What Do College Coaches Think About Junior Commitments?

Contributor Rick Paine is an expert on the college recruiting process. He is also the Director of Swimming at American College Connection (ACC). AAC is a SwimSwam Partner. 

Editor’s Note: Approximately 31% of college coaches in charge of recruiting responded to the survey. Approximately 79% of the respondents were NCAA Division I coaches.

For years we have been reading about football, basketball, soccer, volleyball (etc. etc.) players committing early to a university. Swimming has finally jumped on the bandwagon as we are seeing more and more swimmers giving their verbal commitment to a coach and school during their junior year.

We recently surveyed the college coaches asking their opinion on several topics centered around early verbal commitments from high school juniors.

It appears that the college coaches aren’t in favor of junior year commitments, but the vast majority acknowledge that early commitments are the wave of the future. They may not like it, but they know that if they don’t “play the game” their competitors will.

We have had several of our swimmers give their verbal commitment during their junior year and so far it has worked out well for all of them. The key is for the swimmers and parents to understand the ramifications and to make sure they get answers to the questions they need to be asking.

Although a verbal commitment is not binding; we remind our swimmers that giving a verbal is giving your “word” and it should be honored. In 17 years with American College Connection we have only had one college coach go back on his verbal commitment.

Here are the results.

  • 83% of the coaches do not encourage a junior year commitment
  • 72% of them encourage a verbal commitment in their senior year before the early signing period.
  • 70% encourage juniors to attend Junior Day.
  • 83% encourage juniors to initiate a phone call

Here is the wording of the questions we asked:

  • Do you encourage a recruit to verbally commit in their junior year?
  • Do you encourage a recruit to verbally commit in their senior year before the early signing period?
  • Do you encourage high school juniors to attend Junior Day?
  • Do you encourage juniors to call you?

Here are some comments from the coaches.

  • “I think one year of harassment is plenty, but also don’t want to get left behind in the recruiting game. Verbals are only a benefit for the athletes and so I don’t get too excited by a verbal as many don’t end up going where they made a verbal commitment.”
  • “Trying to keep up with recruits wanting to commit earlier and earlier.  If I don’t also play the game, I’ll be left in the dust.”
  • ”I don’t like the idea of athletes committing earlier and earlier. It doesn’t give coaches the time needed to really get to know the prospect. ”
  • ”With the NCAA pushing for unified recruiting calendars across most sports, we are going to have to accept that this is going to become more common, if not the norm for a lot of high end prospects. The landscape is changing, and we, as college coaches, need to start planning and entertaining the idea of junior year commitments. ”
  • ”Not a huge fan of Junior Verbal commitment.  women’s lax had this issue and adjusted its rules accordingly.  lots of things can happen in 16-18 months and coaches and swimmers could get burned”
  • ”Recruiting is occurring earlier and earlier and we don’t want to be left behind. As much as I hate that it is happening during their Junior years, that seems to be the direction we are headed. ”
  • ”As a Division II coach I can contact juniors to start the process early, but do not try to push them into making a decision before they are ready. If I had a verbal commit from a HS Junior, I would be excited, but take it pretty lightly. ”
  • ”#1 hard to answer; we do not believe in pressuring high school juniors, but the landscape is shifting. We hope PSA’s will make unofficial visits so that they are better informed when faced with the pressures & opportunities of an “early” commitment”
  • ”it is what it is – we will adapt”

Finding out if you have what it takes to compete in swimming at the college level is easy, and many swimmers do have the potential considering all of the options.  Go to www.ACCrecruits and submit a Free Profile.

ACC Recruiting is a SwimSwam ad partner  Go here and learn more about ACC and their team of college swimming experts. 

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just an obvservation
6 years ago

By committing early, these kids are missing a BIG piece of attending a variety of official visits, which might be okay for some kids that have taken time to get to know the team with early unofficials? but on an official visit, you get a feel if you fit or not, if these are your kind of people or not, and like wise the team you…I feel that is what is missing with the early commits, you come in the fall with a new group of freshmen who will be with you for 3 years, the sophomores 2 years, the juniors 1 year and the seniors that you admire will be gone. I wonder if the cohesiveness of some teams… Read more »

Things to Consider
6 years ago

I think it is definitely best to wait to commit in the fall of your senior year. Something that people may not consider is the importance of getting along with the girls in the grade above you since those will be the ones you’re with the longest. If you take a trip in the spring before your senior year, yes you may get along with the girls/coaches but the youngest girls you’ll meet on that team are two years ahead of you. You haven’t even met the girls you’ll actually be around the most! And coaching changes are also a possibility, so why rush a verbal commitment when verbal commitments really don’t even solidify your spot. Nothing is 100% until… Read more »

Ken G
6 years ago

Nice article to get the coaches perspective. But how about the perspective of the swimmer and why they like committing early. As a father of a swimmer that verbally committed early, it made more sense to her to do it in the spring than waiting until the fall. For background, she made 8 unofficial visits from the summer after her sophomore year through spring break her junior year. During these visit she did the admissions tours along with contacting coaches and touring with them. Usually she was able to eat with some of the team or hang out with some of the swimmers for awhile in the dorm. After each visit she would discuss the pros and cons of each… Read more »

6 years ago

A GREAT article which offered coaches the opportunity to express what they really feel. I am also aware that many Head Coaches would prefer to coach Men or Women ONLY. Many believe separate programs offer athletes and coaches more opportunities for excellence than are found by combining programs. Texas, Cal and Stanford, to mention a few, are to be commended in their support of athletes and coaches. If I were a HS Junior making a verbal commitment, I definitely would consider this point. It is merely a matter of time when these great institutions will sell out to shuffling swimming further down the road. One does not see combined D1 Basketball teams as a point to prioritizing the benefits to… Read more »

6 years ago

I believe this will increase the likelihood of transfers. Not only from the PSA’s standpoint, but also the coach / team. As one coach cited, it makes it difficult to get to know the PSA and evaluate how / if that PSA is a good fit for the team. Too many PSA’s choose a school without evaluating that. They focus (sadly) on how much scholarship or other factors that IMO should not be valued as highly as say, coaching fit, academic fit, etc.

Rick Paine
Reply to  Recruiting
6 years ago

You make a great point and I agree with you. There will be more transfers. Just think how much a young person changes during the ages of 16-18. They are not the same person when they get to college as they were when they committed a year a half before.
The college coaches and compliance directors will be dealing with quite a few more transfers which includes releases and permission to contact letters.

Reply to  Recruiting
6 years ago

I agree. Look at football. So many athletes commit at the beginning of their junior year, and they have an extremely high rate of transfers. There is just so much growth in an athlete in two years and so many factors that can change.

Joel Lin
6 years ago

I’d weigh in with this: if a kid & family want to pick a college late in the spring of junior year, fine. From the perspective of an NCAA swim coach, really all you miss is the summer as a rising senior in terms of a swimming evaluation & a fall semester of grades on the academic evaluation side.

This gets tricky if swimming goes down the toilet like girls/boys soccer, field hockey & lacrosse. In lacrosse you had 8th graders verbally committing to colleges this year (Not a typo.) in that sport, the NCAA made an extraordinary single sport rule to prohibit lacrosse recruiting until Sept 1st of HS junior year. Things got so bad it was needed to… Read more »

Reply to  Joel Lin
6 years ago

Swimming is the same in regards to the September 1st deadline, as is true in the majority of collegiate sports.

Rick Paine
Reply to  Joel Lin
6 years ago

I agree with you, but this seems to be the way of the future. One of the first areas that the kids need protection from is texting from the college coaches. There are very few coaches who text kids during school now, but I can see that it might become a problem. We have to make sure the kids are allowed to maintain their perspective on academics, career, swimming then recruiting.

One of the good things about the recruiting process is that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It doesn’t last forever and once it’s over you never have to experience it again. If parents and kids had more knowledge about how it works it could be a… Read more »

Reply to  Joel Lin
6 years ago

That last year is very important in my own personal opinion and experience. In my senior year, I went from sectionals cuts to summer juniors in a matter of months. Grew a few inches, gained 25lbs. I ended up getting rejected by school after school because their rosters were full due to early signings, and many of them openly told me they regretted not talking to me more. I know this isn’t always the case, but it does happen. Signing too early can be a dangerous game.