Behind the curtain of recruiting lies unofficial visits. They are paid by you and your parents and not the school. They don’t come with the fun perks of professional pictures in a team’s leotard or an invitation to a football game with other recruited athletes. But, at this stage of recruiting it’s a pathway to getting a jumpstart on the recruiting process and getting a feel of what’s right for you.
Unlike official visits, unofficial visits are unlimited, but they don’t hold as much value. Many times official visits are the final plea for college coaches to reel you in. They show you the glitz and glam of the school, introduce you to the team, and lock you in with the school spirit of crazy students tailgating for a football game. Scholarships are even offered on these visits, putting the athlete on the spot but also with reflection of the awesome weekend they just had.
With unofficial visits, it’s up to you how you interact with the school.
In the beginning of February I took an unofficial visit to Clemson. I booked a guided tour, did an extra walk around of the campus, and looked at the location of the upcoming gymnastics facility overlooking a beautiful lake. My visit made my bond with Clemson stronger because I had a chance to connect with the feel of the college before an official could even be offered. These visits can be a make or break the feeling of a school for an athlete, allowing them to readjust their recruiting goals and interests. I’ve also toured Auburn in the past. I enjoyed the spread-out campus with a rural yet small city feel. During the summer I toured its rival, Alabama. Within the crimson and white lies deeply historical buildings and a local community surrounding the campus core, football. Immersing myself into the different school cultures, benefits, and layout helped me compare what I like so I can later match with the perfect college.
The “student” part of “student-athlete” is commonly thrown out the window for recruits, myself included. We tend to look for colleges with the most popularity, the nicest facilities, or the most success and rarely know anything about the school itself. Getting lost in the gymnastics part is easy to do, but unofficial visits keep you grounded with the school itself because you are not around the “athlete” part of it. When diving into the nature of a school, the haunting question circling a recruit’s minds is, “Do I like this school enough to stay without gymnastics?” That’s when the student part can overtake the athlete one.
Through both unofficial and official visits, it’s important to keep in mind that this process is for the recruit. I am finding a college that fits me and a program that will tend to my needs. If anything, a coach should be begging to have you and not the other way around. I believe unofficial visits set the tone for the “you” and should be taken after receiving interest, not hope for it after.
Unofficial visits are often an unspoken part of recruiting. But, they allow you to focus your attention on the culture, advantages, academics, and overall feel of a school, jumpstarting your recruiting process and showing interest in a school that could one day be home.
Have a question for Sydney about the recruiting process? Email [email protected] with the subject line “Recruiting Declassified,” and you might see it answered in a future article!
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Article by Sydney Seabrooks
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