It’s what every parent of a gifted student athlete wants to know: How can I help my teen have the best chance at being recruited? We’ve put together a list of things you need to know.
- Don’t be a helicopter parent! Of course your teen still needs you to mentor and guide them, but if you find yourself hovering over every practice or beginning sentences to the coach with “we”, you may need to step back and reevaluate. Remember not to do the coach’s job. Even if you disagree with a decision, it is usually best to let your child learn from the experience rather than coming to the rescue.
- Be your teen’s communication coach. Your teen, not you, should be handling contact with college coaches. Your job is to help your teen prepare for these interactions rather than handling them yourself. Role playing is a good way to help prepare for an important phone call or meeting with an interested coach so that your teen feels comfortable and prepared.
- Interactions with college coaches should be treated like a job interview. First impressions matter, so athletes should understand the importance of dressing appropriately, making eye contact and giving a firm handshake. Help them prep by making sure they have questions to ask about the program to show that they are interested and engaged, and encourage them to give more than one-word answers in return.
- Know that college coaches probably aren’t coming to your athlete’s games. The bottom line is that most college coaches don’t have time to show up to high school games to see your athlete play. If you have concerns about your teen’s visibility, playing club ball, attending camps, and having your athlete self-promote are great ways to be seen. Athletes can contact coaches by phone to express interest, and then follow up by sending more information via email.
- Don’t waste the time on over-produced videos. If you’re sending a video, it doesn’t need to be professionally shot or needlessly lengthy; coaches simply need to be able to quickly see what your athlete can do. Keep it short (two or three minutes is probably sufficient), post it to YouTube and send the coach a link.
- Emphasize the importance of academics and character. It won’t matter how great an athlete a student is if the student can’t also compete in the classroom or can’t stay out of trouble. A coach wants to see effort being made in all aspects of your teen’s life, so decisions made off the field are every bit as important as performance on the field.
- Keep perspective. While your athlete may be gifted, the reality is that only 2% of athletes are awarded scholarships at the NCAA level. To put this another way, CNBC says that your odds are greater at getting into Harvard than playing a major sport on scholarship. Furthermore, full-ride sports scholarships are even more rare; only football, men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, tennis and women’s gymnastics even offer them. All other sports are considered “equivalency sports” in which schools have a set amount of money which they divide up among athletes, usually resulting in relatively small scholarship amounts.
Dan Knotts, father of Seth Knotts, offers his advice. Seth graduated from Prattville High School in 2015 where he holds the honor of all-time leading receiver. Seth was awarded a full athletic scholarship to the University of West Alabama.
“Grades are very important,” Knotts stresses. “You can be the best athlete around but if the ACT score and grades are not there, the chances of being offered a scholarship are slim. They may show interest in your skills but sooner or later these things become important. Coaches obviously look for the best athletes but most of the time there is more consideration in what kind of person you are. They ask coaches and teachers about you and check out your grades.”
As for visibility, Knotts says, “Going to football camps is a great way to become visible, participating in 7-on-7s and visiting schools. If you have an interest in a school reach out to them and express your interest. Your High School Coach is key, often times these coaches will recommend an athlete to a recruiter. Most have established relationships with college recruiters.”
Finally, Knotts says, “Always remember that recruiters are basically salesmen; their job is to gain your interest by selling that school, usually followed with an invitation for an official visit. This visit is where you find out what kind of scholarship they are willing to offer.” And remember, “If it does not feel right then it probably isn’t. My son passed on two schools before accepting an offer.”
“To be recruited is an exceptional experience, you’ll receive letters from coaches, calls and visits from recruiters and advice from your peers and family. It’s an interview so prepare accordingly. Ask lots of questions and choose the school that fits you and your family,” Knotts advises.