How To Become A Preferred Walk-On
If you are a high school athlete that is not being considered for a scholarship at a college program, your next option is to be a preferred walk-on. Many high school athletes who know they may not receive a scholarship at their dream school pursue this option. So, you are probably wondering, how does one earn a preferred walk-on spot?
Preferred walk-on spots can be very competitive so it is crucial that you put yourself out there via videos, phone calls, emails, etc. to show coaches that you are serious about earning a spot. Coaches are often limited in how many preferred walk-on spots they can carry on their rosters so it is essential to set yourself apart from other athletes who may be trying to do the same thing. Preferred walk-on spots are often just as competitive as scholarship positions so it is crucial to be proactive via communication with the coaching staff about your goals.
Coaches who are unable to offer a scholarship to a potential athlete are likely to offer a preferred walk-on spot. These coaches usually do so because either they don’t have a scholarship to give, or they do not think an athlete is ready to receive one yet. Still, being a preferred walk-on is very common and they often lead to a potential opportunity to earn a scholarship in the future. So, these are the things you need to know about earning a preferred walk-on spot.
Strategies For Earning A Preferred Walk-On Spot
The process to earn a preferred walk-on spot is not any different from pursuing a college scholarship. Exposure is perhaps the most important thing that you can do for yourself in addition to researching programs that you may want to be a part of. Here we have compiled some strategies for earning a preferred walk-on spot.
State Your Intentions: Communicate to coaches that you are interested in earning a preferred walk-on spot. Many coaches assume that athletes want a scholarship offer or no offer, and they stop recruiting a certain position or class when they feel they have exhausted all their resources. Therefore, it is important to communicate with coaches that you are interested in a potential preferred walk-on spot.
Get On Coaches’ Radars: The best way to be noticed by coaches is by sending out your highlight video and athletic resume to the programs you are interested in. This is perhaps the best way to show how you are different from other athletes who coaches might also be considering. Highlight the things that make you special and unique from others by composing a strong video of all your best plays in addition to specific awards and honors you have received over the duration of your career.
Set Up Phone Calls: A phone call with a coach is the best way for coaches to get to know you in addition to communicating each other’s expectations and goals. This is a great moment to make it known you are wanting to be considered for a preferred walk-on spot.
Request A Visit: Potential preferred walk-on athletes are just as entitled to an unofficial visit as well as an official visit. It is important to approach your recruiting process the same way that you would if you were pursuing a scholarship. Visits are a great way to get in contact with other preferred walk-on athletes within the program to better understand if it is an opportunity you want to pursue.
Factors That Impact Preferred Walk-Ons
A Preferred walk-on is an athlete who has a guaranteed spot on the roster but has no athletic scholarship. Every sport recruits preferred walk-on spots differently and every coach has a different standard for preferred walk-on athletes. That being said, there are many factors that will impact a preferred walk-on throughout the recruiting process and during the college career. Below we will review a few of them.
Often Position Dependent: In many cases, coaches give out preferred walk-on spots by position. For example, in football, this is a common way to recruit special positions such as kickers, and in volleyball, this is a common way to recruit defensive specialists. The reason coaches do this is they are trying to allocate scholarships to key roles or positions where recruiting is most competitive. By filling less competitive positions with preferred walk-ons, coaches can build a better overall team.
Competitive Positions: Preferred walk-on spots are still very hard to earn so it is important to set yourself apart from other athletes. Coaches typically recruit just as competitively as they do for scholarship positions. It is important to set yourself apart from other athletes and make it clear why you are right for the spot on the team.
Expectations Are The Same: In all cases, preferred walk-on athletes have the same duties and requirements as scholarship athletes. You get the same perks and benefits as any other athlete and you are expected to practice, work out and attend study hall just like the rest of your teammates. The only real difference is you do not have an athletic scholarship.
Playing Time: While most coaches do not see preferred walk-on athletes as different from scholarship athletes, there are some exceptions. For example, within high caliber basketball programs, preferred walk-ons may not be expected to play as much. But for a sport like baseball, who have a low scholarship limit, they rely heavily on preferred walk-ons to fill a competitive roster. Your role will largely be impacted by your sport, division and coach. If you are planning to pursue a preferred walk-on spot it will be critical to have clear communication with coaches to know if the fact you are a preferred walk-on will affect your ability to earn a starting position.
Earning A Scholarship: There are many scenarios where preferred walk-on athletes end up earning either a partial or full athletic scholarship. Many programs have performance based scholarships, meaning that if you perform well enough, you can expect to earn more scholarship. Typically, coaches periodically evaluate their players and reward those that continue to improve.
At the end of the day, if you perform at a high level, work hard, and are a great teammate, you can expect great things to happen. What you put into your experience as a student athlete dictates what you will get out of it. You never know what will happen until you go for it, you may just earn yourself a scholarship!
Things To Keep In Mind
Academics Are Crucial: One easy way to set yourself apart from other athletes is exceptional academic performance. If a coach is deciding between you and another athlete as a preferred walk-on, all else being equal, the coach will choose the athlete that has the better grades.
Do Your Research: Coaches like to see athletes who already know about the program beforehand because it shows that you are proactive and serious about being a part of their team. By doing your research, you’ll know how walk-ons are treated by the coach, how often preferred walk-ons receive scholarships and what will be required of you on and off the court.
Hard Work Is Everything: Although you may not have a scholarship, you will still be expected to perform and meet the standards that your coach has for the rest of the team. By showing your coaches that you are passionate about your team and its success through your hard work and determination, you’ll increase your chance of earning a scholarship.