While watching football games this past weekend, I am sure you heard some of the players identified as “true freshman” or “red shirt freshman” and were thinking, “What in the world does that mean?” Here’s the difference the between the two….
True Freshman – A player participating in an athletic program during his first year of taking classes at a particular school.
Red-Shirt Freshman – A player who was not part of an athletic team during his first academic year at a particular school. More than likely, a red shirt freshman is a sophomore who practiced during his freshman year, but never played any games, at the request of the coach.
The reason for this is the NCAA only allows players 4 years of eligibility on a team. A player can stay in school for as many years as they want but can only play a sport for 4 of them.
So what is the strategy of a red shirt? If a player gets a “red-shirt”:
- They get to be around the team and practice and more time to learn the system.
- They also get to grow up physically and mentally an extra year which can be huge when you are talking about 18 year olds.
- The other strategy may be they have tremendous talent and potential but there is already one or two awesome players who play that position. This allows them not to waste a year of eligibility when they are on the bench….
Oh, and one more thing, no, they don’t really wear a red shirt during the season!