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. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois and went on to play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes 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.
Outside of a handful of elite athletes who receive strong recruiting attention and also have the grades to get admitted into most schools, the majority of potential recruits have to take part in a lengthy recruiting process to ensure they find the right college fit, athletically, academically, socially and financially. Parents are a big part of the process — often a bigger part than they think they are — and will come across several obstacles during the recruiting journey of their athlete. But what are some of those obstacles? Read up to find out what you’ll face during the college recruiting process.
Letting the athlete do the talking
It can be difficult for parents to let their child take the lead since they want to do everything they can to help their athletes succeed, but coaches recommend that parents shouldn’t be overinvolved in the process. Parents are often calling coaches and dominating conversations when they take a campus visit with their son or daughter. And parents are making it clear to college coaches that they look forward to being “closely associated” with their program once their son or daughter signs with a school. As a result, coaches often bring up the prevalence of “helicopter parents.”
To let your athlete learn the valuable skills they need to impress college coaches, parents need to act more like managers rather than agents. That means helping athletes meet important deadlines and keeping them on track throughout the process but not performing every minor task or speaking for them. This can be difficult to do but it’ll offer a valuable learning opportunity.
Overall, parents can talk to coaches during the recruiting process, but they should know when to speak up and when to let their child lead the way.
Keeping your athlete on track academically
Athletes can get too focused on their athletics and don’t consider just how important academics are to college coaches. That’s why it’s important for parents to keep them on track academically, as they will be severely limited in their college options if they have poor grades.
To maximize your athlete’s scholarship opportunities at the Division I level, aim for being 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. Research ACT/SAT test prep materials and help your athlete get enrolled before the deadline. All this can help your athlete’s chances of receiving an offer.
Understanding key deadlines and rules
It’s no secret that NCAA recruiting rules can get pretty complicated. There are important dates that vary from sport to sport and rules about when college coaches can contact you and when you can visit colleges, among other things. It can be a lot to keep track of for athletes and parents. Fortunately, NCSA offers a wealth of valuable resources, including our guide to NCAA recruiting rules and personal assistance from our recruiting specialists when you join the NCSA network. Whether you decide to go at it alone or get help from NCSA, make sure to help your athlete stay on track with important dates.
Setting realistic expectations
Chances are that your student-athlete is interested in competing for a Division I program. It’s the biggest stage in college sports, after all. However, Division I spots fill up quickly and there are other competitive opportunities out there that might be an even better fit for your athlete. That’s not to say Division I isn’t an option, but it’s helpful to see what’s offered at other division levels, which may actually offer a better education, more academic scholarship money or more need-based financial aid than your top Division I choice.
Read more: Is Division 1 really the best?
Finding the right college fit
The transition from high school to college comes with a lot of changes and being a college athlete on top of that can be stressful. A lot can happen over four years, and you’ll need to consider what happens if your student-athlete gets injured or decides they don’t want to compete anymore. Transferring schools can be a setback financially and academically. You can potentially avoid a lot of headache by making sure that your athlete is attending a college they absolutely love, including their classes, living situation and campus life — regardless if they’re competing in college sports.
Getting evaluated by college coaches
These days, parents are involved in the college decision-making process more than ever — and coaches are taking notice. “Coaches want to evaluate both the student-athlete and their parents,” says JC Field, a former Division I baseball coach. “We want to know their strengths because a lot of the time we can assume their student-athlete has similar strengths.”
That’s why college coaches make sure to meet parents and observe their conversations and behavior in the stands. Coaches are checking to see if parents are complaining about playing time or being overbearing. For coaches, extending an offer is a family decision, so the more they know about the parents, the more they know about the student-athlete. When parents are aware that they’re also being evaluated, they should be in a better position to make a good impression.
There’s a lot more to learn about how parents can help during the college recruiting process, but this at least offers a good start. For more help on your college recruiting journey, join NCSA today.