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. Jason Smith is a former NCAA Division III athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional athletes, 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.
College athletic recruiting is a total team effort. It may ultimately be your child’s decision, but they won’t get far without the support of family members and coaches. As a parent, there are many ways you can support your student-athlete and help them stay on course. There are also many ways you can impede their relationship with college coaches and pour cold water on their recruiting process. With this in mind, here are six dos and don’ts for parents of student-athletes.
Do know that coaches are watching parents, too
College coaches aren’t just evaluating your student-athlete’s body language and on-field performance. They’re also keeping a close eye on your sideline antics. Whether you prefer rowdy cheering or quiet observation, it’s important to keep things positive. Coaches notice when parents heckle the refs and complain about their child’s playing time. In some cases, elite prospects can lose out on opportunities due to their parents’ poor sideline behavior. Games can get heated and tensions run high, but always remember to keep it cool and classy in front of the coaches.
Parents. Procrastination is the biggest reason athletes miss out on college opportunities. The longer you wait to begin the recruiting process, the more overwhelming it becomes. To help your child lay the framework, start looking at schools, attending camps, recording highlight videos and preparing for the SAT/ACT. Keep in mind—the recruiting schedule is different for every sport. Softball and volleyball are notorious for starting extra early, while track and field tends to have a later timeline than other sports. The student-athlete who doesn’t procrastinate is the student-athlete who receives the scholarship offer.
Do operate as a team
Your child might be in the driver’s seat, but they need your guidance and support to successfully navigate their recruiting journey. While you shouldn’t perform all the work or do all the talking during meetings with coaches, it’s important to listen to your student-athlete and understand their wants and needs. Cultivate a positive relationship with their teachers and coaches and when it’s time to make big decisions, make them together.
Don’t sign up for the wrong summer camp
Too many parents waste money sending their kids to college camps that won’t help them get recruited. While athletes occasionally get discovered at camps and showcases, most college coaches attend these events to evaluate recruits who are already on their list. As you and your child research camps, make sure coaches from their target schools will be in attendance. Once you decide on a camp, have your child reach out to those coaches to get on their radar. While any summer camp can help your child improve their skills and conditioning, the right one can help them make a key connection with a college coach.
Do the Gator Chomp
The recruiting process is a whirlwind, so why not enjoy the ride? As you explore new schools and meet new coaches, feel free to join the fun and show your fan side. In December, four-star football recruit Lloyd Summerall III and his dad took an official visit to Florida. On the trip, Lloyd and his dad suited up in full Gators gear for a photoshoot. College coaches need to get the family on board as well as the recruit.
Don’t limit your options
There are so many opportunities out there. So many college coaches looking to fill their rosters. So many schools of all shapes and sizes. As you and your child start thinking about college, construct a target list of five safety schools, 10 target schools and five dream schools. It’s always wise to consider colleges at multiple levels and visit a few campuses to narrow your search and find the right fit. An athletic recruiting network like NCSA can also help you cast a wider net and get seen by more coaches. You never know which program your child might end up playing for.
Read more: Are you good enough to play college sports?