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. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason 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.
In a recent Telegram & Gazette survey that included 369 head coaches from the central Massachusetts region, 40.2 percent of participants admitted that they have been verbally threatened by a parent, and another 8.7 percent said they have been threatened physically.
These days, parents are becoming increasingly stressed about their kids’ playing time, especially when they’re spending thousands of dollars on AAU and travel teams, in addition to the seemingly countless hours they spend supporting their young athlete.
Parents naturally just want to do everything they can to help their student-athlete. However, when conflict presents itself, it’s important to let cooler heads prevail for a variety of reasons—the most important being that it will benefit your athlete in the long run. Here are some other reasons why harassing the coach is not a smart move.
It promotes poor conduct and sportsmanship habits
As far as role models go, it’s tough to top parents and coaches in importance. High school sports aren’t just about winning; they teach work habits, teamwork, and communication. If a parent shows that it’s okay to argue with the coach, complain about playing time, sulk on the sidelines, etc., those are bad habits that can get picked up by athletes and serve as huge red flags for college coaches. When college coaches search for recruits, they’re looking for complete student-athletes who can not only compete and study hard, but also set a good example and gel with the team culture. Even if an athlete shows tremendous talent, no college coach wants to deal with a nuisance who can affect the locker room, cost the team games, and even risk the coach’s job security.
Maintaining a good attitude and a level head is important, especially when it comes to recruiting. Parents need to set the tone and lead by example.
Read more: Yes, college coaches do evaluate parents
It can set unrealistic expectations
No one likes to be disappointed, but oftentimes it is parents who are last to realize that their child is not a star athlete. Even if they were completely objective in their analysis, parents don’t attend every game and team practice. Coaches do, and it’s their job to develop athletes and win games. They’re the ones who see what kind of effort players put in on a daily basis, and not just on game day. When parents argue about their kids’ playing time, it can set unrealistic expectations for athletes that perhaps don’t deserve more playing time, in effect setting them up for disappointment. Tough as it may be, parents do have to relinquish a high level of trust to coaches, who are in the best position to make smart decisions about their team.
It can hurt athletes’ recruiting chances
Simply put, the coach is can be an athlete’s best lifeline when it comes to college recruiting. Players can’t talk to college coaches year-round, but high school coaches can, and they can also set up calls between college coaches and athletes. Also, some high school coaches have been coaching for decades, and during that time they’ve developed personal relationships with college coaches who they can make personal introductions to. That’s a huge advantage for athletes. Parents who jeopardize their relationship with coaches put their kids in an awkward situation, especially if coaches decide not to offer their kids help in the recruitment process.
It can drive coaches to quit
Admittedly this is not a common scenario, but it does happen. Consider the typical coach’s schedule: they probably work full-time at the school, coach after school, grade papers in their free time, and may also have a family. That is a full plate and coaching generally isn’t a big salary boost. Coaches are becoming increasingly stressed out as a result of parents’ behavior, and it can result in them quitting, which can then result in the team being led by an inexperienced coach (or having no coach). In this scenario, the whole team suffers, and it’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.
Remember, your coach can be one of your child’s best advocates when it comes to college recruiting. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try to work with the other parents make sure you create a respectful environment by letting the coaches coach and giving them the support they need to do their jobs well.