If a coach wants to build a competitive team to challenge for wins, conference titles and NCAA championships, they must recruit the best gymnasts they can get to join their programs. These are the rules and guidelines schools and coaches must abide by while recruiting prospective student-athletes.
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- Important Terms
- Key Recruiting Dates
- National Letter of Intent (NLI)
- Signing and Dead Periods
Contact: when a college coach has a face-to-face interaction, other than saying hello, with a college-bound student-athlete or their parents off the college’s campus.
Evaluation: when a college coach observes a student-athlete practicing or competing.
Verbal Commitment: when a student-athlete says they intend to participate in sports for a college before signing a National Letter of Intent (NLI). These are non-binding and can be made at any time.
Official Visit: when the school pays for the student-athlete and/or their parents to visit. The school can pay for transportation to and from campus, lodging, three meals per day and reasonable entertainment expenses including three tickets to a home sports event.
Unofficial Visit: when a student-athlete’s family pays for their own visit to a school. Three tickets to a home sporting event are the only thing the school can pay for.
Key Recruiting Dates
Coaches can send gymnasts and their families general recruiting materials such as camp brochures and questionnaires. This is the only contact coaches can have with a gymnast or their family prior to the dates below.
Gymnasts and their families are allowed to contact college coaches on their behalf prior to the dates listed below; however, coaches are not allowed to reply.
Starting June 15th after a gymnast’s sophomore year of high school, coaches may have digital communication (i.e. phone calls and emails) with a gymnast and their family. Gymnasts may also start to receive verbal offers on this date. Gymnasts may also start taking official and unofficial visits to Division II college campuses and have off-campus contact with Division II coaches.
Starting August 1st of a gymnast’s junior year of high school, they may begin taking official and unofficial visits to Division I college campuses, as well as have off-campus contact with Division I coaches.
The NCAA allows Division III coaches more flexibility with recruiting because they cannot offer athletics scholarships. Division III coaches are allowed to have digital communication with a gymnast at any time and have off-campus contact after a gymnast’s sophomore year of high school. Gymnasts can take unofficial visits to Division III schools at any time and can take official visits starting January 1st of their junior year of high school.
National Letter of Intent (NLI)
A National Letter of Intent (commonly known as an NLI) is a binding agreement between a student-athlete and a school. Once signed, the student-athlete agrees to attend the school for one academic year while the school agrees to provide a scholarship to the student-athlete for one academic year. Only student-athletes earning a scholarship can sign an NLI.
NLI’s are voluntary and not required by a student-athlete to participate in athletics at a school or receive an athletic scholarship. Signing an NLI officially ends the recruiting process for a student-athlete.
If a student-athlete signs an NLI with one school but attends another, the student-athlete loses a full year of eligibility and will not be eligible to compete until they complete one academic year at the school.
NLI’s can only be signed by student-athletes who have started their senior year of high school and are only allowed to be signed between specific dates known as a “signing period.”
Signing & Dead Periods
A signing period is the range of dates when a student-athlete is allowed to sign an NLI and make their commitment official. This is when scholarship offers are finalized. Although the dates vary slightly by year, the signing period for gymnastics typically opens in mid-November.
The signing period for gymnasts graduating high school in 2021 starts November 11, 2020, and ends August 1, 2021.
A dead period is a range of dates in which college coaches are only allowed to have written or digital communication with a student-athlete and their family. No contact or evaluation is allowed during a dead period.
Dates for dead periods vary by year, but typically there are dead periods from June 1 to June 15, December 1 to December 30, the first week of the signing period and during the Division I NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships.
Division I: Scholarships are all full rides. Teams are allowed up to 12 scholarships.
Division II: Scholarships can be partial and divided among several gymnasts. Teams are allowed up to six scholarships. The amount of scholarships among all the gymnasts must combine to equal no more than six total scholarships.
Division III: Do not offer athletic scholarships.
Ivy League schools and service academies are Division I schools but choose to not offer athletic scholarships.
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