Taking advantage of your breaks

For many high school student-athletes, this year has been unique. Most student-athletes had their summer seasons cut short or canceled altogether. There were no elite camps hosted by colleges. And now, many are facing a fall semester that is much different from what they imagined when the pandemic began. Plans were derailed and now many student-athletes are scrambling to figure out what to do in a world that looks vastly different from just a year ago. With the NCAA’s extension of the Dead Period (a period of no in-person communication/evaluation between college coaches and student-athletes or their parents and coaches) for all Division I sports through April 15, 2021, things have become even more complicated. It is so important- now more than ever- to have a plan and to execute that plan so you can still accomplish your goal of being a collegiate student-athlete.

As a former student-athlete, winter break was always a time to learn more about prospective schools. I frequently scheduled my winter break schedule around watching prospective schools’ games, travel to campus for unofficial visits, and researching colleges and athletic programs. . Today, the way to interact with prospective schools is completely different. Most schools have now implemented virtual tours on their website (usually found in their ‘Admissions’ or ‘Prospective Students’ drop-down menu). While those tours are extremely important as you will be a student first, you will also want to do a tour of the athletic facilities with the coaching staff. It’s important to have both perspectives because your collegiate experience will include both. If a coaching staff doesn’t have a virtual tour, be sure to ask if they have pictures or some other visual to show you those spaces. Depending on how important athletic facilities or the physical campus is to you, you may want to still have an in-person visit before deciding on a school. However, with the Dead Period extending to April 2021, you risk perspective schools filling their rosters before you have a chance to visit.

As a basketball player, winter break unofficial visits always meant getting to see a practice and game in person at the schools I visited. For me, these were some of the most important things I needed to see to make an informed decision. Viewing practices allows you to see how the coaches coach, the drills they do, how the players interact with each other and the coaches, and so many more things. After all, most days you will be practicing and not playing in games, so this is important to see what goes on behind closed doors. With the suspension of campus visits, this is not currently possible. Many coaches have recognized this and have been doing virtual practices where you can watch from your computer. Sometimes these sessions are open to anyone- meaning they will be posting about these sessions on their social media accounts. Others will be private and may require an invitation or you asking for one. Often coaches want you to see how they practice, see what they emphasize, how hard they go. They should want you to see what your future could look like. If a coach is hesitant to show you their practices, this should be a red flag. If you play a sport that doesn’t have winter break practice or games, there may be sessions like this in the spring semester as the dead period continues until April.

Even though in-person activities have changed for the near future, many other aspects remain the same. Research the schools you are interested in. All schools have great information on their websites including majors, admissions info, campus life, and other various things. These things are always available to do regardless of in-person restrictions. Additionally, you should continue reaching out to coaches and improve your relationships with the coaches you are already in contact with. This holds especially if coaches are unable to initiate communication with you due to your classification (e.g., HS Freshman). Coaches love prospective student-athletes that communicate early and often! They want to speak with you just as much, as they want to ensure they get to know you and make sure you’re a good fit with their program and the other players already on the team.

Hopefully, these tips have been helpful! Know that just because you are physically limited, doesn’t mean you have to be distant! Stay engaged and take control of your future.