“Should I Walk On To A College Athletic Program?” We get this question a lot. An athlete really wants to play for a certain athletic program and attend college there. They didn’t get the scholarship they expected but nonetheless the opportunity was presented to come to college and walk-on the program. When this situation arises there are certain questions you must ask before jumping into a program with misguided expectations.
- Are you going to get access to the same facilities, equipment, dining hall, academic and support services as scholarship athletes? Some programs call this a preferred or recruited walk on. You need to ask the coach how you will be considered when arriving on campus. You will seem like an outsider on your team if you don’t have access to at least training table, equipment and locker room as scholarship athletes.
- Will you be going to pre-season camp? Fall sports start weeks earlier on campus before other students arrive. Spring sports often travel South or West to warmer climates. Are you invited to camp and will you have the ability to compete for a spot on the travel rooster?
- If you attend college there, have you already made the team or are you going to have to compete for a spot? Do not make the mistake of thinking you have made the team before enrolling in school only to get cut after a couple days of pre-season.
- Do you have the ability to play in the program? Many athletes don’t get scholarships for a particular program because the numbers just didn’t work out that year. Ask the coach if they think you have the ability to compete and earn a scholarship. Coaches do not want players that can’t play at their level and most will be honest if you ask directly.
- Ask about other players in the program who have walked on. Find out how many other athletes there are and if any have earned a scholarship. When visiting the college, ask to talk with a team member who walked-on so you may get an unfiltered view of how your experience may be.
When considering walking on a college athletic program, you must have this conversation with the coach. Yes, it can be hard and uncomfortable but you need to be sure you are making the right decision and it meets your goals and expectations. Some players don’t mind walking on and being on the practice team or a backup for their career. On the other side, there are too many walk-on success stories to ignore, but you need to know how the coach views your walking on their team. What role do they see you filling? Do they think you can play at this level and compete for a starting position eventually?
Another option if you did not get the athletic scholarship you wanted is to attend a Junior College for two years and go through the recruiting process again. There are many excellent two-year programs for each sport that specialize in having players that are scholarship quality athletes who missed a scholarships out of high school. If you were being recruited by a 4 year school and did not receive an offer, ask the coach if they can recommend a JUCO program that fits your abilities and goals. The recruiting cycle is later for JUCO’s and there are athletic scholarships available. You will be playing at a high level of competition and may even be better prepared physically and ability wise for recruiting in two more years.
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