Junior Days and the College Search for Athletes
By Tom Kovic
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.
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 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 making a commitment.
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 well enough to make firm offers until the junior year grades are in along with a round or two of standardized testing.
Prospect strategy regarding junior days has shifted somewhat as well. Not only do you guys want to get a look under the hood at a number of colleges and 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.
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 involves 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 are 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.