The Parent's Role in Recruiting
This is a topic that always has mixed reviews. There are a lot of voices out there of the opinion that the student should be taking the lead in this process, as it is their future. On the other side, there are parents who believe they should have a significant role as they may be financing this adventure, but also believe they know what is best for their child.
If I’m going to be honest, both positions are right.
I’m a firm believer that the athlete needs to have skin in the game, but after sitting in recruiting rooms with as many 16-18-year-old athletes as I have, you would begin to appreciate that many sometimes can’t say what they want for lunch, let alone what they want out of college. We all have teachers, mentors, and role models throughout life to help guide our decisions, not make them for us. In my experience, that is the ideal role of a parent in this process.
I’ve heard many parents state, “If I’m going to invest A LOT of money into something, I want to have a voice in the matter.” That is ok. Engaging in collaborative conversation is a great way to navigate as a collective family unit. Where things start getting hairy is when parents start “doing” tasks meant for the student. I don’t care how “busy” they are with school and sports, if they want this opportunity, they need to make time.
Create tasks, help guide them, hold them accountable, but ultimately let them thrive or fail as they need to and let them make the final decisions that result from such guidance.
Trust me, there is a happy medium. The parental role is not only extremely important, it's multifaceted. To be the most supportive of your child during this process you need to prepare to wear a lot of hats. Below are some of the roles you as a parent may have to play to best help your student-athlete.
You must become the gatherer of information. Being knowledgeable about the NCAA rules, the differences between divisions, the time demands, and potential college majors is your advantage to help lay the groundwork and help your student athlete truly understand the differences and what may be best for them.
You’ve done the hard work, now sit back and reap the rewards by supporting your athlete in a positive manner to be the best athlete and person they can be. Make sure their attitude and athleticism are both on the right track. All coaches want positive and supportive student parents. Coaches will quickly cross a recruit off the list if their family is a nightmare on the sideline or is too involved in the day-to-day.
We all know how the phrase “constructive criticism” usually is perceived, but this role is crucial here for both the parents and athletes alike. As the critic, you must be honest about the potential of the student-athlete. If your son is 5’4” and has only gotten about 15 minutes of playing time in his career, he’s not headed to Duke basketball on full scholarship. You must help keep your student athlete grounded, humble, and understand possible outcomes for them. Talk to your coaches and really hear where they think your child could potentially play. By verbalizing completely unrealistic expectations to your child you are only setting everyone up for failure.
Your child needs to take the lead in their recruitment, but that doesn’t mean you can’t aid in the process. For example, no matter how savvy the spell check is, having someone proofread emails, text messages, and athletic resumes is one of the most important roles. An email that has a mistake can cost your child (especially if they’re cut and pasting).
If your child is fortunate enough to earn an athletic scholarship, the probability of it being a full scholarship is low. That said, you will most likely have to really evaluate your finances before you commit to paying a large sum of money. Or similarly, if you are not going to help pay, you as a parent should be aiding your child in truly understanding the full burden of any financial amount they are considering taking on. The biggest tip I can give is if you can’t swing it financially…….SAY NO. You shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage for your child to “figure it out” while playing beer pong in a basement. Think about and discuss the long term; going to a school that still checks all or most of the boxes that won’t leave them in debt for the rest of their life.
This process has a lot of moving pieces to it and can easily become overwhelming to families. Overall, the best advice is for athletes and families to each set their goals for this process. Then, as a family, have those hard conversations (level of play, finances, etc.) in an honest and positive manner to collectively determine the best opportunity for your student-athlete.