It’s a process
Getting to play college hockey is a wonderful life-changing experience. But it’s not as simple as just picking a school, trying out (if tryouts are even offered), and making the team. Although that does happen on occasion. In an effort to field the most competitive team, coaches have the opportunity to select or ‘recruit’ who they want to be on their team. This stage of selection is commonly referred to as ‘The Recruiting Process’. A multi-step period of time where college coaches seek out, communicate with, and ask players to come to their school and play hockey for their team.
What does this process look like? There are several nuances, but it mostly looks like this:
- Coaches watch players play at various events (league games, tournaments, camps, showcases, etc.) and determine who might be a good fit for their team based on their play and academic performance (GPA, SAT/ACT Scores, etc)
- Coaches contact players (by email, text, phone, social media, etc.), to see if there is an interest in learning more about an opportunity to go to school and play hockey for that coach. Players/parents also reach out to coaches communicating their interest in a school and wanting to play for the hockey program.
- The player/family and coach usually spend an amount of time communicating back and forth – where the coach educates the player on what it would take to go to their school and to play hockey. Families are usually educated by the coaches on how the schools’ admissions process works, what the finances/costs entail, what the academic requirements are, and what type of hockey role there would be.
- Players and families evaluate which school might be the best option given various factors mentioned above.
- From there, as long as a player feels comfortable with a certain school and the coach wants them to play for them, the player can then commit to the coach and expect to attend and play hockey.
As for timelines when all of this occurs? It’s different for DI vs. DIII coaches and that has to do with the NCAA recruiting rules coaches have to follow. Also at work, is how talented a player may be. But based on above:
- Coaches begin to watch players as young as 7th/8th grade in some cases, but usually starting in grade 9.
- DI coaches can not begin to contact players on a regular basis until June 15 after the players’ grade 10 year in high school. DIII coaches can contact players at any time and have very little rules when it comes to communication restrictions.
- It can take several weeks, to many months, even years, for coaches to educate players and their families on everything that goes into playing and attending a particular school.
- Players usually make their college decision sometime after the second half of their junior year. The most talented DI players will be given official offers from coaches on June 15 and can make their decision very early on. Other players may have to wait for coaches to make offers and thus won’t make their college decision until much later, in some cases as much as a year after graduating if a Post Grad/Gap year is taken.
We’ll discuss the differences between DI and DIII recruiting in another section. But here are some other ideas to keep in mind.
The NCAA defines ‘recruitment’ as:
- Any solicitation of a prospective student-athlete or a prospective student-athlete’s family members by an institutional staff member or by a representative of the institution’s athletics interests for the purpose of securing the prospective student-athlete’s enrollment and ultimate participation in the institution’s intercollegiate athletics program.
Just because you get contacted by a coach, doesn’t always mean an offer to play for them is guarenteed.
- Coaches want the best people, students, and players they can find. And judging who is a great person and student can take a lot longer than knowing how good of a hockey player they are. Coaches are master researchers and they’ll do their homework before making a player an offer to join their program.
Be an active participant in the process, advocate for yourself early and often.
- Start your research on schools and hockey programs as early as you can. Email those schools you know you’ll have an interest in. Be aware of the NCAA rules on communication for DI and DIII – but coaches love players who take initiative and reach out on their own.
Finding the right school and hockey program takes time.
- As you begin to research and think about playing college hockey, figure out what is important to you about where you go. Is it going to a great academic school? Making sure the school has what you want to study? Playing for a great hockey team with a tradition of success? Getting a lot of playing time? Staying close to home? Whatever the case, finding all that out can take time, usually months, not weeks. So – do have a ‘process’. Get to know the schools inside and out as well as your potential future coaches and teammates. 4 years is a long time, you want to make sure you get it right!