For High School Seniors, this time of year means planning official overnight visits to those select D3 colleges and universities on their lists. You can pack your overnight bag with your toothbrush, footy pajamas, teddy bear and your special blanket… but leave your soccer gear at home!
NCAA By Law 188.8.131.52 states that “It is impermissible for an athletics department coaching staff member to observe or conduct physical workouts or other recreational activities designed to test the athletic abilities of a prospective student-athlete.” What that means is that when you go on your official overnight visit (or any visit for that matter), you are not permitted to workout with a member of the coaching staff or the current soccer team with the specific purpose of having either one of those groups evaluate your talents or abilities as a player.
Basically, you can’t “tryout” for a D3 college team before you are a student at the school.
In order to tryout, you must be enrolled at that specific school, train all summer long (after high school graduation), then go to preseason practices and tryout to see if you will actually make the cut for the team. For some D3 schools that don’t make cuts, this may not be an issue for a player, because if you come out for the team, you will make the team. But for more competitive teams there may be a higher hill to climb.
Now it has been rumored that some D3 schools do not obey this bylaw and have either coaches or players run tryouts for prospective student-athletes when they visit campus. That is in fact in violation of NCAA rules.
However, many programs will host soccer camps at their institutions which is in fact permissible by NCAA rules. The caveat to these camps is that they have to be open to everyone, instructional in nature, and cannot financially reward specific student-athletes. These camps can serve similarly to a tryout as they give the coaching staff an opportunity to see you play against good competition. For the student-athlete, the benefit is that you get the chance to work with the coach, so you have the opportunity to find out his/her coaching style.
The bottom line is this— D3 soccer programs are not permitted to conduct tryouts for prospective student-athletes. Coaches can invite you to their instructional camps and they can watch you play your high school/club games, but can’t invite you to campus for the express purpose of a tryout. So leave your boots at home!
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