Recruiting Column: Behaviors every parent should avoid

Recruiting Column: Behaviors every parent should avoid

High School Sports

Recruiting Column: Behaviors every parent should avoid


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. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of Playced Athletic Recruiting. is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology-based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting platform for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.

We’ve all been at a game, maybe ten, where a parent gets out of hand. You know what I’m talking about, the parent who screams at the referee on every call, berates the other team and is constantly coaching their kid from the stands. I don’t know about you, but this kind of behavior drives me crazy. And, I know it’s alarming for a college coach, too. Rest assured, college coaches notice this type of behavior from the parents of any athlete they’re truly interested in.

Listen, a scholarship is a huge investment for a university to make in a high school athlete. College coaches take the responsibility of making scholarship offers seriously. Very seriously. Because, making the right decisions on which athletes they recruit is critical to their livelihood. For that reason, in addition to evaluating the athlete, college coaches also evaluate the parents of the athletes they’re recruiting.

A parent’s actions and behavior could be the deciding factor between two athletes of similar abilities. Parents need to know the things coaches notice to be sure they don’t negatively impact their kid’s chances for a scholarship. Here are some behaviors all parents should avoid!

Constantly critiquing

As discussed above, everyone knows a parent or two who constantly complains about the coach, the players and the officials. If you’re one of those parents, just understand that you might be sitting next to or near a college coach recruiting your athlete. Yikes!

College coaches know that this kind of behavior teaches a young athlete to make excuses instead of making adjustments. It also creates an atmosphere of tension, and tense athletes typically don’t perform very well. Finally, this behavior will most likely continue into college and then the college coach will have to deal with it. Here’s a good rule of thumb: just enjoy watching your athlete compete and let them talk about the game on the car ride home.


A Helicopter Parent is defined by Google as “a parent who takes an overprotective or excessive interest in the life of their child or children.” Let me say it another way, “They hover over their kids like a TV news helicopter over a car wreck”.  To some extent, all parents have been Helicopter Parents at one time or another, but the problematic Helicopter Parent is easy to spot when their child is an athlete. Whether they want to admit it or not, a helicopter parent can actually have a negative impact on an athlete’s chance for a scholarship. There’s a fine line between being a supportive role model and a true, full-fledged “helicopter parent”.

Helicopter parents tend to try and influence the recruiting process for their athlete. Some try to push a particular school on their athlete and others might talk to college coaches at inappropriate times or in inappropriate situations. Parents need to realize that they aren’t the one who will be on the team. It’s not their athletic career.


A Lawnmower parent is defined by the MacMillan Dictionary asa parent who clears all obstacles from their child’s path, so that they never have to deal with any problems by themselves. Instead of hovering, lawnmower parents clear a path for their child before they even take a step, pre-empting possible problems and mowing down obstacles in their child’s way.”

If a college coach determines that an athlete’s parents are truly “lawnmower parents” they may steer away from that recruit. There’s no scientific study on children of lawnmower parents (yet), but I would bet money that those kids don’t deal with adversity very well and aren’t the most coachable athletes on the planet. Neither of these two attributes are a positive in a college coach’s eyes.

Evaluating your kid fairly 

There are very few parents who are truly objective with respect to their children. I’m certainly not and (I think) that’s ok. Parents need to be their athlete’s #1 fan! The trick is to realize that you aren’t objective and find someone who will be. Without an objective evaluation of your student-athlete, your expectations from a college coach is going to be distorted and perhaps disappointing. Consider this; almost every parent a college coach talks with has an unrealistic opinion about their athlete. It might be refreshing if you were one of the few who didn’t.

Talking for your kid

Believe it or not, some parents will actually contact college coaches themselves on behalf of their kids. That’s right, they call or email college coaches and introduce themselves as “Billy’s dad”.  Parents need to understand the following: at least initially, college coaches only want to talk with two people (other than their own coaching staff) about any recruit: (1) the athlete and (2) his or her coach. That’s it. No one else’s abilities or opinions matter, especially a parent, whose opinion is biased. When the time is appropriate for a coach to have a conversation with the parents, they will initiate it.

Here’s the deal

College coaches pay attention to the parents and families of the athletes they’re recruiting.  If, after reading this article, you still don’t believe me, here are the thoughts of Pat Fitzgerald, the football coach of the Northwestern University Wildcats: “…when we talk about our fit, we’re evaluating the parents, too. And if the parents don’t fit, then we might punt on the player and not end up offering him a scholarship. That has changed over a decade. Ten years ago, that wasn’t as big of a role. Now it’s a big part of it.”


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