, learn how to write an effective email to a coach and practice phone calls. Come June 15, the floodgates will open and coaches will be pulling out all the stops to lock down their top prospects. To help you successfully navigate your recruiting process and make the most of your junior year of high school, here is a checklist of 10 things of things to accomplish.
Recruiting checklist for junior year
- Target specific college camps or prospect showcases where you can obtain a third-party evaluation of your skills, update your key stats and perform in front of college coaches.
- Email coaches your full-season highlight films.
- Make phone calls to your target programs to connect with the coach who would be recruiting you.
- Take the ACT/SAT and stay on track academically. Check your classes to make sure you meet NCAA Eligibility requirements.
- Review the programs that are interested in you and create a 5-10-5 list: five safety schools, 10 target schools, five reach schools.
- Determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC).
- Keep your profile up to date. Update your personal preferences and academic transcript to get the most accurate college matches.
- Research college rosters and review athlete stats to learn which division is best for you.
- Show your interest in a program. Fill out recruiting questionnaires at schools you’re interested in by visiting their athletic website.
- Stay connected. Follow programs and college coaches on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.