by Catharine Aradi

While many key elements of recruiting and the college search process have remained relatively stable over the past ten to fifteen years, there are some key elements that have changed--or at least shifted-and these are things parents definitely need to know. I looked at one element in my the first article in this series and at another in the second article. I’ll discuss the third major change here. It has to do with contact rules.

Twenty years ago, coaches-whether D-I or D-II-could not write players until they players started their junior year. They couldn’t talk to a player off campus until July following the junior year. They couldn’t phone prospects until then either, and they were limited to one phone call per week. Coaches didn’t have email or Facebook or Twitter…no one did. The rules were much clearer and much simpler.

Over the past few years all of that has changed. D-II coaches may now start phoning and talking to players beginning June 15 following their sophomore year. There are almost no restrictions on contacts, phone, written or in person.  Players are still allowed to work out with D-II college teams, but in addition, they may also start taking official visits during their junior year. NOTE: While D-II coaches can talk to players and actively recruit them after their sophomore year, I’ve found most D-II coaches don’t begin active recruiting until the players are into their junior year and sometimes not until they’re seniors.

As of 2014, D-I contact rules remained more or less the same except for one major change. D-I coaches may now start phoning athletes once they start their junior year in high school, and there are no longer restrictions on phone calls.  (And in 2018, Div. I coaches may vote on recruiting guideline changes that would significantly affect the recruiting landscape at Div. I colleges.  Be sure to check the NCAA's website or this site for future updates!)

One of the most problematic areas of recruiting as far as I’m concerned is email. Most high school students these days grew up with cell phones and the Internet as an everyday part of their lives. Some even hate having to communicate in ways that don’t involve emoticons and text abbreviations. But worst of all, teenagers tend to take it as a given that every email they send will be read, understood, and acknowledged.

Unfortunately, if I had a hundred dollars for every time I hear some college coach say he or she gets two hundred emails a week…and he or she ignores most of them…I might have enough money to take a really nice vacation in Hawaii. It’s understandable. If you’re inundated with emails, and many of them are from players you’re really not likely to recruit, it’s just too easy to ignore them. (Note: Most coaches do use email for normal communications, so once a given coach has established that he or she will respond promptly and dependably to your emails, it’s fine to reach out to him or her that way.)

But the end result is that players who are told by well-meaning youth coaches that they should, “Email their top twenty colleges and send the coaches updates regularly on their stats and accomplishments,” may find they’re spinning their wheels. What’s worse, while they wait for all of their emails to be answered, other players are putting resumes and transcripts in front of a coach via snail mail and following up with phone calls.

The day may come when electronic communications completely replace written ones, but until that happens or until you know a coach is committed to reading your emails, consider using several different ways to put yourself on a coach’s radar. And given that recruiting rules are now much more fluid than they used to be, make sure that you visit the NCAA’s Eligibility Center web site regularly to determine what rules apply to you and what rules will help you keep your college search on track!

NOTE: In 2018, the NCAA voted to create new, stricter Div. I recruiting guidelines.  These essentially prohibit all recruiting contact with prospects by Div. I coaches priort to Sept. 1 of the junior year.  For more information, please visit my Recruiting News page or the NCAA website.  The 2018 edition of my book also explains these changes.

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