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. Kyle Winters was a standout high school pitcher who tossed seven scoreless innings in a major tournament during his senior year. That performance against some heavy-hitting future MLB draft picks helped Kyle earn a full-ride scholarship to the University of New Mexico. However, Kyle opted to play professional baseball and was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the fifth round and played seven seasons for various minor league teams. Kyle 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.
Maybe you never played organized sports, or maybe the sport gene just skipped a generation. Or it could be your childhood was spent on a baseball diamond and not a soccer “patch” or “pitch” or whatever. Or, to be completely honest, you’re just not that into sports. But now, as your sporty offspring competes in high school and dreams of doing the same in college, you may be feeling a little more anxious and suddenly unprepared for what lies ahead.
After all, other sports-minded parents seem to be way more into it and way ahead of the game. They know every nuance of the sport and have the terminology down pat. They bought the right kind of cleats the first time. They even help the coach! They have summer sports camps already lined up, and they are even on a first-name basis with some college coaches.
The very real benefits of being a non-sport parent
The good news is you can relax. Consider for a minute a recent Syracuse.com survey showed that 58 perfect of high school coaches have considered quitting because of parents and a hefty 82 percent said dealing with parents has gotten worse. As a non-sport parent, you’ve more than likely managed to stay on the coach’s good side. And that’s a huge plus as we’ll soon see when it comes to recruiting.
More importantly, you’ve probably established a healthy independence when it comes to playing sports.
You’ve let it be their “thing” not yours, and although you support them you haven’t let it dominate your lives. You haven’t been the loudest parent at the game and car rides home have focused more on where to stop to eat rather than extended game critiques and “coaching sessions”–all of which has made the sport more enjoyable for your child.
With college on the horizon it’s true, you may need to step up your game a bit, but keep in mind the bulk of the recruiting effort should remain with your student-athlete. Here’s what you can do as a non-sport parent to help the process.
Recruiting begins with research
Virtually all parents, unless they’ve already gone through the process with an older child, just don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, you’ve come to one of the best places to start learning more about the recruiting process. For example, previous blog posts here offer a wealth of good advice on everything from ‘How to get recruited if you’re from a small high school‘ to ‘Do you have to play club sports to get recruited?’
There are also many sport-specific websites that offer a good introduction to the recruiting process. As far as searching the right colleges, you may want to check out NCSA College Power Rankings that offer a unique perspective on how schools measure up from both an academic and athletic standpoint. Other great sites you will want to explore include I Love to Watch You Play and the Positive Coaching Alliance.
Research is not the sole responsibility of the parents. Any student-athlete who wants to be recruited must be actively involved in learning more, researching schools and programs and NCAA requirements, etc. College coaches recognize and respect athletes who are taking charge of their own recruiting efforts.
Get an assist from your high school coach and counselor
There are two very important people every non-sport parent needs to connect with: the high school coach and guidance counselor. Both can provide invaluable advice, information, and assistance when it comes to college recruiting. The coach can offer an unbiased assessment of your child’s talent and ability. From this, they can help you determine what is realistic as far as what division level would be the best fit for your athlete. Coaches can also recommend what camps to attend, provide game film to create a highlight video, And the can write letters of recommendation, and even reach out to college coaches in their network on behalf of your child.
High school counselors can make sure your athlete is taking all the courses necessary to meet the NCAA eligibility requirements. They can keep you informed on ACT and SAT test dates and provide the necessary official transcript colleges require. And, of course, they can help with determining what schools could offer the best athletic and academic fit.
Find the good sports parents
Despite coach surveys to the contrary, there are good sports parents out there. Once you attend a few games you will find they are fairly easy to spot. They are the ones setting a good example for their children by supporting the team and the coach. They will offer to carpool and let you know where to get the best prices on equipment. They offer smart advice not criticism. They are enjoying the moment as much as their kids enjoy their sport. Best of all, you are going to find they are pretty good at answering questions without judging.
While being a former athlete, knowing every rule and every statistic may help in some ways with your child’s college recruiting journey they are certainly not mandatory. A little research, some help from coaches, counselors, and other mom and dads will help level the playing field for those athletes with not so sporty parents.