Recruiting Column: Five common mistakes parents should avoid in college recruiting

Recruiting Column: Five common mistakes parents should avoid in college recruiting

Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Five common mistakes parents should avoid in college recruiting

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 service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and their recruiting experts provide a recruiting experience that is backed by a money-back guarantee.

Every student-athlete’s recruiting journey is different. There is no sure-fire, iron-clad road map to a college scholarship. For most athletes (and their parents) there will be bumps in the road and unexpected turns. You may wonder why one coach is interested and others are not. As a parent it can be hard to watch from the sidelines and not try to help every step of the way.

If you’re a parent of a competitive athlete looking to play in college, there are many decisions that you need to be a part of. How much practice is too much practice? How much should you push your athlete? Which team should he/she be on? Should we hire a skills coach?

Once you throw all this on top of school, dating, peer pressure, etc., being a high school athlete or the parent of a high school athlete can be a challenge. Parents definitely need to be involved in their athlete’s college recruiting process, but not too involved. Given that fact, here are five common mistakes that parents of athletes should avoid.  By avoiding these mistakes, your athletes’ recruiting process will be easier, less stressful and much more successful. 

Don’t try to evaluate your athlete’s abilities

Many parents actually believe they can be objective about their children. I’m not objective about my kids and I don’t think I’ve ever met a parent who is. If you really believe you’re objective about your athlete, ask your kid if they agree. They probably have a better handle on how they stack up than you do.

The point is that parents need to find an objective source to evaluate their child’s strengths and weaknesses and give them honest feedback. If you don’t have an honest evaluation of your athlete’s talents, then the college recruiting process is going to be frustrating and disappointing. This is probably the biggest disconnect in college recruiting. Not every athlete can compete at the Division I level. 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 lose sight of the real goal

The most important reason to go to college is to get an education. Many parents and athletes tend to get caught up in the excitement of college recruiting and occasionally overlook this simple, undeniable fact. 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, but they have to get their degree first. The chance of any athlete playing professionally is slim.

Here is a dose of reality on becoming a professional athlete. These are the percentages of high school seniors who 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 athletes has a legitimate chance to play professionally. The message here is not to give up the dream, but just to make sure your son or daughter has an education as Plan B. 

Don’t spend the college fund trying to find your athlete a scholarship

In today’s world of competitive athletics, many well-meaning parents spend a small fortune helping their athlete pursue a college scholarship. Skills coaches, professional highlight videos, travel teams and elite showcase tournaments can all be extremely expensive. It seems like the college recruiting process has become synonymous with “show me the money!”

Parents need to evaluate every dollar they spend on college recruiting. Your athlete doesn’t have to be on the very best team. They need to be a on a competitive 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. Parents should also be strategic when selecting camps and showcases. Be sure the camps they will be attending will have coaches from schools your athlete is interested in pursuing.

Before you pull out your checkbook to pay for another highlight video or showcase event, consider these facts:

  • Most college athletic scholarships are partial scholarships ranging from 25% to 60%.
  • The average Division I athletic scholarship is approximately $15,000 and if you don’t consider football and men’s basketball the amount is significantly less.
  • According to College Board, students should budget more than $25,000 per year to attend a public college in their own state. Private Universities are significantly more expensive.
  • Athletic scholarships are only guaranteed for one year.

To put it simply, if you’re lucky enough and talented enough to earn an athletic scholarship, it probably won’t cover the entire cost of your college education. You can’t afford to deplete the college fund trying to land an athletic scholarship. 

Don’t expect your athlete’s coach to find your athlete’s scholarship

For the most part, high school coaches are paid to be full time teachers or administrators, and receive a small supplement for their added coaching responsibilities. Their time is taken. Many do a great job of promoting and guiding athletes, but it is not their responsibility to find a scholarship for their players. Most coaches will help, but even if they want to help, every student-athlete needs to make it as easy for them as possible. The athlete needs to do the legwork. Have your athlete give his or her coach a short list of realistic colleges, the contact information for the coaching staff and a resume of academic and athletic accomplishments. If your athlete’s coach is willing to contact college coaches, that is all you can realistically expect.

Don’t contact college coaches for your athlete

Believe it or not, some parents actually contact college coaches on behalf of their kids. That’s right, they call or email college coaches and introduce themselves as “Jeff’s dad.” I guess they go on to explain how good Jeff really is and why he might be a good fit for that coach’s team. I’m pretty sure that’s a hard sell (see previous paragraph about parents being objective). While a parent making phone calls is better than no one calling, college coaches don’t really want to talk with parents early in the process. The best approach is for the athlete to initiate the contact with coaches. 

Here’s the deal

Parents can (and should) play a vital role in their athlete’s recruiting journey. If they avoid the above five mistakes, it should make the college recruiting process that much easier.


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