If you’re fortunate enough to have recruiting options lined up where the post-graduation career opportunities are terrific and where the head coach is a good person who will likely be there all 4 years of your career, it’s time to address another important piece of the recruiting puzzle, and that’s playing time.
A good rule of thumb is to choose a school where you are likely to play early and play often, because a school’s conference affiliation and alums in the professional ranks and gorgeousness of athletics facilities may look and sound great during the recruiting process, but spending your entire freshman year on the bench will sour your perceptions and your attitude in a hurry.
Of course, determining your likelihood to play early and play often is tricky business. You can’t rely on the word of the college recruiters, because their job is persuasion, not truth telling. Sometimes, there’s a great deal of overlap between salesmanship and honesty, but you’d be a complete fool to think that’s always the case.
Obviously, you can’t rely on your own evaluation of yourself, because you’re not qualified as an experienced judge of talent and you’re certainly not unbiased. The lack of professional qualifications and presence of bias also disqualify your parents from determining the likelihood that you’ll play early and/or often, and even high school coaches and club coaches often fall victim to emotion-based bias. So, with that being said, here are some good rules of thumb for determining the true likelihood of playing time as a freshman:
1. Do your research on who’s returning at your position(s). If one or more statistically productive people who play your same position(s) are returning, you should be wary of promises/insinuations that you’ll play early or at least “have a fair chance” to play early. This is especially true if the program is coming off a good year in terms of wins and losses. Coaches are (understandably) quite hesitant to fix what isn’t broken, and while any coach who’s recruiting you presumably believes in your talent and potential, trust can only be earned. Coaches won’t play kids they don’t trust, and it takes time for trust to build. So if there’s a trusted returner who’s been reliable and successful and the team has been winning, it is going to be very difficult for you to unseat that kid.
2. If you choose the “level” where the majority of your scholarships have been offered, your likelihood of playing early increases dramatically. To clarify, if you have 1 offer from a powerhouse program and 6 offers from non-powerhouse D1 schools, the free market is telling you (if you’ll listen) that your current talent level is best suited to the non-powerhouse D1 level. So, statistically, your odds are much, much higher to earn playing time as a freshman at a non-powerhouse D1 school.
Thanks very much for reading. We hope these comments are helpful.