In the past 10 years, the college recruiting process has grown more complicated and competitive for high school athletes hoping to play at the next level. Parents can be a supportive and enthusiastic force in all this, without being overbearing.
Here are some tips to help your kids confidently navigate a potentially daunting process, while avoiding red flags along the way.
It's important for the athlete to have clear goals, objectives and timelines. Encourage your child to develop a checklist of important tasks such as calling the coach, visiting campus and signing the national letter of intent.
I am a big believer in the team approach to college recruiting. Parents who have identified and cultivated strong relationships with "typical" team members (college advisor, high school and/or club coach, etc.) can organize occasional team meetings to review regular progress in the college search and offer suggestions to keep the momentum going.
College coaches will field questions from Mom and Dad, but they want to get to know the athlete. One of the best choices parents can make is to encourage their children to be active and independent players in the recruiting process, so they develop communication skills and learn to think (and stand up) for themselves. Remember, college coaches are looking for three key ingredients in a prospect: Strong academics, impactful athletic ability and a personal character that demonstrates self-confidence and leadership.
Communicate with College Coaches
Although it is critical for prospects to assume direct responsibility for the majority of communication with college coaches, there are times during the process when parents must be actively involved. Whether it is negotiating financial aid, requesting a preliminary read in admissions or asking questions concerning on-campus safety, parents should not hesitate to respectfully inquire on behalf of their children.
That said, moms and dads should develop the patience to yield in certain areas of the recruiting process, even when their kids appear to stumble. As excruciating as it is to watch your kid struggle, college coaches are not looking at the stumble as much as they are looking for the recovery. Have faith in your kids to re-group and move back to center. Prospects appreciate parents more for allowing them to experience the "good struggle."
There are several "parental red flags" that could worry college coaches. Here are a few tips to avoid them:
- In face-to-face interviews with college coaches, avoid answering questions that are directed to your children.
- Avoid responding to phone and e-mail messages left by college coaches that are specifically directed to your child. However, when e-mail is the primary communication vehicle, it's OK to review your child's grammar and sentence structure before he or she sends the final draft.
- Time the tough questions appropriately. You do not want to go into the first meeting with a college coach asking for a scholarship.
Remember, this is about developing sincere relationships with the coaches: Plant, cultivate, grow.