How to Get Recruited Guide
what is a redshirt

What is a Redshirt?

What is a Redshirt?

We hear the term all the time. Watching college football on Saturdays, you often hear the broadcasters talk about redshirt players. What do they mean? And is college football the only sport with redshirts?

To redshirt means to sit out of competition a year. During the redshirt year, athletes are able to practice, but not compete. If your teen enters a competition for even one second, their redshirt status disappears.

Athletes must also be academically eligible to compete but choose not to for other reasons.

There’s a 10-semester athletic clock

When your athlete enters college and begins practicing with a team, their athletic clock begins to tick. From that point, your teen has four years of eligibility, total, in which they can actually compete. They have 10 semesters (five years) to complete these four years of eligibility.

At small colleges, it is uncommon to receive a ‘freshmen redshirt’. The bigger and better the program, the more likely it is that there will be athletes on the team who redshirt as freshmen. If a coach decides to redshirt your teen, they practice with the team like everyone else but are not allowed to take part in any competitions.

What is a Medical Redshirt?

If a player sustains a season-ending injury they will redshirt. When this occurs, the athlete may apply to the NCAA or NAIA for a ‘medical redshirt’.  The NCAA calls this a “Hardship Waiver.” If granted, the athlete rehabs and possibly begins practicing with the team, but may not enter into any competitions during that year.

Injuries that occur in the first half of the season may allow an athlete to redshirt for that year. If this happens to your teen, the athletic trainer at the college will walk your teen through the process of applying for a medical redshirt.

A medical redshirt is different than a regular redshirt. Athletes injured in the first half of the season who competed in less than thirty percent of the games may apply for a waiver. They don’t lose a year of eligibility.

What happens if you play in a game?

“If you play in even one second of a game as a college student-athlete, you are not a redshirt. Redshirting does not exist in Division III because if you play or practice after your first opportunity to compete, you are charged with a season of participation.”

Being a College Redshirt and the athletic clock

A redshirt extends an athlete’s years to compete by one. Remember, the ten-semester clock begins when your teen enters college and goes out for the first day of practice. After ten semesters, if an athlete has only played two years, that is all they get. There are no exceptions.

How many Redshirt years can you have?

Just one. If the coach decides to redshirt an athlete their freshmen year that is all they get. If that athlete is injured before their junior year and misses the season, they are not eligible for a medical redshirt. They have already used up the redshirt year.

Does this affect graduation?

No. It has nothing to do with academics. An athlete must be enrolled at the university to compete in sports. Many athletes extend their undergrad work to five years and take a lighter course load each semester. That extends the graduation date.

However, it is possible to graduate in four years then enroll in a master’s program at the same university. 

Are there benefits to taking a year off?

  • It gives players an additional year to develop as an athlete without losing one of the four seasons of eligibility.
  • Athletes can adapt to college life and focus on academics without the added pressure of games. It wasn’t long ago that freshmen never played in games. Have you seen the movie We Are Marshall? After the plane crash that killed 37 players and 8 coaches, Marshall had to petition the NCAA to let freshmen play the following year so the university could field a team.
  • An extra year of maturity will allow players to get stronger and smarter on the field or court.

Next, take a look at Coach Clark Maps Out Differences Between Division 1, 2, and NAIA.

Are you the parent of a high school athlete who feels overwhelmed by the recruiting process? The How to Get Recruited Guide gives you the knowledge and confidence you need to help your teen become a college athlete.


P.S. Come join our Facebook group, The Recruiting Code. This is the place to be for parents and coaches to talk about college recruiting. Come learn from each other, share stories, and get information that will help your teen become a college athlete.