If you are a rising junior prospect, the summer is a great opportunity for you to launch your college search with earnest. Between the multitude of showcases, camps and tournaments you have attended and the profiles, highlight links and general inquiries you have forwarded to college coaches, you are well on your way. What follows is a snapshot of fall junior days and building this component into your college search plan in what is becoming a popular and critical trend in the college recruiting process.
No doubt, the college search for athletes has accelerated to the point where a strong percentage of blue chip athletes are receiving early verbal offers of athletic scholarships, admission support and walk-on opportunities from college coaches. Time-lines have leap forward and families who do not begin developing and executing their personal college recruiting strategies may find themselves lagging behind the pack.
Junior Days are dynamic and very effective strategies college coaches utilizes in attracting families and prospects to campus in an effort to give them the “dime tour.” But trust me when I say, there is more to it than that! College coaches utilize the unofficial visit (families basically pay their way) with the junior day visit in an effort to offer their top junior prospects the opportunity to attend recruiting specific meetings, take part in tours led by the coaches, attend a home football game and stay overnight with one of the kids on the team. And…It is all well within NCAA rules.
Several years ago, college coaches were using junior day strategy as a means of introducing young prospects to their institution and planting the “seed of interest.” Fast forward to present day and we will most likely agree that for top prospects on the radar, the “dating” phase of recruiting has been in progress for some time and getting an invitation to attend a junior day could very well be an opportunity for the college coach to lean strongly toward a commitment to the family.
This is most likely not the case with D-3 and select, non-scholarship institutions (Ivy, Patriot and highly regarded independents for example) where coaches are usually not yet positioned to make firm offers until the junior year grades are in along with a round or two of standardized testing.
Prospect strategy with junior days has shifted somewhat as well. Not only do you guys want to get a look under the hood at a grouping of colleges or universities, you want to maximize the effort. NCAA rules are very strict regarding junior contacts with coaches, but if you can envision the college campus as a haven of recruiting where you can meet with coaches and discuss virtually anything about their institution and sports program, it will drive you to make the most of the opportunity.
If you think about it, the junior day opportunity can assist you in killing a couple of birds with one stone. Not only do you make an unofficial visit to campus with the chance to spend the night with team players, you have the chance to have some one on one time with the Coach to discuss his interest in you and vice versa. You get to mingle with the team and possibly meet with a regional admissions advisor. It’s a one stop shop.
The college search for athletes entails a myriad of tactics, organizational and management skill, along with a keen sense of determination to build momentum in an effort to effectively connect with college coaches. Junior days is one of several recruiting opportunities where college coaches naturally narrow down their recruiting list in an effort to bring their “A” group prospects to campus. The prospect and family who make every effort to develop meaningful relationships with college coaches will give themselves a great chance to take advantage of this opportunity.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence, an educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.
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