Many prospective student-athletes (PSAs) experience a case of nerves surrounding campus visits. If the school is among your top choices, there can be a great deal of pressure to have a great visit. The fact that no two coaching staffs conduct visits exactly the same way can leave you feeling unprepared for your visit. But don’t fret, our coaches have solid advice that should help you be as prepared as possible so you can ace your visit. Read on to hear directly from the college coaches regarding their advice about visiting campus.
“It is very important that you drive your process when it comes to accepting visits. Visiting different colleges should be an exciting and enjoyable time for you. Where you decide to visit should be done in a collaborative way between you and the college coach. If you are currently in season, please know college coaches understand your commitment to your high school team. Be thoughtful and sincere about where you would like to visit. Be a good communicator with your parents, your high school coach and the college coach. Have the courage to say no if it doesn’t feel right to you. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy this opportunity to get to know more about the place you will call home for four years.” – Tracy Coyne, Head Coach, George Washington University
Before your visit
Taking the correct steps during the visit planning process can set the stage for a great campus visit, and communication is critical during this process. Make sure you consider the time of year that you are planning your visit, and avoid dates that are likely to inconvenience a coach, such as the first week of classes, during a Holiday break, or the day the team is leaving for a road trip.
“I believe that visiting a potential school is critical to making the most informed decision during your college selection process. I prefer if you email me yourself (send it to both the Head Coach and Assistant Coach), instead of having a parent or coach do it. If it is an introductory email, it’s always great if you could send a video clip and any grades that you have to date – this helps us prepare for the conversation that we will have. Also, please fill out the recruit questionnaire online before your visit!” – Nicole Flores, Assistant Coach, Trinity College
“When emailing a coach regarding a campus visit, put “CAMPUS VISIT” in the subject of the email, so we get to your email before your requested visit date has passed. Make sure you provide enough advanced warning – 1 to 2 weeks is standard.” – Elizabeth Ghilardi, Head Coach, Skidmore College
“I respond best to a prospective student athlete reaching out on their own to set up a visit. In the technology age we are currently in, e-mail works well for me. Feel free to CC your club coach so I am aware of the connection. I think it’s also appropriate to follow up your e-mail with a phone call a few days later. Be sure to give the coach plenty of time (don’t e-mail them on Thursday and tell them you are coming on Friday). At least one week in advance is appropriate.” – Maureen Spellman, Head Coach, Endicott College
“I prefer to set up a visit with a prospective student-athlete via email so we both have a record of all the details of the visit, and it’s easier to keep track of any documents needed for paperwork that way. In the days leading up to a visit, it’s important for a recruit to regularly check her emails so she does not miss something that’s time sensitive and to reply to any phone calls or texts promptly.” – Caitlin Hansen, Head Coach, Saint Leo University
During the visit
Make sure that you have realistic expectations about what your visit will include based on the communications you had with the coach beforehand. Don’t assume your visit will include a tour, sitting in on a class, or meeting the team. If there are certain things you want to see or experience during a visit, make sure you request them when you are scheduling your visit.
“Please come prepared with questions: What do you want out of a school, a program? This is your future and you need to really think about what you want for your college experience so think about anything you might want to know from the coaching staff. This is your process so please don’t be shy and let your parents do all the talking. As coaches we want to hear from you, as you are the one we are going to be coaching. If you can meet with some members of the team – ask them questions, as they like it when recruits take the initiative and they don’t feel like they need to entertain you or always keep the conversation going. Ask them questions about being a student-athlete.” – Karin Corbett, Head Coach, University of Pennsylvania
“Be yourself – have questions! Treat your parents with respect if they are accompanying you. Your expectations for the visit depends on your interests – I always ask if prospects want to visit with the team, sit in on a class, take a tour, watch a practice, etc. We think the visit should be personalized for the prospective student-athlete.” – Sean Hansen, Head Coach, Linfield College
“Be prepared when you arrive for a visit with questions for the coach or any staff members you are meeting with. I always encourage recruits to ask questions that are things you can’t find out on the internet. The coach can tell you how big their roster is or who they play out of conference, but it shows that you are genuinely interested in the school if you have already looked that up before arriving. Do the players live together? Do your players study abroad or do internships? Those types of questions will be much more beneficial in giving you a full picture of the school and program.” – MK Geratowski, Head Coach, Randolph-Macon College
“First, a good handshake and social skills are important; it’s ok to be shy and quiet but don’t be timid. As a coach, we want to see your personality shine through regardless of what it is – our players don’t all have the same personality, so don’t be afraid to be yourself, whether it’s funny, shy, or outgoing – it’s all ok. Always have a couple of questions ready to ask about the student-athlete experience, and particularly about academics. A big interaction we take note of is how you treat your parents – do you respect them? Are you courteous to them? I think that relationship is a window to how you will act towards your teammates and coaches.” – Forrest Stillwell, Assistant Coach, University of Massachusetts, Lowell
“While meeting with the coaching staff, have some questions written out that you want to specifically ask the coaches. These questions can range from inquiries about practice schedules, how to manage school and lacrosse or just about the team dynamics. As a coach, we want to hear from you personally, and while we want to get to know your parents, we would prefer them not to speak for you. The one on one meeting is an opportunity for the coaching staff to get to know you off the lacrosse field. The more engaged and the more you are yourself, the better the coaching staff can get to know you and your personality. For most institutions, whether or not you will fit into their culture is just as, if not more important, than how talented you are on the field.” – Division II Assistant Coach, GLIAC
After the visit
No matter how you thought the visit went, it’s important to make sure you realize the recruiting process isn’t over when you leave campus. A timely follow-up communication is important, both to express your appreciation for the coaching staff’s time, but also because it represents an opportunity to ask questions you may have thought of afterwards, or share information you didn’t have during the visit.
“A follow up email after your visit is encouraged to let the coach know what you thought of your visit. Is that school still on your list, is it high on your list, do you have additional questions, or is the school maybe not what you expected?” – Elizabeth Ghilardi, Head Coach, Skidmore College
“If you’re still interested in the school after your visit, then follow up. If you are no longer interested in that school, FOLLOW UP! Either way, there should be some contact with the coach after the visit.” – Sean Hansen, Head Coach, Linfield College
“It is important to follow up with a coach after the visit regardless of how the visit went. If you have decided that the specific college or university you visited isn’t for you, it’s ok to let the coach know that. On the flip side, we want to hear about it if you enjoyed your visit and are interested in continuing the recruiting process. Follow up e-mails are a great way to ask those questions that popped into your head on the drive home too!” – MK Geratowski, Head Coach, Randolph-Macon College
“After the visit, be sure to thank the coaches and those you met with for the time they took to speak with you. Follow up with the coaches after the visit with any additional questions you may have and let them know your level of interest in their school and program.” – Division II Assistant Coach, GLIAC
A Note for Parents
Parents obviously play a critical role in the recruiting process, but most coaches warn that getting overly involved can hinder their ability to recruit your child, and also keep your child from putting their best foot forward. Remember that your role is to support and advise your child, not control the process. Coaches want to get to know you during the recruiting process, but that should happen organically, not because you dominate every conversation.
“The absolute BEST tip I can give as far as parents are concerned is to LEAVE THEM OUT! They absolutely can be there on the tour and for the visit, ask a few questions here and there, but 90% of the conversation/questions should come from the prospective student athlete. We are in the business of character development and it starts on the first recruiting visit.” – Maureen Spellman, Head Coach, Endicott College
“We like to interact with parents on a visit. If the parents take over the visit, it can indicate a lack of confident on the part of the player we are recruiting. If they don’t interact with us at all, it can be a turn-off because parents are an important part of our program. We really look for a happy medium that shows that the player has a healthy relationship with her parents and that they are supportive and willing to let her take the lead in the recruiting process.”– Division I Assistant Coach, Atlantic Coast Conference
This blog entry was compiled using IWLCA member coaches’ responses to questions posed to them about campus visits. Some of the contributors have asked to remain anonymous – we respect their wishes and have identified them only by their Title, Division, and/or Conference. We plan to make this type of post an occasional feature on the blog, so if you have a specific question about the recruiting process that you’d like to see answered, please email it to Danie Caro, IWLCA Director of Communications at firstname.lastname@example.org.