Junior Golf Timeline
Stay ahead of pace in the recruiting process by understanding where to go…
By Mike Smith, ForeCollegeGolf
In a very competitive world of junior golf, there seems to be much confusion and frustration hovering around the question; When is the “right time”? The right time, however, is subjective to each and every player. For the best players, it might make sense to start taking unofficial visits to Power 5 conference schools (SEC, ACC, Big10, Pac12, Big12) during their freshman year. Other players, for example, might not start the basics of the recruiting process, like organizing a list of schools to reach out to, until their sophomore year.
This article will help you understand how to stay ahead of the recruiting curve at every stage of the game. We outline the complexities of the recruiting process vividly and give you insight into how to tackle the process in the most efficient ways possible.
First, we will take you through the NCAA Rules and Regulations as they pertain to your recruiting year. Then, we’ll touch on a few focus points you should be aware of each year in the process. And finally, we’ll bring it full circle and help you understand if you’re ahead, on pace, or behind where you should be in the recruiting process. At the end of this article, you should be equipped with the tools and knowledge to put together a “to-do” list for yourself to understand your current position.
· PSA: (Prospective Student-Athlete) You are considered a PSA at the start of 9th Grade classes
· Contact: A contact happens any time a college coach says more than hello during a face-to-face meeting with you or your parents off the college’s campus.
· Dead Period: A college coach may not have any face-to-face contact with a recruit/player or his/her parents on or off the college campus at any time during a dead period. However, a coach may write and call a recruit/player during a dead period.
· Evaluation: An evaluation takes place when a college coach observes you practicing or competing, anywhere/anytime.
· Official visit: During an official visit, the college can pay for transportation to and from the college for you, lodging and meals (Division I allows for up to three meals per day) for you and your parents or guardians, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses, including up to six complimentary admissions to a Division I home sports event or five complimentary admissions to a Division II home sports event. Before a college may invite you on an official visit, you must provide the college with a copy of your high school transcript and register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
· Recruited: If a college coach calls a player/recruit more than once, contacts them off campus, pays their expenses to visit the campus, or in Divisions I and II, issues a National Letter of Intent or a written offer of financial aid, then the player/recruit is considered to be recruited.
· Unofficial visit: An unofficial visit is a “trip” taken by the recruit/player and his/her parents to a college campus. All unofficial visits are funded by the recruit/player. The college and/or coach may not pay for any expenses (except to provide complimentary admissions to campus athletic events). We encourage ForeCollegeGolf clients/players to make as many unofficial visits as they can and to take those visits at any time during the recruiting process. (The earliest date a player can take visits with a Coach is August 1stbefore their Junior year)
· Verbal commitment: A verbal commitment takes place when a player verbally agrees to play for a coach before he/she is eligible to sign a National Letter of Intent. The commitment is between player and coach not necessarily between player and college/university.
· NLI: National Letter of Intent, legally binding contract signed by a student-athlete verifying commitment to an NCAA institution. Once signed, other coaches cannot recruit the player.
· Preferred Walk-on: A recruit who does not receive a scholarship, but who is placed on the team roster as a full-time student-athlete just like the scholarship athletes.
· Personal Marketing Plan: your personal marketing plan is made up of a few components you will be utilizing during your college recruiting process. Traditionally, the marketing plan is composed of a resume, a bio, an introduction letter and a swing video.
Many student-athletes make the mistake of not preparing for the recruiting process during their freshman and sophomore years. Personally, I encounter far too many families that come to me during the PSA’s junior (or even senior) year expecting to get their college recruiting process started. Many act as if they haven’t missed out on any opportunities and will be just fine beginning the process during the latter half of high school. Unfortunately for many, it doesn’t work out that way and their initial thought process about being “ok” couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you are a freshman or a sophomore, now is the time to get started!
Below is a checklist for you to follow throughout your freshman year. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
Make an appointment with your guidance counselor to ensure you will fulfill all NCAA and NAIA academic requirements by the time you graduate.
Take honors/AP courses, but only if you can maintain a high GPA and continue to do well in the classroom.
Take note of next year’s dates for the PSAT and Pre-ACT so you can start preparing. Look into Standardized Test tutors/specialists if you need extra help. (i.e. Magoosh, College
Begin contacting college coaches - send them a marketing portfolio (introduction letter, swing video, and resume/bio) – because this is your first year in high school, you don’t necessarily need to send them a resume or swing video yet – but your goal here is to have them put you on their mailing list and send you materials such as a recruiting questionnaire and information about their golf program.
Travel, Play in ranked events, don’t rely on HS golf - If you are succeeding at your local level and not currently playing in regionally or nationally ranked tournaments, make it a point to sign up for some. Coaches like to see you becoming as competitive as possible and gaining as much tournament experience as possible. Besides, playing tournaments year-round will help your skill level, keep you in golf shape, and provide coaches with more statistics to evaluate you.
Develop a practice structure – Evaluate your game holistically and create a solid long-term practice structure with your Coaches.
Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses – Look for in-depth statistical analysis where you need improvement in your sport and identify your opportunities and threats.
Attend a few college golf tournaments - While attending events, look into the talent level of the players, player/coach relationships, and the overall atmosphere at the event. You can search for college events near you using GolfStat.com.
Start recording your tournament finishes - from each and every event you play in. Soon you will be sending coaches “update emails” about your recent finishes and details about how you played.
Plan “unofficial” college visits – it is never too early to start visiting different campuses to see what type of school environment you are most attracted to. Eventually, this initial information you gather will assist you with determining what your “best-fit” school looks like.
Put Together a Family Budget - for recruiting. Include travel expenses and them time and resources you will have to use to gain exposure to college coaches.
Google Search – Do a quick Google Search for your name, hometown and maybe even include the word golf if you have a common name (ex. John Smith) Do this to make sure that all references, images, and videos on the internet portray you in a respectful manner. *Social Media is the most readily available and accessible medium on the internet today which makes it extremely easy for athletic department officials and college golf coaches to find information on you. Understand that even though you might not think your posts on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat can be seen by coaches, there is someone out there watching. My #1 Rule is if you wouldn’t show it to your mother, don’t post it online.
Review the NCAA/NAIA Rules and Regulations (Guidebook for the College Bound Student-Athlete).
Set Goals & Stick to a Weekly Structure - Set personal, academic and athletic goals while constantly tracking your progress.
Be Realistic – keep your expectations in check and don’t reach out to schools far beyond your athletic or academic abilities.
Use Your Resources – NCAA Guide to becoming a Student-Athlete 2017, Junior Golf Scoreboard, PING College Golf Guide, AJGA U, GolfStat.com, ForeCollegeGolf Recruiting Manual
Your sophomore year is the best time to start contacting coaches and being aggressive in the recruiting process. It’s important to understand that the recruiting process isn’t something that happens overnight. Most often, the players and families that are proactively patient are the most successful during the process. At this point, you should have one year of high school athletics under your belt and hopefully a few years of local, regional or national competition. That being said, you should have a good grasp for what tournament golf is all about and a good starting point from a competition standpoint to strike up an initial conversation with coaches.
Players should accomplish the following throughout Sophomore Year:
Played 8-10 nationally ranked events in the past calendar year.
Started contacting college coaches by sending them introduction letter and pieces of your personal marketing plan (see above).
Spoken with your guidance counselor to ensure you will be “on track” to graduate by fulfilling all NCAA and NAIA academic requirements. (i.e. NCAA D1, 16 core courses in English, Math, Social Science, Science, & electives) If you are behind in school, make arrangements to make-up classes in summer school or possibly even at a local junior college.
Started to build upon your marketing plan by creating a recruiting email address. (ex. MikeSmith2024@gmail.com, or MikeSmithGolf@gmail.com)
Looked into taking honors/AP courses, but only if you can maintain a high GPA.
Attended a least one college golf tournament and evaluated the talent gap between you and college athletes and started to understand how college coach/player relationships work.
Planned “unofficial” college visits – it is never too early to start visiting different campuses to see what type of environment you are most attracted to.
Reviewed the NCAA/NAIA Rules and Regulations (see Resources)