USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
5 out of 5 psychologists believe that it is better for parents to be involved with their children than to not be involved. Actually, I made that statistic up, but I am pretty confident those stats are accurate. There is however, a line that parents should try not to cross in their children’s everyday lives and in their athletic careers. That line separates a parent from being a supportive role model or being known as a “Helicopter Parent”.
A Helicopter Parent is defined by Google as “a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.” To some extent, all parents have been Helicopter Parents at one time or another, but the problematic Helicopter Parent is easy to spot when their child is competing.
When it comes to athletics, Helicopter Parents try to justify why they are so involved in their child’s career. They think they know more than the coach, they make excuses when their athlete doesn’t succeed and they constantly scrutinize their athlete’s performance. Many times the athlete will look to the stands for their parents whether they succeed or fail. Since all parents have been there to some degree, it is very important to understand that being a full-fledged “Helicopter Parent” is not healthy for the child, their team, or for the parent.
Here are four ways parents can avoid being a Helicopter Parent during the recruiting process.
Leave the Evaluating to the Experts
Most parents believe they can be realistic about their kid’s abilities. This is simply not the case. Actually, the athlete probably has a better handle on how they stack up than the parent. Parents need to find an objective source to evaluate their child’s strengths and weaknesses and to give them honest feedback. If they don’t, then the college recruiting process is going to be frustrating and disappointing. This is probably the biggest disconnect in college recruiting. Parents and athletes need to realize that participating in intercollegiate sports, at any level, is an incredible accomplishment. NCAA Division I is not the only option.
Don’t criticize your athlete’s coach, teammates or the officials
Parents who constantly criticize their kid’s coach, teammates or officials are absolutely Helicopter Parents. This behavior teaches a young athlete to make excuses instead of making adjustments. Additionally, it can create a culture of tension and tense athletes typically don’t perform very well. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this behavior will most likely spill over into other areas of an athlete’s life. Here’s a good rule of thumb: It is fine to discuss strategy or game situations with your athlete, but keep the criticism to yourself.
This is not your career
Your child’s athletic success or lack of success has very little to do with you. If you believe otherwise, you are definitely a Helicopter Parent. Parents need to understand that not every baseball player can make the roster at Vanderbilt and the UConn women’s basketball program is only looking for a few players every year. The best thing a parent can do to help their athlete is provide an environment that allows their child to reach their full potential. That being said, your athlete’s “coachability”, respect towards others and how good of a teammate they become is a direct reflection on your parenting efforts.
Make a commitment to support
To avoid Helicopter Parent status, make a commitment to support your kid! That’s it. Don’t try to be your son or daughter’s coach. Don’t critique their every play. Don’t blame coaches or make excuses for undesirable outcomes. Just support. Tell them good game and be done with it. Support their efforts to become the best teammate, possible. This will go a long way toward creating a coachable, respectful, committed athlete. And that goes a long way with college coaches.