Life of a High School Athlete: Junior Year

Attention high school athletes: Are you planning on playing sports in college? Do you have big dreams of competing in March Madness, or joining the best women’s soccer team in the world? Awesome! What are you doing right now to prepare?

See, getting signed to a team in the NCAA is a much longer and more complicated process than you might imagine, and it starts years before most students start submitting their college applications. Athletes have to be ahead of the game.

The number one thing to remember is that junior year is THE most important year when it comes to getting recruited for college athletics, and even within that year, the window for recruitment is pretty small.

Why so soon?

Imagine you’re the coach of a Division 1 team. You’re very busy on and off season, training your team to be the best in the region. Then on top of that, you also have to be constantly recruiting new players, because every year you lose your best seniors to the professional draft. How do you ensure that you will continue to have a strong, championship-winning team in a year or two?

High-schoolers can be unpredictable. A promising young running back in his freshman or sophomore year could hit a late growth spurt and lose his speed, or a star pitcher could injure his shoulder before he ever makes it to college.

On the other hand, senior year is too late. Coaches assemble their team well in advance so they can ensure the newcomers work well with the upperclassmen. Plus, if a coaches want to offer athletes scholarships to ensure the students pick their college, they have to start talking to the admissions and financial aid offices at least by the spring before applications are due. At least.

That leaves them with only one type of student: Juniors.

So what does this mean for the aspiring college athlete?

Well, first you need to let coaches know you’re interested.

(Don’t have an idea yet of where you want to apply? Check out last month’s note from Kat about researching colleges!)

Step 1: Register for NCAA eligibility by signing up on their website

You’ll be able to enter your stats beginning the fall of your junior year of high school. This does require a fee, but if you were able to get an ACT or SAT fee waiver, you’ll also qualify to get the fee waived for NCAA. Then, at the end of your junior year, send in your official high school transcript and SAT or ACT scores.

Step 2: Email the coaches of schools you want to play for.

Write them a courteous letter introducing yourself and your interest in their team. For tips on writing a professional and engaging email, visit this site. Then follow up with a phone call a few weeks later to establish a more personal connection. Do not mention any interest in scholarships at first, and do not let your parents or coaches contact them. 

Step 3: Don’t panic.

If you don’t hear back from the coaches right away, you haven’t done anything wrong. Often coaches have strict rules about when they can reach out to recruit students. You may not even hear back until July after your Junior Year. Send the email, follow up once, and then let the coaches make the next move.

Are you already a junior or senior? Don’t stress! Your chance isn’t gone. It may be more difficult for you to get onto the team, but it is still possible. Contact the coaches with an email or phone call and express your interest. Even if you are a senior, many teams (though, unfortunately, not the most competitive ones) do allow for walk-ons (aka late additions to the team on a trial basis).

So don’t waste another minute! The sooner you make yourself visible, the better your chances of getting to play the sport you love. I know I would rather win the game by sinking an easy free-throw in the third quarter than a last minute buzzer-beater.

Save yourself the stress, and start planning. Your career as a college athlete awaits!

Interested in meeting with our Sports Recruiting Specialist? Contact us!