by Willy Wood
Your official visits will determine where you attend school and which team you compete for. According to NCAA regulations, you are allowed only five official visit opportunities, so you will want to make the most of your time spent on each campus.
Official visits are the single most effective way to learn as much as you can about the schools and programs you are considering. For a complete list of NCAA rules and regulations governing Official Visits see here:
Each school you visit will have their own specific methods of introducing you to their programs. Some schools fully utilize the 48-hour allowable timeframe while others feel it is more effective to end the visit after 24 hours. Some schools will have you attend an official admissions campus tour while others will have their student-athletes show you around. Regardless of the specific agenda for your visit, you can expect the same basic itinerary- tour the campus and athletic facilities, meet the team, speak with the coaches, and explore the community.
Make no mistake, coaches view your official visit as one of the most important elements of your recruitment. You will be shown the most impressive buildings, eat at the best spots, stay in one of the nicer dorm rooms or hotels, and be told repeatedly how wonderful the campus and program are. This is the coach's job and you can be assured they will put their best foot forward. It is your job to see beyond the tree-lined quad and smiling faces and determine if this school and program is the best fit for you.
The areas where I encourage you to take a closer look will impact your quality of life as a student-athlete. Beyond speaking to the coaches about training methodologies, program philosophy, and goals of the program learn as much as you are able from the current-student athletes.
To do so, I suggest preparing a series of questions that you can ask off the cuff. Ask current team members questions in an informal manner when eating dinner, on your way to a movie, or while on a run. Create a specific list of questions based on what is most important to you. Remember: you are not visiting you are there to decide where you will spend your next four years. Here are some questions to ask:
How much time is required to commute back and forth to and from training sites?
When does the track team actually have access to the facility they are showing you - particularly shared indoor turf fields that the football team also uses?
How often do you run from campus and how often do you travel to trails?
SPORT'S MEDICINE SUPPORT
Is there an athletic trainer assigned specifically to the team?
Do you have access to the training room on the weekends, even after early Sunday morning long runs?
What type of preventive measures are used - ice baths, NormaTec, etc?
Does the school have easy access to an Altra G and/or an underwater treadmill?
Do they offer adequate support with physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists?
Are study hall hours required of all student-athletes?
What type of access is there to tutors?
What type of walk-in support is provided?
Do athletes get preferential treatment when enrolling for classes?
What time of the day do you practice?
Is there an athletic trainer on-site during practice?
Are nutritional needs adequately addressed on-site - water and post-workout recovery foods/drinks?
How many training shoes will you receive throughout the course of the year?
How often are spikes replaced?
What will your training kit consist of?
Will you receive adequate warm/cold weather and rain gear?
What criteria are used to determine travel squads?
Are there alternative meets if you don't make the travel team?
Is there a full-time staff member in the area of professional development specifically within the athletic department?
How supportive are the alumni in helping athletes find internships?
Will someone assist you in creating a resume and letter of application?
What are they doing to assist you with finding a job upon graduation?
What does a typical Saturday night consist of?
Does the team party and drink?
Do team members live together?
Where does the majority of the team live - residence halls or off-campus?
What is the food like - are there adequate healthy food options?
Remember, you are using your official visits to determine where you will study and run for the next four years. Use this limited time wisely. It is important to understand that the coaching staff and team members are evaluating you as well. Enjoy yourself and get to know as many people as you can, knowing that when you leave campus the coach will ask the team about their perceptions of you.
Leave a positive impression, and remember do not be afraid to ask questions!