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. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie 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.
Despite parents’ best intentions, they can unknowingly sabotage their own student’s recruiting. Parents who get too involved too soon can turn coaches away. While there are a few times when the floor is open for parents to ask their specific questions, the trick is in knowing when and what to ask. To better understand parents’ role in communicating with college coaches, I reached out to Coach Taylor White. Coach Taylor, who played DI baseball at the University of Houston, has coached at Tyler Junior College and for the DI baseball program at Lamar University in Texas.
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“I’m not recruiting the parent—I’m recruiting the student-athlete,” Coach Taylor says. “The second I feel the parent is overstepping their bounds, I start to raise a red flag, especially early on.” Coach Taylor explains. He lays out the timeline for when and how parents can communicate with coaches. Spoiler alert: Most of the communications need to come from the student.
Give the coach a chance to get to know your student-athlete at the beginning of the recruiting process
When a coach first starts recruiting an athlete, the coach needs to get a sense of the athlete’s personality and drive. The more involved parents get, the more it detracts from the student-athlete. Here are some better ways to get your questions answered at the beginning of the recruiting process.
Communicate through your student-athlete. Coach Taylor recommends that all communications—phone calls, emails and social media messages—come directly from the student-athlete. “If a parent has a legitimate question, I encourage them to go through their student-athlete as much as possible. Type out those questions you have and send them to your student. I definitely want to deal more with the athlete,” says Coach Taylor. Coach Taylor also mentions that a student-athlete has a much greater likelihood of receiving an answer from a coach, as they will be prioritized above a parent.
Let the coach approach you during a game. If you see a college coach in the stands at a game, this is not the time to strike up a conversation. In fact, it can be downright disruptive. “I want to be left alone,” Coach Taylor says. “If I want to talk to you, I’ll ask the coach to point out the parents for me and I’ll approach them.” Coach Taylor explains that, when coaches attend games, they are paying attention to the player’s communication and so much more. A distraction from a parent can mean that they miss something important.
Seriously considering a school? Ask your questions about logistics and financial aid.
As you and your student-athlete go on visits and receive offers from coaches, this is the time coaches expect parents to step in and ask questions related to logistics and financial aid. “As a junior college and DI coach, we are open and honest with parents. It’s typically their hard-earned money that they are shelling out,” Coach Taylor explains. Here’s when and how you should start asking coaches these questions.
During your official and unofficial visit, ask questions related academic or logistical concerns. Coach Taylor recommends taking this opportunity to address your concerns related to classes, dorm rooms, housing, meals, work out programs, study halls, tutors, etc. “If they are investing their time and taking a day off work, I want to make sure that they leave with any questions they have answered,” says Coach Taylor. “If this is where their student-athlete is going to be, they have the right to ask questions.” This, however, is not the right time to negotiate financial aid.
Once your athlete has received an offer, start asking your financial aid questions. Wait until a contract has been communicated to the student-athlete and the coach has expressed an offer before you start your financial aid conversations. Coach Taylor recommends you do your research about the school on your own—know what tuition costs and how much you can really afford. Then reach out to the coach to discuss financial aid. Your student-athlete should be involved in the conversation as well, even if the parents are the ones leading it.
While parents’ correspondence with coaches is limited, you can still make a very important impact during those conversations you do have with a coach. Coach Taylor shares what sticks out the most when meeting with parents: gratitude and gratefulness. “From a parent standpoint, be very gracious, because not every student and family has the opportunities your athlete does,” Coach Taylor says.