The college search for athletes has grown more complicated and increasingly competitive, especially during the past 10 years. There are countless components that require attention in developing and executing a successful plan of action, along with several key “players” who make-up the team that run the offense.
Parents can play a significant role in the recruiting process and in my opinion; they should make an active commitment to enthusiastically assist their children from start to finish in what will be a very important life decision.
What follows is my take on how parents can effectively participate in helping their kids confidently navigate a potentially daunting process, while avoiding red flags along the way.
The best starting point for any dream or goal is to firstly establish clear objectives and time-lines. Begin with the end game in mind and work backwards to the starting point of your plan. As you move backwards through the recruiting process, you will notice “checkpoints” along the way that you will eventually encounter. Whether it is the signing of the national letter of intent, the official visit, or the first phone call placed to the coach, you will begin to develop a checklist of “things to do.”
Parents have the opportunity to not only encourage their children to envision the process, but to take an active role in creating it. Half the battle in reaching any goal is to understand the mission and create an educational, yet fun approach! The more we encourage our kids to take an active role in controlling their destiny, the greater the chance that they will appreciate the level of confidence mom and dad has in them.
I am a big believer in the team approach to college recruiting and in developing a group of key members who each play a significant role in moving the process forward. Not only can this approach be effective, it will be welcomed by our kids. Student-athletes have a tremendous amount on their “personal plates” and developing a plan that spreads the recruiting assignments out will create a much happy camper!
Parents who have cultivated strong relationships with “typical” team members (guidance counselors, high school and club coach etc.) can begin to lay the groundwork to suggest specific roles that will be played out by each team member. Moms and dads can organize occasional team meetings at the house where the group can review regular progress in the college search and offer suggestions to keep the momentum moving forward.
College coaches will turn to high school and club coaches, guidance counselors and colleagues in an effort to gather information about the prospects they recruit, but they need to act as a resource for families as well. They want to be able to field questions from mom and dad, but when you break it down; college coaches want to see the prospect for who she truly is.
One of the best choices parents can make is to encourage their children to be an active and independent player in the college quest. It encourages proactive preparation, the development of communication skills and it fosters the courage to stand alone in a worthy attempt to take the leap of faith into the recruiting arena.
What might seem nearly impossible for some prospects in the beginning, will grow to a more confident approach with more practice and experience. Remember, college coaches are looking for 3 key ingredients in a prospect: Strong athletic ability, sound academic progress and a personal character that rises above the rest. Let’s give our kids the opportunity to stand alone and with confidence.
Communication with College Coaches
Personally, I encourage parents to play a very active role in communicating with the college coaches. The final college choice our kids make will be an important one and parents should be there every step of the way.
Certain areas of the college search immediately come to mind as “important” for parents to 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.
Equally important for parents to develop is the patience to “yield” in certain areas of the recruiting process, especially when our kids appear to be “stumbling.” Making mistakes, or feeling a level of uncertainty is commonplace for prospects as they navigate the nuances of recruiting, but when the dust settles, our kids will appreciate us more for allowing them to experience the “good struggle.” Remember, college coaches want to see our children “shine,” but they also want to see how they respond when their backs are in the corner.
There are several “red flags” that could go up in the minds of college coaches and below are just a few tips:
- In face to face interviews with college coaches where parents are present, 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 the prospect.
- E-mail is used more than any form of communication in recruiting and although we want our kids to express themselves “grammatically correct,” parents should encourage the final draft to come from the prospect and in their words.
- The “tough” questions should be timed appropriately. You do not want to go into the first meeting with a college coach asking for a scholarship for your son! Remember, this is about developing sincere relationships with the coaches: Plant; cultivate; grow.
The rule of thumb in avoiding red flags is simple. First, develop a positive relationship built on trust, honesty and respect and keep the door of communication clear and always open. Secondly, parents will serve their children best by maintaining their position on the field and allowing their children the opportunity to make the play in the recruiting effort.
Simply stated, we desperately want out children to succeed and make “right” and well thought out choices and the college search should be no different. Many of us though, can’t help ourselves from controlling situations, especially when it appears our kids are struggling. College coaches recruit families as much as they recruit prospects and the old adage is true: “The nut doesn’t fall too far from the tree!”
Parents can play an impactful role in college recruiting and the best gift we can offer our kids is the freedom to spread their wings and fly. Focus on everything that is positive and fun in the college search and even when it appears our kids seem doubtful and frustrated, have the faith in their resiliency to rebound and to advance the quest with confidence and self reliance.
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families in college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence” An educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com.