You’ve put in years of hard work and dedication to your sport, worked hard in the classroom, and in the end, hopefully, you are in a great spot to be recruited. It’s time to find the right home for you for the next phase of your life. You will want to find the right school for both your academic and sport’s abilities. Start early (freshman year), take your time, and do your diligence.
Choosing a College Based on Resources
Whether you visit a school in person or virtually, make sure you have a checklist. You want to make a list of resources that will be vital to you as a student-athlete. Some things you might want to keep in mind are, academic support and opportunities, professors allowing you to leave the classroom for sports travel, quality of athletic facilities, in-door athletic facilities, training room, mental wellness support, and injury (therapy) facilities and staff.
I spoke with Jordyn Deubel, a Marist College swimmer, and he stated, “student-athlete resources provided by the school had a significant impact on my college decision. Marist offers mandatory study hall hours, free tutors, [and] separate athletic advisors to aid student-athletes.”
Academics come first, research colleges to make sure they have the major that you are interested in. I say academics come first because you never know if you will continue your sport due to an injury, coach changes, or you just might NOT want to keep playing your sport. Along with academic resources, the quality of athletic facilities should have an impact on your college decision. Your physical or virtual tour of a campus should include a visit to the weight room, indoor practice facilities, athlete’s lounge area, physical therapy facilities, equipment, locker rooms, and the field, court, track or pool where you will be competing. For example, it will be a red flag if the training facilities, competition facilities, or equipment look worn down, consider the impact that could have on your development or possible injuries they could cause. If the facilities are not up to your standards, ask the coach if any renovations or new construction is being planned.
You will want information on the athletic support staff, so stop by the training room if you are doing an in-person tour. If you are doing a virtual tour, ask if you can speak to a trainer so you can ask essential questions that are related to training and injuries. Hopefully, you will not face a significant injury in your college career, but the training staff is vital for the day-to-day operations of any college sport. Athletic trainers diagnose and treat injuries to bone and muscle under the direction of licensed doctors or other health-care professionals. They prevent injury by using devices such as tape and braces, recognizing and evaluating injuries, and providing emergency care. Talk to current student-athletes to get their thoughts on the trainers, and view the facilities in case of an injury. Find out information about, or speak to, the strength coaches as well; your physical development will have a considerable impact on your performance over the course of four years.
You will want to see what the team culture is like, whether the players get along, whether they are positive or negative by nature, whether they gossip or talk about the coach or trainers. Try to determine if they care about the game, each other, winning, the coaches, their grades, and improving. If possible, an overnight visit with the team is one of the best ways to get to the team dynamics. If you can not visit the school, then maybe you can ask for some current athlete’s email or phone numbers so you can connect with them to ask questions. You can do a video call to ask them questions on the team dynamics and ask about coaches, travel schedules, daily routines, etc. It would help if you also asked how much time does the team spend together, will you have time to join clubs and how does the team spend their weekends. It is important to remember to ask about the day to day culture of all the students on campus. While it is true that you will spend most of your time with your team, you will also want to interact with other people on campus. Find out how students view your team and how the athletes view the regular students.
Coaching Styles and the Depth Chart
Remember to do your diligence on the head coaches. You can do this by looking at the ratings and reviews on our site. You can also read the head coach interviews that we have to gauge their coaching styles and what they look for in an athlete. Coaches have different coaching styles, and while one might not be better than the next, you need to understand what coaching style will best suit your needs. Some athletes might do better with a more upfront, in your face coach that demands a lot and will do whatever it takes to win. Others might like a coach who is a bit more relaxed and who tries to play the majority of their players. It is crucial to speak with current student-athletes at the school, so again get emails and numbers so you can contact them. Also, be sure to ask the current student-athletes about the coach’s communication skills.
Along with finding out how the coach runs their program, there are questions that you should ask them. You will want to have an idea of what the coach has plans for you. You may have played a specific position for your entire life, but if you are planning on attending a school where an All-American shortstop or point guard, your role could change. Knowing your spot on the depth chart should have a significant impact on choosing the right school. It is also important, and acceptable, to ask about the other recruits the coach is talking to, especially those at your position. Ask about the possibility of a redshirt. You have the right to know what a coach has planned for you, and it could profoundly impact your college decision.