Effective May 1, the NCAA introduced new regulations, which further limited the interaction between players and coach. Under the new rules, players cannot have two-way communication with coaches until June 15 between their sophomore and junior years (Please note that prospective student athletes may still email and text coaches updates, including up coming schedules, although coaches cannot responded). The new rules are a further sign that the NCAA is both empowering and protecting the student athlete, by allowing student athletes more time to gain experience and understand the landscape of college golf. In this article, I want to explore in depth what the rules mean for both college coaches, as well as prospective student athletes.
For NCAA coaches, this legislation along with other legislation last year passed which limits coaches to 45 days of evaluations per year. Under the new rules, recruiting returns back to being an art. Coaches must strategically spend each day wisely and those with keen eyes will be at a major advantage. Under the new rules, it is likely the majority of coaches will spend less time at any one event. Instead they will travel to 10-15 core events per year and spend the day evaluating each player in the field trying to learn as much about their game, grades and background as possible. From here, coaches will start to create extensive recruiting lists with up to 200 players, which on June 15th, they will mass email / call. This creates again a wide deep recruiting funnel which will significantly benefit players who properly invest in their development by building sound fundamental golf swings and make steady school grades.
The rules also have serious financial and time management implications. Under the new rules prospective student athletes cannot make visits (either unofficial or official) until August 1 entering their Junior Year in High School (regardless if they have started school). These rules will mean that in the fall, coaches will need to balance a melee of responsibilities from travel and team practice, to coordinating and hosting these visits. This will mean falls will become busier and some teams may choose to use less of their 24 days of competition. The rules also will mean significantly more investments in visits by major conference schools who will want to offer student athletes official visits as an incentive to getting one of the five permitted visits under the NCAA rules. This will provide major leverage in the recruitment game against smaller schools who may not be able to financially invest in having lots of prospective student athletes on visits.
The implementation of the new rules has an impact on the best juniors. Each class year, there are about 1,000 serious junior players. Generally, 7-20 of these players fall into this most elite category. For that group, the rules have serious consequences: saying yes to a full scholarship is advantageous for 3 reasons. First, it removes the pressure of figuring out where to go to college. Second, it takes a financial pressure off, as not all of these kids are born to millionaires, so the money matters. Third, it frees up time for them to improve their early ranking so they can keep putting in the hard work to remain at the top of the heap, which in itself is seriously stressful.
What does it mean for the other 99%? The rule changes are designed to give prospective student athletes more time to get educated, become fans of college golf, to really understand the process of choosing a school and then to understand what it means to play golf while working towards a degree. By changing the rules, the NCAA hopes to have more mature students who have thoughtfully prepared for college and are ready to make decisions based on more than brand, peer pressure or scholarship. They hope prospective student athletes will thoughtfully engage in the process with the goal of finding the right fit.
So what is the right fit? A place where you can succeed academically by earning a quality degree with outstanding grades that will lead to further opportunities in education. The school should also offer significant playing time, in an environment with great people who are interested in pushing you towards your goals. Parents and student athletes who engage in this process are going to be REALLY surprised; there are an unbelievable number of programs out there that will provide you the tools you need!
So what should junior golfers be doing? Obviously you must be serious about your golf development. Work closely with an outstanding coach to build a solid technical foundation. The data shows you are likely AT LEAST 4 shots per day behind most elite juniors. To overcome this gap, treat and nurture your body with sleep and good food. But, above all else don’t be afraid to compete. Play for consequences often. Learn to break par (even from a shorter yardage) and become the best player in your area then region, then state while continually searching for ways to be better.
Outside of your golf development, become a fan of college golf in your freshman and sophomore year of high school. Learn about teams, programs and coaches. Track how they do. Drive by and see facilities when you’re in their area. Follow current college players on social media to see their experience. Use resources like Golfstat and Birdiefire to check the rankings and results. As you do this, you will soon realize that there are a number of coaches at mid majors and smaller schools like Scott Schroeder, Mike Hagan, Jimmy Stobbs, Jon Mills, Jeff Thomas, Steve Bradley, John Sjoberg, Chrisitan Newton, Steve Fell, Houston Moore, Shannon Sykora, Kenny Trapp, Molly Erikson, Emily Marron, David Schreyer, Brent Nicoson, Jacob Wilner, Ben Rickett, Rhyll Brinsmead and Mallory Hetzel who do a heck of a job! (Guessing you cannot name where they coach????).
Remember not only are there many, many awesome coaches but the economic boom has created a ton of great facilities at places you may not have heard of. Not only do places like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State have awesome facilities, but so do places like Georgia Southern, Nova Southeastern, Keiser University, Nichols State and Louisiana Tech.
Maybe most importantly, build interpersonal skills. Simply put, you cannot succeed at school unless your able to check your / respond to emails multiple times a time, work closely with others, balance school with golf, and not be afraid of harsh criticism or working harder than everyone else. If you’re parents or coaches are helping you with these things right now or struggle with anything; stop and get help. Become dedicated to becoming the best version of yourself.
While coaches cannot begin the recruitment process until June 15, this does not mean they are not still using their 45 days to search for talent. Prospective student athletes should follow coaches and players of teams they like on social media. In addition, as they climb up the ladder and win at the state level, send coaches updates on their win, upcoming schedules and positive comments on social media.
For those who are not there yet; continue to work hard. Sure, part of being great is hard work but another huge factor is time; nothing comes over night. Remember that when making these investments there are no guaranteed returns and you are entitled to nothing. There is a massive chance your hard work will result in an offer from a school you have never heard of and are likely, at least at first, not interested in. This is a mistake of hubris. Framed correctly you should be proud people are interested and should be fairly warned that success is really about seizing opportunities like the one presented by this coach. I promise, the older you will thank you for taking the chance.
Although the NCAA has, through these new rules, changed the timeline for recruiting, one thing has not changed; the best individuals will always get the best (and most) choices. Regardless of the rules, prospective student athletes who are serious about playing college golf at a high level need to be be actively engaged in athletic, scholastic and personal development. This means shooting low scores and making great grades, as well as being a good citizen who actively is engaged in the details.
Thank you for reading; should you or your family have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us!