Committing to college athletics: the entire process in detail

For many, choosing a college involves searching for schools that will take them far in their academic aspirations; however, for some, athletic goals are what drive their choice of institution. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, 480,000 high school athletes continue to play varsity sports in college. Committing to a college can be a pivotal step towards fulfilling their aspirations in a sport, one that Edina High School athletes often take. 

One athlete, EHS junior Emma Frommelt, has recently committed to the United States Naval Academy to play soccer. “I think it means a lot to be able to play college soccer because obviously you work really hard to get to this point,” Frommelt said. “I’m excited, obviously, to go to college, but also to do something that I love while doing it.”

For high school athletes like Frommelt, the journey often starts with the initial contact between the athlete and the recruiter, which is often a college team’s scout or coach. “They reached out to my coach, and [my coach] forwarded it to me, and that was the first time that I called the assistant [coach]. At a different showcase a couple of months later, [their] head coach saw me play,” Frommelt said. They continued to talk throughout the season until the verbal commitment was made. 

Verbally committing to a college for a sport essentially means that the student-athlete and the coach have mutually agreed that the athlete will be joining the team when they attend the college. Verbal commitments often occur when an athlete isn’t eligible to officially sign their National Letter of Intent. The verbal commitment is non-binding for both the school and the athlete, unlike the National Letter of Intent, although it is rare for a school to go back on a verbal agreement. The verbal commitment may occur during a campus visit, a phone call, or a sporting event the recruiter is attending, and athletes commonly follow up on the conversation in written form to confirm the agreement.

The only way an athlete can officially commit to a school is when they sign the National Letter of Intent, which usually happens towards the end of their senior year. On the other hand, there are no restrictions on when an athlete can unofficially commit to a school, as long as the coach makes the offer. Since the NCAA does not officially keep a record of verbal agreements, there can be certain situations where a college may not follow through, occurring when there are coaching changes or an over-commitment of athletes. However, the National Letter of Intent guarantees that the athlete will attend the chosen school for one academic year and participate in their sport, which effectively concludes the recruitment process since other schools can no longer recruit or sign the athlete to their school.

For athletes, the choice to participate in collegiate athletics can take a lot of consideration. While athletes should be prepared to have to balance a busy schedule between sports and academics, schools often provide accommodations for the athletes to make the balancing act a bit easier. “The academic support at multiple colleges, not just the Naval Academy, is awesome for athletes. It helps you get through it, it helps you manage your time, it helps you communicate with teachers if you’re going to miss a class. It’s definitely going to be difficult at times to catch up if you miss something, but there’s a lot of help that you can access,” Frommelt said. The concept of committing to a school may seem exciting, stressful, or anything in between. “It’s scary being 16 years old and having to pick what you want to do with the rest of your life,” Frommelt said. An article from USA Today revealed that only six percent of high school athletes will play varsity sports in college, making it a rare opportunity. Choosing a college can be very stressful ordeal, potentially even more so when athletics is a factor in the decision. “It’s kind of nerve-racking, but at the end of the day, it has to come down to what you think is best for you. I would say that was the scariest part of it, but once you make the decision it feels really good,” Frommelt said.