All too often, parents and high school student-athletes think if they are not recruited by college coaches as a junior or senior they can just walk-on and make the team. Trying to make the team as a walk-on is totally different, and much more difficult, than being recruited out of high school by a college coach.
It is entirely possible that good high school athletes fly below college coaches’ radar screens. After all there are hundreds of thousands of high school student athletes per sport and only a handful of coaches. It is also possible the athlete was looking to play at a level that was not a good fit or the athlete is just not a college caliber player.
Trying to make the team as a walk-on puts the athlete and the family at a disadvantage. Below are 10 reasons why you should not be a walk-on.
- As a walk-on you have already paid full boat, list price for the first year of school. You have already lost leverage to negotiate a lower cost of tuition. Since, you are enrolling as a student, not a student-athlete you don’t offer anything extra that the school might want to fund.
- There may or may not be roster spots available. The coach may be looking for players for a practice squad only. Maybe a spot has opened up because of a late dropout from the team. Maybe the coach is just looking to see if there is a superstar as part of the incoming freshman class. There are no guarantees associated with trying out as a walk-on.
- There may be dozens or hundreds of athletes who have the same idea. Now you are competing with even more athletes than you were as a high school athlete for fewer or no roster spots with little chance of getting a scholarship.
- During the summer, were you training at a college level or were you resting on your high school laurels and training at a high school level? You can bet that the team has a summer training program and the scholarship players will arrive on campus, in shape. It is also possible that other walk-ons were training at a college level and they are in superior shape.
- Let’s say the coach wants to get a better look at you and wants you to return after a few days. Do you think the varsity team is going to let you skate through and take one of their roster spots or do you think they will do everything in their power to protect their roster spot? They may not know your name but they don’t want to see your face again.
- If you make the team, how will you feel committing the same 20+/- hours per week as the scholarship players and know they are going for free and you have taken out tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.
- As a walk-on, you do not receive the same privileges and benefits of scholarship players. Will you be getting free tutoring or help with your classes? Are you eating at the athletes table?
- If you make the practice squad, you must repeat the process again the next year. Again, you will be paying list price or almost list price for school, with little leverage to get a better financial aid package.
- As a walk-on will you get preferential treatment when scheduling your classes in order to make it to practice on time?
- As a walk-on will you get the same insurance coverage as a scholarship player?
We all hear stories about walk-ons who made it through the process, earned a scholarship spot and went on to be All Conference or All American. These stories are about an extremely small percentage of the athletes. A key factor in being successfully recruited is to understand the recruiting process and start early enough to make the process work for you. If you think you have plenty of time and wait until your senior high school season is over before you get started, you will be forced into being a walk-on and the odds will be against you. If you have the time and the information there is no need to be a walk-on.
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