A very common question I get in recruiting process is, “Can I walk-on at a school that isn’t recruiting me?” I even hear club and high school coaches telling their student-athletes that they should consider walking-on at a DI program versus going to a DII or DIII program.
Many prospects tell me they want to go to a certain college. A prospect has their heart on a particular college or university. They aren’t being recruited there, but they have heard they could still possibly walk-on and be a part of the team. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work this way anymore. This was sensationalized largely in part to the movie “Rudy” where a small football player had a dream of playing for Notre Dame and eventually makes the team as a walk-on. Except maybe in rare circumstances, this doesn’t happen anymore. Today, even a walk-on is usually a recruited player that just doesn’t get athletic scholarship money. Otherwise, they are treated the same as every player on the team. Because of the limit of scholarships available to college soccer programs, many recruited prospects are technically non-scholarship walk-ons.
There are 2 types of walk-ons. A preferred walk-on is a recruited student athlete that is not currently on an athletic scholarship. Besides this one detail, they are treated the same as every player on the team. A regular walk-on would attend a tryout at a school they already attend. These tryouts aren’t very common anymore. Most teams recruit all of their players and don’t have tryouts for walk-ons. Every college, program and coach has protocols here. Even in the case of Division III programs, where there are no athletic scholarships, they do not typically host tryouts. Most of the time, the entire roster has been recruited in some way or another.
It is very rare for a player to make a team through an open tryout. However, there are cases where this can happen for a player. A lot of times it happens at a school that has a sudden roster challenge. Injuries and depth at a particular position has a coach looking for someone that is already on campus to fill a void and some coaches still look for the hidden gems through open campus tryouts. But for most programs, trying out for a team just doesn’t happen anymore.
If a prospect has their heart set on a particular college and still wants to play soccer, it does not hurt to ask the coach at that school if there is a tryout protocol for walk-ons. It’s worth finding out if they have a process and if so, what that might be.
Additionally, I encourage those that find this type of situation to see if the school they plan to attend has a club team and what the process is for joining the club soccer program at their college. A club soccer program at the college level typically refers to a non-varsity or non-scholarship soccer team that operates within a college or university. These programs are often student-led and organized, with players participating on a voluntary basis.
Through Top Student Athlete Recruiting, I work with prospects to help find colleges that meet their priorities, academically, athletically, socially and financially, as well as those programs that are at the appropriate level of play. I often have to present the realities that playing at a particular college is not a possibility. This is hard at times and not a fun conversation, but it also allows us to focus our search and achieve results. My goal is to help each prospect I work with have multiple options of schools that are recruiting them, sometimes as a preferred walk-on, so in the end they can decide. It is almost impossible to go play at your dream school if they aren’t recruiting you. The competitiveness for roster spots across all divisions is very challenging.