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What Coaches Look For on Official Visits
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One of the most exciting parts of the recruiting process is the Official Visit. On official visits, prospective athletes - and often their parents - are invited by coaches to campuses to visit for up to two days. Coaches can provide transportation, meals, and lodging for the visit.

The official visit is usually very important in the recruiting process for both sides. Both coaches and recruits use these visits to make deep contact with each other, and the experiences often factor heavily in the decision process.

We recently asked our panel of college coaches about official visits:

 

Q) What are you looking for in recruits during official visits? What most impresses you?

 

Eric Toth, head coach, Xavier Men and Women

Bringing prospective student-athletes onto your campus for official visits is quite important from the standpoint of seeing if the recruit is someone who you will ultimately want to be a part of your program. Coaches who offer official visits to prospects have already determined - from scouting, following tournament results, and through interactions - that the prospects would fit well with their respective programs from a tennis standpoint and can be contributors to the team. Coaches also believe these recruits will be good fits academically and perform well in the classroom.

When bringing a prospect on your campus for an official visit, you are undoubtedly confirming that a prospect has the personal qualities you are looking for to be the right fit for your program as well. You want to have a good rapport with the prospect and his family during the visit. I always give higher marks to a prospect that comes prepared and asks the important questions concerning your program and school - and not having the conversation dominated by a parent. I also watch how the prospect interacts with his/her parents, who often accompany the prospect on our visits. I make sure the prospect is always respectful in his/her interactions with them.

What is probably most important is how the prospect interacts with the exisiting team while on campus. I always go back and ask our exisiting players soon after a visit if the prospect we have just hosted is someone they would want as a teammate and part of our program. It is a difficult sell for me to offer a roster postion to somebody who your existing team just did not click with. It is important to make offers only to those who fit in with the existing culture of the program.

 

Gregory Wyzkowski, head coach, Seton Hall Women

Official visits provide a chance for students and coaches to learn more about each other. The student can see first-hand what a typical day can be like once enrolled on campus. Do they see themselves as a student at that school? Or is it a campus that it is not a good fit? They can see the type of facilities they will use as athletes. Students should make sure they ask about transportation issues to use those facilities. Are they within walking distance? Or must some form of transportation be used? Who provides the transportation? Remember to look behind the curtain. Is the campus experience on an official visit similar to everyday campus life or was the visit done during a special time? Depending on when an official visit takes place, the student should be able to meet members of the team. Learning about your future teammates sometimes can be more important than facilities. Team wins and championships are great experiences as well as memories. Many students many years after graduation have fonder memories of team experiences such as spring break trips, participating in community service events and similar off the court events. Most of the time the difference between unofficial and official visits is the chance for the student to spend an evening with future teammates sleeping in the dorms. This is another chance to see a potential bond with future teammates. How many members of the team sacrificed their personal time to make the visit enjoyable?

As a coach, the official visit is one way I can see the maturity and responsibility level of the students. Are they asking questions to learn about our school and program? Or are they quiet and just rely on their parents to do all the talking? Time management skills are important for all athletes, especially at the Division I level. Hopefully during the visit we can have a glimpse into the character of the student to help us make an informed decision before awarding a full scholarship.

Keep in mind that official visits can vary with each school. Some large schools that have bigger budgets can provide transportation to campus for many students without decreasing the budget for other team activities. Some coaches have to choose whether to spend money covering transportation expenses to a recruit versus spending that same money on traveling to watch recruits play in tournaments. Not all official visits will provide travel expense. That does not mean the coach is not interested. It simply could mean that the school has a smaller budget. Many schools that provide full athletic scholarships are awarding students with $40,000-$50,000 per year. Asking a student to pay airfare of $200-$500 in exchange for strong consideration to receive that much larger award for four years is a good trade.
 

Adam Herendeen, head coach, Presbyterian Men

There are just so many things going on with the recruiting process that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Many times recruits make it through the entire recruiting process without even knowing what they are looking for. Far too many kids are overly concerned with a program's past status as opposed to the direction that it is going and the team culture that is already in place. It is the parents' and coaches' job to help the athlete to look at the decision from all angles - including years down the road. There are also simply not enough questions being asked by prospective students. For many high school seniors, this is the first really big decision in their life, and I would encourage them to ask as many questions as possible. They should have a mindset that no question is off limits or too unimportant to ask.

Often times recruits get in a hurry to make a decision before they really know what a school is like. It is important for recruits to keep their options open until they visit multiple schools and are able to experience what is really going on. To me, the number one criteria for the decision should be based around how you relate to the players on the team - and how you think spending four years with them is going to effect your character for the years after college.

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