For many families, spring break signals an opportunity to escape the rigors of school or work and spend time relaxing in a warm climate. However, for student-athletes who are serious about playing at the next level, spring break should provide an excellent opportunity to take an important step in the recruiting process.
While most travel plans have been made months in advance, one of the easiest things for a potential recruit to do during spring break is visit a college campus. Visiting college campuses is one of the most helpful steps a student can take in deciding what they are looking for from a school. For recruits seeking to develop relationships with college coaches, these trips can be one of the most effective ways to further that connection:
What is an unofficial visit?
An unofficial visit is a visit made at the prospect’s own expense. There is no limitation on the number of unofficial visits made to an institution. The only time an athletics staff member may not meet with a prospect on an unofficial visit is during a declared NCAA Dead Period.
During an unofficial visit, the institution can provide the following:
a) Up to three complimentary admissions to an on-campus athletics event
(Except a championship game)
b) An on-campus tour and transportation to an off-campus practice facility or home contest within 30 miles of campus.
c) Lodging in a dormitory at the prospect’s expense.
d) Academic meetings may be arranged for prospects.
Why schedule unofficial visits?
That’s a great question and the easiest answer is, “why not?” Any opportunity to visit a college campus and potentially meet with a college coaching staff should be taken advantage of…and unofficial visits provide one of the few outlets for this type of interaction that is completely controlled by the recruit. Simply put, the more schools a recruit visits, the better!
From a coach’s standpoint, attracting student-athletes to visit the campus is one of the hardest parts of the process and since they have limited budgets (which are shrinking more and more each day) anytime a prospect visits at their own expense it is considered extremely valuable. Official visits can cost colleges a great deal of money, but unofficial visits can accomplish almost as much at a fraction of the cost!
Why spring break?
Like everything else in life, timing is everything. Let’s examine why spring break is a great time to schedule unofficial visits:
- Increased coach’s availability. Think about it. Spring break might be one of the best times of the year to actually meet the coach. In early December and January, many college coaches are off campus for winter break. During summer, coaches typically do not spend all their time on campus.
- Better campus experience. Along with having a greater probability of meeting the coaching staff, spring break might be one of the few times that you will be able to visit the campus while students are actually there. Most college campuses are nearly desolate during winter break and summer on campus is a completely different environment than during the school year. However, since the timing of college spring breaks can be different depending on the school, chances are you can find a campus to visit that will have classes in session. This is the best time to visit the campus so you can experience what life would be like as a normal student.
- No school missed. While this might not be the best motivator for some student-athletes, visiting campuses during spring break will ensure that no high school classes are missed by the prospect.
- Often Times more productive than “junior” or “recruitment” days. Every year, thousands of student-athletes attend these scheduled visits (still considered unofficial, but more formal in nature) with the hopes of developing a connection with the coaching staff. Unfortunately, “recruitment” and “junior” days are offered to a lot of other athletes and do not always allow the coach to spend much time with each individual recruit. Scheduling a separate, more personal unofficial visit might be the best way to gauge the coach’s interest in you as a prospect.
*Keep in mind that by the time a student-athlete has reached spring break of their senior year, many have decided upon their college destination and the recruiting process is nearing an end. This places more importance on scheduling these visits during freshmen, sophomore, and junior year*
How can I schedule an unofficial visit?
As the title would suggest, there is no formal way to schedule an unofficial visit. The goal should be to have as much contact with the coaching staff / team as possible. However, here is some quick advice for setting up an unofficial:
- Start planning at least one month in advance
- Begin by sending an introductory email to the coach(es)
- Follow up with a phone call to the coach and let them know you are going to be on campus and would like to meet them. If you already have a relationship, this should be much easier. If you do not, remember that coaches cannot always return phone calls so be persistent in your attempts to reach them.
- When on campus, do not be afraid to visit the coach’s office even if you have not communicated with them before.
- Make sure to bring an athletic and academic resume, video, and transcript.
- Student athletes may participate in workouts that are not organized or observed by the coaching staff.
- Make sure it’s not a dead period for your particular sport!
Aside from all the recruiting advantages that can be had from setting up unofficial visits, student athletes can learn a great deal about the university academically and socially during these trips. Rarely in the process does a student-athlete have complete control, and with unofficial visits, a recruit can get as much or as little out of the visit as they want. While it might not be as easy as knocking on the door and handing your video over to the coach…it won’t hurt to try!