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.
Parenting is a tough job. Parents of a high school athlete? Well, in many ways it can be tougher.
The daily grind of shuttling to practices, washing uniforms, watching grades, travel teams, expenses, equipment, injuries, fund raisers and finding colleges–and list the list goes on. All of it gladly done in support of sons and daughters pursuing the passion for the sport the play. However, with all that effort you’ll find stress is often a common but unwanted byproduct in the hectic household of a student-athlete. Here’s a few helpful tips for parent to deal with the stress of raising and supporting their student-athlete.
Try more music. Less phone. Less noise.
Don’t underestimate the power of a little more music in your day. Music can be a quick mood changer and stress reducer. Tune in when you first wake up, are fighting traffic to and from practice, or filling those pre-game moments of anxious anticipation. Everyone’s musical tastes are different but try creating a short playlist of the music that offers you calming a break from the daily noise and distraction. Try experimenting with different styles and genres. Country fans may really like to chill out to a little quiet classical and vice versa.
Stress can be contagious, avoid the “common carriers.”
Sometimes they are in the bleachers, sometimes they might be in a Facebook group. These are people who may not have the healthiest approach to high school sports and only seem to add to your stress. Often they’re focused on the negative–we need a better coach, training facilities, or officiating, etc. The grass is always greener no matter where they stand. Or, it could be the uber-competitive parent who doles out critiques on every child’s performance play after play, and never fails to mention their child’s latest achievements from test scores to their “just a freshman” with non-stop “serious interest” from D1 schools.
Take a minute to step back from the pack and assess. Then, surround yourself with only those who are truly helpful as sounding board, or sharing good advice, and generally have a better, healthier attitude toward playing sports.
Take a minute to breathe. Seriously, just breathe.
There is not a sport parent out there who hasn’t felt like 24-hours are just not enough. That often leads to running marathon days like they are sprint. And those can be as stressful as they are exhausting. According the non-profit American Institute of Stress (AIS) the easiest and most effective “Super Stress Busters” out there is breathing. The good news you don’t need to download another app or try to remember a password, just practice some of the helpful breathing tips provided by AIS here.
Treat sleep as a mandatory not as a luxury
Getting enough sleep is vital for growing athletes but also for their parents. The best way to get more shut eye is to start scheduling it back into your routine by adding it to your to-do list.
The benefits of even an extra hour of sleep every night far outweigh any menial tasks you may want to finish around the house. And to make sure you get a good night’s rest, spend the last hour before bed prepping for a stress-free morning. Make lunches, coordinate and confirm schedules, remind your athlete (and this is a tough one) to have everything they need ready to go for the next day. “I can’t find my cleats,” is not a great way to start the morning.
Don’t own all the responsibility
One of the greatest benefits of playing sports in high school is that it is a perfect opportunity for young adults to take on more responsibility and establish a little more independence. In fact, when it comes to recruiting, college coaches love to see student-athletes who demonstrate they can stand on their own two feet and are not so reliant on mom and dad.
So, let your son or daughter take ownership of the tasks associated with playing a sport. That means they are responsible for knowing their practice and game schedule and communicating any changes in a timely matter; keeping uniforms prepared and clean and knowing the whereabouts of their equipment; talking with their coach about more playing or getting highlight film; and so on.
The hardest part is letting them fail and deal the consequences of having to sit out a practice or game because they were not doing what they were supposed to do-but it’s an invaluable life lesson. You’ll often find letting your athlete shoulder more of the responsibility will to be a good test of whether they have a true passion and desire to play their sport in high school and beyond.
Get to know the college recruiting process
For some student-athletes it’s not size, grades, or talent level that keeps them from playing at the college level, it’s that they didn’t know enough about how the recruiting process works. There’s just a lot know. And while coaches and other parents may have some helpful advice, it’s important to remember that each recruiting journey is different. The more you understand about how recruiting works, the variety of opportunities that are available, and your child’s college goals, the easier it is to put a plan in place to make it happen. Knowing the goal, knowing what it takes to get there can takes away a lot of the fear and doubt and the stress that goes with it.