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 and play at the college level. Joe is a former college athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe 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.
Imagine the recruiting journey as a play. In this scenario, the student-athlete takes center stage, while parents assume the roles of supporting actors. For the production to truly shine, the supporting actors need to play their parts to perfection. The right mix of support, encouragement and guidance can empower the lead actor and enable them to succeed. However, supporting actors who overplay or underplay their roles can take the spotlight off the lead and derail the entire performance. It’s all about finding the right balance.
But here’s the thing. Parents don’t always know when they’re being evaluated by college coaches. And they don’t always understand how to make a positive impact on their child’s recruiting process without getting in the way. To help you embrace your supporting role and assist your child on their quest to play college sports, here are four recruiting tips for parents.
Pick the right time to introduce yourself to coaches
Introducing yourself to a college coach is an easy way to make a good first impression. But you need to know when and how to do it. In general, try not to interrupt college coaches while they are evaluating athletes at events and tournaments. If your kid is a pitcher, that college baseball scout in the stands might not appreciate you leaning over his radar gun and asking about his readings. Yes, coaches want to get to know the parents of their prospects, but they’re also focused on their job.
Plus, there are evaluation periods during the recruiting process when coaches can watch athletes compete, but aren’t allowed to talk them or their parents. If you were to approach a coach during this time — even to say “hello” — they will keep the conversation short to avoid any illegal contact. They aren’t trying to blow you off — they are just following NCAA protocol.
So, when’s a good time to approach a college coach for a quick chat? Try right after the game. Once your athlete’s team head to the locker room and the coach finishes jotting down recruiting notes, there’s typically a few minutes of down time until the players come back out.
Keep the conversation friendly and casual — start with general questions about their program and style of coaching. How much athletic and academic support could your child expect to receive? What’s the offseason training schedule like? What are the most common majors on the team?
If the coach is interested in your student, they’ll most likely inquire about your recruiting process. And when your child joins the conversation, remember to let them control the conversation. Don’t take over and answer questions for them — remind your child to smile, make solid eye contact and resist the urge to look at you before answering the coach’s questions.
Keep your athlete on track athletically and academically
Qualifying for an NCAA athletic scholarship is one thing — combining athletic and academic scholarships is another. To maximize your child’s scholarship opportunities at the Division I level, they need to be in the top 10 percent of their graduating class, earn a cumulative GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0 and achieve an SAT score of 1200 or an ACT sum score of 105.
Encourage your child to sign up for AP and honors classes to boost their GPA. Research ACT/SAT test prep materials and help your athlete get enrolled before the deadline. In addition, educate yourself as much as possible on NCAA recruiting rules to keep track of when and how coaches are allowed to communicate with your child. To learn more, check out the NCAA Eligibility Center’s 2018-2019 Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete.
Prep for official and unofficial campus visits
To help your child get discovered by coaches and find a great college fit, you need to be right behind them from start to finish. If you and your athlete are getting a campus tour on a college visit, your child should be walking side-by-side with the coach, carrying on a conversation. You should be right behind them, supporting the conversation and asking a question of your own from time to time.
In addition, calculate your estimated family contribution (EFC) beforehand for when the conversation turns to financial aid. Schools use your EFC to gauge your federal student aid eligibility and financial aid award. Determining how much your family can afford to spend on your child’s postsecondary education will help you identify which colleges are viable and which are outside your price range. The size of your family and the number of kids attending college at the same time are also considered.
Set a good example
Whether you’re in line at the concession stand or sitting in the bleachers, always act like you would around a coach. You never know who might be listening. Even if you disagree with the decisions of your child’s coach or the referee’s calls, it’s important to stay calm and keep things positive. As much as you want to yell at that obnoxious parent from the other team, keep in mind that college coaches might very well be observing you. On the flip side, supportive and encouraging behavior can reflect positively on your student-athlete and increase their chances of getting a scholarship offer