If you’re a parent of a high school athlete, you’re probably very familiar with the feelings that come with application and scouting time.
There are so many questions that need answers, and sometimes, those answers are difficult to find.
The process is complex and stressful and you want to find the right fit for your young athlete. You want more than (for example) the right basketball program. You also want more than an excellent social environment. You have to determine all of the important factors so that a school checks off all the boxes that matter to you.
I want you to be confident when navigating the complex environment that is recruiting, so here are 3 tips to keep in mind on your search for your young athlete’s home away from home.
Tip #1: Familiarize yourself with the school’s academic culture
Your child has been working hard to finish their school year strong, and it’s with that in mind that you should research the academic culture at the school. Oftentimes, when a young athlete takes a visit to a university or college, they spend much more time with the athletic department than the academic advisors.
The danger here is that your child may be sooner swayed by the sports program before viewing what the academics are like, and if they’re well suited towards their long term career interests.
Though athletics might be the main focus for parents and athletes alike, you should make every effort to understand the academic culture of the school, and take time to speak to academic advisors as well as coaches.
Before you visit a school, write out some questions that are academia-oriented, such as:
- Would I want to/want my child to attend this school even if they didn’t make the team?
- If I/my child made the team but had to leave it, would I/they be happy at this school?
- Does the school culture focus more on academic or athletic value? Is it equal?
- Would I/my child want to attend this school if there was a different coach?
- Do we know any alumni who could give us an honest assessment of the school?
Lastly, check out the professional guides available to help introduce a school’s total profile to you, such as Peterson’s, Fiske Guide to Colleges, and The Complete Book of Colleges Mega-Guide.
Tip #2: Know what you want from the school before stepping foot inside
As a young athlete enters the recruiting process, it is extremely important that they know what they want out of the school both athletically and academically before stepping foot inside.
It also helps “steel your nerves” for the excitement that may come, and the inevitable effect that has on a rational decision making process.
As with the previous tip, it’s helpful to make a list of all the things you want out of a college or university.
Some suggestions include:
- How many athletes graduate from the school?
- Is financial aid available?
- What happens if I/my child fall behind in my classes (regarding team placement)?
- Does a culture exist that puts athletics above academia?
- Does the school have other clubs or activities I/my child want to partake in?
- How many hours a day will my sport take away from study time?
- What are the full details of the athletic program I’m/we’re interested in?
The answers to the sports-specific questions matter quite a bit, because a college recruiter often adjusts the recruiting pitch based on the young athlete’s preferences (aka: they tell you what you want to hear). Knowing the unbiased facts going in will help you make a clear-headed decision, even when emotions get into the mix.
Tip #3: Build anticipation, not pressure
Regardless of what happens or what anxiety may appar, it’s important to stay true to the existing training plan.
Yes, you don’t know exactly what the coach of the team your child wants to join is thinking. That is, you don’t know if they’re actually serious about recruiting them, and that can be stressful.
However, it doesn’t have to be. The best thing you can do is encourage your child to become a true “24/7 athlete”, in the sense that they’re always seeking improvement, both on and off the field. Over time, that approach will help your young student get the attention they’re seeking from recruiters.
The recruiting process can cause considerable anxiety, but keeping your “eye on the prize” and focus on continuous learning will set them up for maximum exposure and confidence.
Encourage your child to keep researching schools and programs, especially if they don’t get picked by their initial choice. In fact, have not one, but two or three fall-back plans so there’s no pressure in the event choice #1 doesn’t come along.
The bottom line is you want your entire family to feel confident, not pressured, into making a choice. You want to feel excited and empowered about this next big step!
- Sander, Libby. “For College Athletes, Recruiting Is a Fair (but Flawed) Game.” Chronicles of Higher Education. Dec, 2008. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ825795
- Magnusen, M.J., et al. “A Critical Review and Synthesis of Student-Athlete College Choice Factors: Recruiting Effectiveness in NCAA Sports.” International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching. 1 Dec, 2014.
- Flaherty, Meredith, and Michael Sagas. “Early Recruiting in NCAA Sport: An Exploratory Study of Scarcity Effects.” Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education. 5 May, 2020. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19357397.2020.1759354?scroll=top&needAccess=true