Parents on Official Visits
As the parent of a high school athlete being recruited, you are probably wondering if you can go on an official visit with your child.
Parents are absolutely allowed to accompany a high school athlete on an official visit. An official visit is defined by the NCAA as a visit sponsored by the college or university. The school can pay for all or part of the travel expenses, hotel rooms, meals and tickets to sporting events. The expenses of an official visit are more likely to be covered by Division I programs than Division II and III, where funding is much more limited.
If your high school athlete is fortunate enough to be invited on an official visit, you should be very excited. This invitation is a sign that your child is one of that team's top recruits. To make the most of the trip to campus, we've covered a few areas that will help you navigate the role of parent on an official visit.
Parents on Official Visits
The official visit can be thought of as a sell day. The school that has invited your recruit on an official visit is interested enough to want to put on the full-court press of why you should choose their school.
As a parent, you'll want to evaluate the school as much as your child. Take in the vibe of the program overall. Is it a demanding environment? Is it a supportive environment? Do they invest in their players. Does the program feel like a family that produces results on and off the court or does it feel like the military, where the roles and results are strict and relationships transactional?
Academics: You'll want to understand how well the program balances the student-athlete dynamic. Since most college athletes don't "go pro" after college, you want to know that your child is getting a quality education. How does the team schedule practices around class? Are there tutors to help with subjects that are difficult to understand? Are there counselors that will make sure your athlete stays academically eligible and on track to graduate in four years?
Athletics: Get a feel for how much time is spent training, practicing and traveling in-season and out-of-season. The schedules of college student-athletes are demanding. What time commitment will be expected of your recruit at this program? Also, try to understand how quickly your athlete will play. Will they contribute from day one or will they ride the bench their freshman year?
If your athlete hopes to play their sport professionally, you'll want to have an idea of how this program will help them get to the next level. Do they have a track record of athletes making the leap? Are the coaches the type that will help your child develop into a player that can "go pro"?
Fit: Throughout the entire visit, assess whether this program will be a good fit for your child. Fit is the most critical factor in your athlete having an enjoyable, successful college experience. See how your athlete interacts with the current team and coaches. Do they connect quickly or is everyone distant? You want to know if this is the type of environment your child will thrive in over the next four years.
From The Back Seat: The most critical and difficult part of evaluating all the above is that you need to to do it from the back seat. Your recruit must guide the conversation, asking and answering questions over the course of the visit. Your role will be passive for the majority of the weekend. To make this easier, there are a number of ways to prepare your child to take the lead.
Preparing For The Visit
It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of your child being invited on an official visits. It's important that you help your recruit be prepared. There will be plenty of opportunities for them to show their initiative and maturity throughout the weekend.
Create A List Of Questions: Before the trip help your athlete prepare a list of important questions that both of you want answered. Coaches watch to see how an athlete conducts themselves over the weekend. Do they answer questions directly or do they look to their parents to step in and answer questions? Help your child put their best foot forward by asking thoughtful, direct questions.
Prepare Your Answer: Although an invitation to an official visit isn't a scholarship offer, it is common for a coach to offer a scholarship or a spot on the team during an official visit. Be prepared with an answer ahead of time so that you won't be caught off guard. If this school is your dream school, you might want to answer yes immediately. On the other hand, if you have other schools you are planning to visit, ask the coach how long you can have to consider the offer.
Tuition: The most likely and relevant time for a parent to join into the conversation on an official visit is during the scholarship discussion. Tuition for college can be very expensive and it's common for the parents to pay for what the scholarship doesn't. As a parent, it's perfectly okay to speak up and clarify what full and partial scholarships are offered.
What To Expect On The Visit
Official visits are different for every school, but there are a few trends that you can can count on experiencing during an official visit.
Campus Tour: You'll definitely be given a tour of campus. The goal of the tour is to give your athlete the "day in the life" experience. Usually this tour includes walking the grounds, seeing the dorms, sitting in on a class and eating in the cafeteria.
Athletic Facilities: It should come as no shock that you'll be shown the gym/field/rink that your recruit will be competing and practicing in/on. Be sure to notice how new the facilities are and how far they are away from the dorms your athlete will live in.
Academic Advisor: Often you'll meet with an academic advisor to discuss what classes freshman usually take. Advisors will want to know about desired major and if there are any academic areas your child will need help with during school.
Sporting Event: It's very common for you to be taken to a sporting event on an official visit. It can be the sport you are being recruited for or another sport, depending on the season. Coaches want to demonstrate what the game-day experience is like at their school.
Team Visit: You'll definitely meet some of the team, if not all of the team. Coaches will look to see how well your recruit fits in with their players. Be personable and make a good impression. If your athlete gets a few minutes alone with the team, encourage them to ask ask what it's really like to play for their coach. If they don't like the coach, your child definitely hear about it.
Things to Keep In Mind
As a parent, there are a few things to keep in mind about official visits to make sure you are following NCAA rules.
One Official Visit Per School: The NCAA recruiting rules restrict your high school athlete to just one official visit per school. This isn't meant to restrict your ability to visit campus. You are always allowed to take as many unofficial visits to that campus as you would like.
Only Five Total Official Visits: Over your child's recruiting journey, the NCAA only allows them to take official visits at five schools at the Division 1 level. Be sure to only commit to official visits at schools you are serious about.
Can Only Last 48 Hours: Official visits are restricted to last a maximum of 48 hours. Be prepared for your visit to move fast as the school will likely have a packed schedule to make the most of your athlete's official visit.
Eligibility Center: Your child will need to have already registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center, taken the SAT or ACT and applied to the school before their official visit.