Recruiting Column: 5 common mistakes parents make in recruiting process

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 is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting software identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting advisers provide a recruiting experience that is trusted by college coaches and backed by a money-back guarantee.

As far as I know, when a child is born, he or she doesn’t come with an instruction manual. There is no sure-fire, perfected method to raising children. Occasionally, it is trial and error and certainly some decisions are made with the best of intentions, but they just don’t work out. If your child is a competitive athlete who truly wants to play in college, as a parent there are even more decisions that have to be made. How much practice is too much practice? How much should you push your athlete? Which team should he/she be on? Throw all this on top of school, dating, peer pressure, etc. and being a high school athlete and being the parent of an athlete can be a challenge.

For the most part, it seems as though the kids deal with the recruiting process pretty well, but many times parents are another story. Given that fact, here are five common mistakes parents make in the college recruiting process. If you can avoid all five of these, your athlete’s recruiting journey will be less stressful.

1. Don’t try to run the show

5-out-of-5 college coaches believe that it’s better for parents to be involved in their children’s recruiting process than to not be involved. Actually, I made that statistic up, but I am pretty confident that stat is accurate. There is, however, a line that parents should try not to cross when it comes to college recruiting. That line separates a parent from being a supportive role model or becoming a “Helicopter Parent, Lawnmower Parent or Sports Agent Parent” (see our column from January 8, 2018).  Needless to say, these are not “terms of endearment” and they generally describe parents who try to run the recruiting show for their offspring.

A parent’s role in the recruiting process should be to support, encourage and provide guidance.  If a parent oversteps those boundaries it usually frustrates their kid and is definitely a turn off for college coaches. Arkansas baseball coach Nate Thompson may have said it best when he told us “Certainly, we want parents involved in the recruiting process. It’s their child and they’ve been a part of this whole thing from the get-go. But, here’s the deal: coaches want to deal with players, not parents. We’re recruiting your son to be a part of our program and we want to communicate with him.”

2. Don’t lose sight of the real goal

Unfortunately, many parents and athletes tend to get caught up in the excitement of college recruiting and overlook the fact that the reason to go to college is to get an education and prepare for life as an adult. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, the decision on which college to attend isn’t a four-year decision, it’s a forty-year decision. The chance of your athlete playing his or her sport professionally (and making a living) is slim, but the experience of college athletics and the life lessons learned will help when pursuing a career in medicine, engineering, law, education and many other fields as long as they also get their degree.

Here is a dose of reality on becoming a professional athlete. These are the percentages of high school seniors that will go on to play their sport professionally:

  • Football: 0.08%
  • Men’s Basketball: 0.03%
  • Women’s Basketball: 0.03%
  • Baseball: 0.50%

Looks like about 1 in 3,000. The message here is not to give up the dream, but just to make sure there’s a backup plan (college degree) in place.

3. Don’t spend the college fund trying to find a scholarship

In today’s society, many well-meaning parents spend thousands of dollars every year on select teams, skills coaches, camps, showcases and personal recruiters in an effort to find an athletic scholarship for their student-athlete. In my opinion, parents need to evaluate every dollar they spend on these items. Many of them are beneficial, but college recruiting doesn’t have to be expensive and it just doesn’t make sense to spend more money trying to find a scholarship than the scholarship is really worth. Here are some thoughts on the big dollar items parents tend to spend money on.

  • Select teams: Your athlete doesn’t have to be on THE BEST team. They need to be on a team where they have an opportunity to play, the coaching is good, and the schedule puts them in front of as many college coaches as possible.
  • Camps and showcase events: While select camps and showcase events can be helpful, you have to be strategic in deciding which ones to attend. Be sure the camps they will be attending will have coaches from schools your athlete is interested in pursuing.
  • Recruiting services: If you decide to use a recruiting service, make sure your investment will pay off. Spending thousands of dollars with a recruiting service doesn’t make sense unless the scholarship you might receive is significantly more than the cost of the service. My advice is to either do it yourself or find a service that delivers results at a reasonable price.

4. Don’t expect your athlete’s coach to do all the work

For the most part, high school coaches are paid to be full-time teachers or administrators, and they receive a small supplement for their added coaching responsibilities. Needless to say, they don’t have a lot of free time. That said, many coaches go out of their way to help promote and guide their athletes in the college recruiting process even though it’s really not their responsibility to find a scholarship for their players.

If your coach is willing to help by contacting a few college coaches, make it as easy for them as possible. You need to do the legwork. Give the coach a short list of realistic colleges, the contact information for the coaching staff and a resume of your academic and athletic accomplishments. This is the quickest, most effective way to get your coach involved.

5. Keep your opinions about teammates, coaches and the officials to yourself

We all know parents who constantly voice their opinions about teammates, coaches and the officials at every game. They typically sit on the first row and “coach” their athlete the entire game while complaining about every situation. Their athlete never makes a mistake and it’s always someone else’s fault.

This kind of behavior sets off warning signals to any college coach. They wonder if this parent is going to be a problem and if the athlete is really coachable. Coaching a college team is hard enough without adding another layer of issues into the mix. If you’re the parent of a high school athlete and you tend to exhibit this kind of behavior, you better be sure a college coach isn’t anywhere close to you in the stands… at every single game!

Here’s the deal

Parents can play a critical role in the college recruiting process. Just be sure to avoid these five mistakes. Again, a parent’s role is to support, encourage and provide guidance.

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