USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Garland Cooper, was a three-time NFCA All-American (two-time first team) and Big Ten Player of the Year at Northwestern University. In 2012, Garland was inducted into the NU Hall of Fame having helped the Wildcats to a pair of Women’s College World Series appearances. She was also a first-round pick of the New England Riptide in the 2007 National Pro Fastpitch College Draft. Garland is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Parents of athletes are used to getting things done. When they have a question about their car, they call a mechanic. When they need a cake for their child’s birthday, they call a bakery. This driven attitude tends to bleed over into how parents treat the recruiting process. If they have a question about a school, they call the coach. However, this straightforwardness may actually end up hurting their athlete’s prospects.
During a Positive Coaching Alliance panel, Stanford head men’s golf coach Conrad Ray expressed his views on who should be calling college coaches.
“The worst thing for [coaches] in our world is if we get a phone call and it’s the mom or dad of a high school freshman or sophomore telling me how good their kid is.” Coach Ray says. “If I had a piece of advice for parents, I would say, do what you can do to really empower your kid to be able to put themselves forward.”
You may be wondering what you can do if your student-athlete is immature or shy, and that’s a valid question. In this article, we’ve outlined a few key situations in which parents should avoid making the call—and how parents can prepare their athletes to step up.
Avoid: Calling coaches to ask questions about the team
This is a big one. If you want to know more about the training facilities, the schedule, the team dynamics or anything else, that call really needs to come from your athlete. Sit down with your student-athlete and go over your questions. You can even write down specific questions you want answered so they have more or less a script to use.
Insider tip: If you have an extremely shy student-athlete, role play their upcoming coach call. Have a parent or guardian, or even a friend if it’s easier to stand in for the coach, so your athlete can practice going through their questions. Make sure that you throw a couple questions the student’s way to help them prepare for a two-way conversation. The more they practice, the easier it will get!
Avoid: Calling coaches about the campus life or campus culture
If your athlete calls a coach to ask specific questions about the school, that is going to leave a much more positive impact on the coach than a parent calling on behalf of their student. Coaches want to hear from athletes who are engaged and interested in their school, and asking detailed questions shows athletes have a genuine interest.
Insider tip: Have your athlete start by talking to college coaches toward the bottom of their target list of schools. They can practice talking on the phone with coaches at schools they aren’t as interested in to get their nervousness in check before calling coaches at programs at the very top of their list.
Avoid: Calling coaches early in the recruiting process to talk about scholarships.
There is a time and a place for negotiating scholarships, but a parent calling the coach at the beginning of the recruiting process is not it. A great time to talk about financials? After your athlete has received an offer, recommends Taylor White, who has coached at Tyler Junior College and for the DI baseball program at Lamar University in Texas. Some coaches also welcome financial-based conversations during campus visits, but it’s important to have a good read on the coach before you bring it up.
Insider tip: Coach White points out that he expects conversations around financials and housing to be led by the parents—it’s their hard-earned money, after all! So, when the time is right, this is the moment that parents can jump in and be more in control of the conversation.
Avoid: Answering the phone for your student-athlete when a coach calls.
It may sound like a no-brainer, but if a coach is calling your son or daughter, the coach wants to talk to your athlete. Coaches need to get to know a recruit’s personality, and in the current digital recruiting landscape, phone calls are sometimes the only way for coaches to gauge a recruit’s personality.
Insider tip: Don’t hover when your child is on the phone with a coach–give them some space. Your presence can be distracting and make them more nervous. Try not to critique every call as soon as they hang up the phone. Instead, offer encouragement and ask them how it went. Go over any questions that may not have been answered so they can asked in a follow up call or email.
What if your athlete is just too shy to call coaches?
A lot of parents worry their athlete is just too shy or too modest—or not driven enough—to stay on top of calling coaches. As a parent, you know your athlete best. If it’s between never communicating with coaches and the parents calling, then you might need to do a little bit of the legwork to get the process moving. Do let your child know that the more calls they make the easier it gets.
However, at some point, the coach will need to talk to your athlete, and your child must be ready when that moment comes. Remind your athlete that coaches understand they are going to make mistakes—coaches don’t expect a perfect phone conversation from a teenager. Instead, they respect student-athletes who put in the effort and do their best.
Coach Ray explains, “I remember how deathly afraid I was to call or talk to any adult. I was just really afraid of that in high school even, and I respect how intimidating that can be for some kids.” But if you empower your athlete to talk to coaches now, your child will have those skills for the rest of their life.