All NCAA sponsored sports abide by recruiting rules and a calendar that the NCAA releases every year. These rules determine when and how college coaches and student-athletes can communicate, in an effort to maintain a healthy and equal recruiting process for all parties involved. While these rules are meant to benefit student-athletes, the recruiting process can be confusing and overwhelming. This section is designed to help student-athletes and their families better understand the NCAA water polo recruiting rules and calendar and stay up-to-date on any changes that the NCAA makes to the recruiting process.
College water polo coaches at the NCAA Division 1 and 2 levels can start contacting recruits via phone, text and email beginning June 15 after the athlete’s sophomore year. While no form of communication is allowed between coaches and athletes before this date, coaches are able to contact high school and club coaches for general feedback on water polo recruits. Division 3 college coaches are able to communicate with student-athletes at any time.
Before college coaches can contact student-athletes, there are plenty of ways that athletes can prepare for the recruiting process. Student-athletes should research water polo programs and identify a list of target schools where they meet the athletic and academic standards. Student-athletes should also begin to market themselves with a recruiting profile and video that highlight their skillset. Once contact is permitted, student-athletes can begin building relationships with college coaches by first reaching out to express their interest in the program and sharing their recruiting profile and video.
The NCAA is committed to creating an equal and positive recruiting experience for water polo recruits and college coaches. In order to stay true to this commitment, the association regularly makes adjustments to the NCAA Division 1 recruiting rules. Most recently, the NCAA designed a multi-phase strategy to curb early recruiting across all sports. The second phase of this strategy was set into motion in May 2019 when the NCAA announced a new rule that prohibits communication at the D1 and D2 levels between student-athletes and college coaches until after June 15 of the athlete’s sophomore year. While the NCAA rules have always prohibited college coaches from contacting athletes until a determined date, this new rule now prohibits coaches who are directly contacted by student-athletes from talking freely with the athlete until June 15 after their sophomore year. If an athlete initiates contact with a college coach before this date, the coach will not be able to engage in conversation.
Additionally, the NCAA changed the date that water polo athletes can begin to schedule unofficial and official visits at the D1 level starting August 1 of their junior year. By pushing back the date that college coaches can begin contacting athletes, the NCAA hopes to give athletes more time to enjoy their high school experience and develop athletically and mentally.
The NCAA enforces the most restrictive recruiting rules at the Division 1 level. Recruiting rules differ from sport to sport, and here’s what applies to men’s water polo:
All NCAA Division 2 programs follow the same recruiting rules. These rules are more flexible than those followed by Division 1 programs.
Division 3 programs follow the most lenient recruiting rules in the NCAA. All NCAA Division 3 sports follow the same recruiting rules.
NAIA coaches typically recruit athletes who were passed up by NCAA programs, which means the NAIA recruiting process starts later. Compared to the NCAA, the NAIA enforces fewer restrictions on the recruiting process and allows college coaches to contact student-athletes at any point in the athlete’s high school career. Coaches at NAIA programs put a large emphasis on recruiting athletes that are more than just a good fit athletically, but also socially and academically.
Each year, the NCAA releases a recruiting calendar for all divisions that outlines the recruiting process for college coaches and student-athletes. This calendar lists contact periods when communication is permitted between coaches and athletes and evaluation periods when coaches can complete athlete evaluations. The calendar also identifies dead and quiet periods (when college coaches are not permitted to contact student-athletes) to allow for a break during the recruiting process.
The official recruiting process for both Division 1 and 2 water polo programs begins June 15 after an athlete’s sophomore year when college coaches can begin contacting recruits. For a full list of all contact, evaluation, quiet and dead periods, visit the NCAA website.
The recruiting process is slightly different for international students as opposed to student-athletes in the United States. International students face a few challenges that add another layer to the already complicated recruiting process. Some of these challenges include translating academic results into the American format, taking the required American standardized tests and applying for a student visa. International students also have a different set of NCAA recruiting rules that vary from country to country. Athletes can find the NCAA Guide to International Academic Standards for Athletic Eligibility on the NCAA website.
Insider tip: Despite the impact that coronavirus had on college sports, as of June 1, 2021, the NCAA resumed its regular recruiting rules and activity! Coaches are actively working to fill their rosters, so student-athletes should be proactive in reaching out to coaches. Read up on how the extra year of eligibility granted to athletes who were most affected by the pandemic in 2020 will impact future recruiting classes.