There’s a balance we need to find as parents during the exciting, whirlwind process of recruiting for college athletics. I look back on my daughter’s recruiting experience as a great memory. We helped her but didn’t overtake the process. There is a fine line, and often parents don’t do enough—or do too much.
In USA Today, I read a valuable article about college athletic recruiting by Jaimie Duffek, NCSA Head Recruiting Coach, called “How college coaches recommend parents help with recruiting.” Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college athletes who are part of the Next College Student-Athlete team, a top recruiting network.
Joyce Wellhoefer, a former Division I, Division II, and NAIA college coach for more than 20 years, recalls a recruit she removed from her prospect list, even though she was a top athlete.
“We invited her on a visit, but the whole time she was there, I never got a chance to connect—or really even talk to her—because her mom kept answering questions for her,” she says.
College coaches evaluate a student-athlete’s personality just as much as their athletic skill set. At the end of the day, they want to recruit someone who is going to be the right fit for the team’s chemistry, and who is coach-able. The best way to learn that? By talking to the student-athlete.
When the parent is the one calling the coach, sending emails, and answering their questions on visits, it doesn’t give the coach a chance to bond with the student-athlete. College coaches know that you want the best for your child, just like they want the best fit for their team. So don’t hesitate to sit back a little and encourage your athlete—especially a shy teenager—to be confident enough to talk directly to the coach.
How parents can help their student-athlete in the recruiting process
Now, maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “That all sounds great, but there’s no way my child can do this on their own.” You’re right. Not a lot of teenagers have the time to take on their recruiting on top of all their many responsibilities. And college coaches recognize that you’re a big part of the process. In fact, getting to know the parents is important, too.
“Having support from parents is extremely beneficial for college coaches,” says Emily Johnson, who coached at Division II and III schools over a 17-year span. “As a coach, you are recruiting the whole family. It’s important to talk to the parents and get to know them.”
Bottom line—coaches know this is a big decision for the whole family, and they’re looking for parents who are invested but who don’t own the recruiting process. They support their athlete but give them the responsibility. So, here are ways you can do that according to our coaches.
Here are a few headings from the article of how parents can help:
Introduce yourself at the right time
Help your athlete stay organized
Help them explore their college options
I’ve interviewed many collegiate swim coaches for SwimSwam magazine and they do look at parents during the recruiting process. Overall they say that parents can be extremely helpful, especially in research. With all the universities’ information online, it’s a lot of material to sift through. That’s one thing that parents can help with. They agree that parents shouldn’t be the ones sending the emails to coaches and answering them. Coaches can tell when it’s a student or a parent’s voice, regardless who’s name or email it’s coming from. Also, two coaches told me that it was especially informative to see the relationship between the student-athlete and parents. For example, during one recruit trip, a coach listened to a student berate her mom over the cell phone. That coach said she had no interest in a swimmer who was so disrespectful to adults because she said she would refuse to be treated that way and her role eventually evolves to that as a surrogate mother.
What are your suggestions for parents duties during the recruiting process?