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Case Study: We're talking about Practice!

In the iconic words of Allen Iverson, today we are going to talk about practice, not a game, not a game, but practice! Every one of our student-athletes has gotten where they are today by practicing and obviously our coaches value this time as much as anything. We receive calls and emails all the time in which coaches are confused about who can and cannot practice with their teams. Today we are going to give you four case study scenarios that illustrate questions we have received about practice. As always we are first going to direct you to some past articles written on similar topics.

  • First, this article from 2015 poses several frequently asked questions related to what a practice actually is. The article also juxtaposes practices versus open gyms and voluntary workouts.
  • The second article was written a few summers ago but gives a nice brief overview of when student athletes can practice and when the NAIA regulates practice. This article outlines

Case Studies

*Assume all schools are NAIA institutions unless otherwise noted.

Scenario 1:

Piper currently goes to Liston University and plays soccer. She competed for Liston in the fall of 2017 but now wants to transfer to Duer College for the fall of 2018. During the summer of 2018, Piper decides to take an online class at Liston University and she also enrolls in 12 hours for the fall of 2018 at Duer College. Her online class does not end until after the fall semester begins. Can she practice for Duer during this overlap?

Answer 1:

Yes! Piper would meet the definition of identification at Duer and thus would no longer be considered a prospective student. Article V, Section B, Item 15, defines a prospective student, in relevant part, as someone who was previously identified at with another institution and they remain a prospective student athlete until they identify with their new school. Here, although Piper was still taking a class from her previous school, she identified with Duer which allows her to compete and practice.

Scenario 2:

Herc played for one year on the Prairie Home College (PHC) men’s basketball team in 1998 before he joined the Army. After retiring from the Army, Herc enrolls in PHC part time in the spring of 2018. The head coach sees Herc in the rec making shot after shot. Intrigued, the Coach asks Herc to join the basketball team for the 2018-2019 season but he would like for Herc to practice with the team for the remainder of the spring. Can Herc practice?

Answer 2:

Yes! Herc would be able to practice because he was previously identified with PHC and thus is no longer considered a prospective student. Remember, since Herc competed for PHC he met the definition of identification and did not identify anywhere else. Therefore, he does not meet the definition of prospective student.

Scenario 3:

Coach Shaw is an NAIA women’s basketball coach and wants to bring in a rec league team made up of fraternity brothers to practice against her women’s team. Shaw’s team is getting ready to play a very tall team and she wants her team to try to get acclimated by playing bigger players. All of the fraternity brothers are full time students on campus. Is this allowed?

Answer 3:

Yes! From the NAIA’s perspective this is fine as long as the brothers are identified with the institution. However, you might want to check with your institution’s policy on non-athlete’s participation with athletic teams as there are schools that forbid this practice for safety reasons.

Scenario 4:

Faye is a golfer who graduated from high school in the spring of 2017 and is considering going to Holmes College in the fall. Holmes College fall term doesn’t start until September 1. The golf coach has invited Faye to come practice with the golf team starting on August 1, 2017, in an effort to see if it is a good fit. Faye practices with the team for two weeks and decides not to enroll in classes at Holmes College. Was this legal?

Answer 4:

Yes! We know that Faye meets the definition of prospective student because she has never identified at any institution, thus she generally would not be able to practice with any NAIA institution (unless it is within the two days designated as a tryout). However, the second exception to Article V, Section, B, Item 15, states that a prospective student can practice before a schools term starts as long as the practice is during the 24-week season. In this specific scenario, if the women’s golf team chooses to start their 24-week season by practicing after August 1, Faye can practice with the team up to the start of the academic term on September 1.

Applicable Bylaws:

The bylaws/policies that mention or discuss today's topic are listed below. Please note that there are could be more bylaws relevant to specific situations, but they are not listed here. Please refer to our Official Handbook for a complete listing of all NAIA Bylaws and Policies.

Article I, Section F, Item 5

Each sport shall have a maximum 24-week practice and competition season established by each member institution. Frequency of play, practice and scheduling policies shall be applied only during the period of August 1 to May 15. Frequency of play, practice, and scheduling outside of this period is governed by each member institution and will not be regulated by the NAIA.


There shall be no more than three break periods during the 24 weeks. NAIA-approved postseason participation shall not be counted as part of the 24-week period. A week is defined as Monday (12:00 a.m.) through Sunday (11:59 p.m.). Any practice or competition during this period shall constitute one of the 24 weeks permitted.

Article I, Section F, Item 6

Practice will be defined as follows: An activity organized and/or directed by an identified member of the coaching staff of that sport in which appropriate equipment is used or instruction and/or evaluation of the athlete takes place.

Article V, Section B, Item 15

Prospective Student: An individual who has never identified or whose previous collegiate identification was with another collegiate institution. The individual remains a prospective student until the student identifies with an institution in accordance with Article V, Section B, Item 8.
Prospective students are not permitted to practice or compete with an institution’s team.


EXCEPTION 1: A prospective student may practice and compete with an institution’s team during the summer (May 16th-July 31st) if the student is a high school graduate (or the equivalent) and not identified with any other institution of higher learning, and:
1) Enrolled in a full-time class load, as defined by the institution, for the applicable summer term, or
2) Enrolled in at least 12 institutional credit hours for the immediately subsequent fall term.
Such practice activities and competitions are not considered to be a tryout.


EXCEPTION 2: A prospective student, who is a high school graduate (or the equivalent) and not identified with any other institution of higher learning, may practice with an institution’s team(s) prior to the start of the institution’s academic term, or between regular academic terms, if the practice activity occurs during the team’s 24-week season. Such practice activities are not considered to be a tryout.

Please tune in at noon central time on Tuesday, as Lendsey Thomson and Jared Shafer will dive into these scenarios even further.

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