Parents can play a significant and active role in the recruiting process that in my opinion, should be supportive, enthusiastic but “indirect”, especially when it comes to communicating with college coaches.
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 establish clear goals, objectives and time-lines. Begin with the end game in mind and work backwards to the starting point of your plan. Identify tangible college goals and work backwards. You will notice “checkpoints” along the way that you will eventually re-encounter as you navigate the college quest from the beginning. 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 help their children to envision the process and 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 parents encourage their children to take an active role in controlling their destiny and executing the plan, the greater the chance they have in reaching their goals.
I am a big believer in the team approach to college recruiting and developing a group of key players who offer significant strength in specific areas of the process. Not only can the team approach be effective, it will most likely be embraced by student-athletes considering this approach spreads recruiting assignments out to the area experts.
Parents who have identified and cultivated strong relationships with “typical” team members (college advisor, high school and/or club coach etc.) can begin to lay the groundwork to offer 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 he or 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 drives proactive preparation, the development of communication skills and fosters the courage to step up in a dedicated attempt to own the recruiting process.
What might seem nearly impossible for some prospects in the beginning, will grow to a more confident approach with practice and experience. Remember, college coaches are looking for 3 key ingredients in a prospect: Strong students, impact athletes and a personal character that demonstrates self-confidence and leadership. We owe our children the opportunity to control their playing field.
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.
Although it is critical for prospects to assume direct responsibility for the majority of communication with college coaches, there are areas of the college search, where parents “have 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.
Moms and Dads should develop the patience to “yield” in certain areas of the recruiting process, especially when our kids appear to “stumble.” As excruciating it is to watch our kids struggle or see them at a loss for words remember that college coaches are not looking at the stumble as much as they are looking for the recovery. We need to have faith in our kids to re-group and move back to center. Prospects will appreciate parents more for allowing them to experience the “good struggle.”
There are several “parental red flags” that could go up in the minds of college coaches and below are just a few tips for moms and dads:
- 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.
- When e-mail is used as the primary communication vehicle, parents should review grammar and sentence structure before the final drafts are sent.
- 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! Remember, this is about developing sincere relationships with the coaches: Plant; cultivate; grow…Slow and steady wins the race
As parents, we desperately want out children to succeed and make 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 children seem doubtful and frustrated, have the faith in their resiliency to rebound and advance the quest with confidence and self-reliance.
About Tom Kovic:
Tom Kovic is a former Division I college gymnastics coach (Penn) and the current director of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. Tom is the author of “Reaching for Excellence”, an educational guide for college athletics recruiting. For further information visit: www.victoryrecruiting.com
Editor's Note: Publication of this article is not an endorsement of any recruiting service. Always check with the NCAA or your school's compliance officer for any questions regarding recruiting rules, the latest timelines, or other issues.