The Official Visit has lost some of its importance in the recruiting process for Division I Volleyball recruits and programs, particularly in the upper Division I ranks. If you, the Prospective Student Athlete (PSA) have already made a verbal commitment before an Official Visit, then your trip should be much more relaxed and low key.
On the other hand, if you have not made a verbal commitment to any school and are using Official Visits as the means to make the determination of where you will spend the next 4 to 5 years, you must maximize your visit. Per NCAA rules you are only allowed to take 1 Official Visit per school and you can only accept a total of 5 Official Visits all schools.
Here are some suggestions, born of the experience of going through Official Visits as a PSA and hosting a significant number of Official Visits as a head coach.
1. Have your parent(s) accompany you on the visit - they will see things that you may miss with regards to facilities, classes, campus safety, etc. Per NCAA rules, the host school cannot pay for the transportation of your parents (unless the family drives together), but once your folks are there, the school is allowed to cover everything for them.
2. Ask to stay with a member of the team in a Freshman Residence Hall. That super nice dorm room the program showed you, could be just for Juniors and Seniors. You need to know exactly the type of room you will be staying in the next two years.
3. When you go out to eat, make sure you eat WHATEVER looks good to you! Don't be shy - the program has a specific recruiting budget and that budget is allocated to try and convince you to attend their school. Also, have at least a lunch or dinner in the school cafeteria; this is the only way to see the quality of the meals and how many healthy eating options are available.
4. While it may be fun to see a match, it is more important to see a practice (not a pre-game serve and pass, but a normal practice). A volleyball practice will show you just how that program operates. Is the coach positive or negative in a training environment, how much technical instruction is presented, are the drills play oriented or repetition oriented, do the players work hard with a good attitude or are they just going through the motions - these are all things that a match will not illustrate completely.
5. Schedule an academic meeting with the person who is in charge of academics for the Athletic Department. If you are fortunate enough to know what you want to study, make sure that this discipline is available and have the staff member lay-out the process for you to graduate with that degree. Should you have a general idea or two about what possible degree excites you, make sure that school has those academic majors available. I know of too many transfer situations where the PSA choose the school for athletic reasons and not academic reasons.
6. Research the next year's roster and ask specific questions about where you fit in. If you are an outside hitter and the team has three starting sophomores who are also outside hitters, the reality is you may not seeing a lot of playing time as a freshman. Conversely, if the team is currently laden with senior outside hitters, are you going to be expected to be an impact player your freshman year?
7. Ask about Team Policies - While the Athletic Department may have certain guidelines about player-team conduct, each program is usually left to determine their own conduct rules. What is the alcohol policy? Are there food-diet restrictions? Is there a dress code for home or away matches? Are the players supposed to live together? Are players allowed to live off campus? Ask these questions now, because you will be living with the answers for a number of years.
8. Attend a non-volleyball event. Get a feel for the general student body by seeing something other than volleyball. There is much more to college than just volleyball.
9. Find out about summer school and 5th year funding. Each school determines how it handles these two topics and unfortunately, the answers vary by sport. You must find out this information because it will have a big impact upon your summer plans and the financial obligation beyond the offered scholarship.
10. Spend as much time as possible with the younger players on the team. These are the people you will be interacting with on a very personal level for the next few years. By watching a training session and asking specific questions during your meetings, you can get a good feel for the 'adults' at the school. If you like the players that you spend time with, then you are already on your way to having a good college experience. If the Official Visit does not allow you to spend quality time with the younger players, this should be a concern.
The Official Visit lasts for 48 hours - you can be physically on the campus for that long. Maximize your two days by applying some or all of the ten items listed above!!!
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