How to make a college varsity team as a walk on

How to make a college varsity team as a walk on

Wondering how to make a college varsity team as a walk on? Guts, glory and determination are only the beginning

Photo by CC user TreveX on Wikimedia Commons

If your child is a high school athlete with above average (but not elite-level) talent, your teenager might have a desire to play varsity sports in college.

While this may seem like an impossibility if you are going to a popular Division I school, making the roster of their teams is a realistic possibility. In this article, we will explain why this quest is within the realm of the possible…

Know that most teams are built from walk-ons

You might think that NCAA teams are built exclusively from the ranks of the absolute best from high schools across America, Canada and the world. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as the majority of lineups in even Division I schools are made from students that aren’t on a full or partial ride scholarship.

The average college football roster can be as large as 130 players when you count those that are on the practice squad.

Even if a stacked team has 85 of its players locked up with scholarships, that means that there are 50 spots available for hard-working players (like yourself) to compete for.

For example, Mack Prioleau, strolled onto the field at Vanderbilt as an unknown in fall 2013, gave it his all, and ended up on the roster of one of the better-known squads in college football. With some ambition and a bit of luck, you can do the same.


Given the grueling expectations placed on the shoulders of those trying out, many wilt under the pressure. Others that manage to make the practice squad get dispirited by not being able to crack the starting lineup (more on that in the next section), and quit because they realize that their ambitions of achieving fortune and fame through sport won’t be realized.

Anything that is worth doing isn’t going to be easy, so bring your best when you are trying to make the team. If you only make the practice squad, approach each training session with the goal of surpassing your previous best effort.

Through this mindset, you’ll get on the team, and with a spirited effort in practice, you’ll likely be one of the first players that will be tapped when a slot needs to be filled due to injury.

Do it for the right reasons

When some athletes try out for a division I team, they do so with stars in their eyes. They aren’t doing it so much for the love of the game, but out of a desire to appear on TV.

As a walk-on, the odds are against you when it comes to making the starting lineup, so your main motivation should revolve around your love for the game and the camaraderie that a sports team provides its members.

Contact the coaching staff before tryouts

While it is still possible to make a Division I roster as a pure walk-on like Mack Prioleau, your cause will be helped tremendously if you make it known to the coaching staff of your school that you be attending tryouts in the fall.

This way, they will be able to research your exploits in high school, making it easier for them find a spot for you in the lineup that will aid the team.

Train hard in the off-season

You’re going to be up against dozens of other players gunning for the same position that you are after. Treat your local gym like your place of worship during the summer, and arrive at training camp in the best shape of your life.

Leave it all on the field/court/ice

For many athletes, college will be the end of the line as far as competitive sports go. Whatever you have inside of you, let it all out when you are trying out for the team. You only live once, so you might as well make this shot count.