So your student athlete is being recruited by a few colleges. Great! But what factors should he or she consider when making their decision? Ensuring they’ll work well with the school’s coach is a good place to start.
“I tell our kids to pray about their decision first and foremost, but I go on to tell them that there are definite differences between the relationship you have with a high school coach and the one you’ll have with a college coach,” said coach Bobby Carr, the head football and baseball coach and Athletic Director at Edgewood Academy in Montgomery. “When you get to the collegiate level, and are being recruited, they are paying for your education, so it’s a bit more like a job.” That means there are some things, a more demanding demeanor, for example, that student athletes may have to learn to deal with.
But there are things you and your teen can learn before they’re in the locker room that can help make the choice easier. “Number one: Look beyond the coach and seek the college that has the best reputation and/or resources in your field of study,” Carr said.
Laura Meadows’ daughter Abby is a freshman soccer player at Auburn University this year after being recruited to play there. She echoed Carr. “The coach asked Abby, ‘If you weren’t playing soccer, is this the school you would want to go to?’” she said.
Abby was being recruited by another college, but the sentiment behind that question helped her and her parents make their choice. “That question made me feel like the coach was prioritizing Abby’s needs and wanted to make sure she would be happy at Auburn without the sports aspect,” Meadows said.
But since sports will be a big part of a student athlete’s college experience, paying close attention to playing styles is also crucial, as Carr stressed. “It’s important to determine if the style of football or baseball, or whatever your sport is, at a certain college will fit your style.”
Understanding how a particular coach motivates and disciplines his or her players is just as important. A good way to find out is to ask the coach. But Carr also suggests that students and their parents talk to current players at the colleges they are considering and get their input. “Coaches are putting their best face on during visits, but you can ask other players questions about the coaching staff and their style that you may not feel comfortable asking the coach.”
Personality clashes can happen, and they don’t have to be deal breakers. But knowing that a specific coaching mentality and teaching style will help rather than hinder your student athlete is crucial for their success and the team’s. “No matter what level it is, kids won’t play as hard if they don’t feel valued,” Carr said.
Meadows also offered some advice on getting the most out of recruitment visits. “I think it is helpful for parents to sit in the background,” she said. “Ask questions but don’t try to drive the conversation.”
Overly aggressive parents can turn off a coach and the staff, and make their child less attractive to the coach and the program. “They want to see your student athlete speak for themselves,” Meadows said. “I did that, sat back and let Abby answer, and she amazed me. She had answers, and she had good questions of her own. The coaches want to see a kid who has their own plans.”
And there’s no substitute for doing your homework. Go beyond the coach’s personality, beyond the playing field stats and examine at every aspect of the college programs that are recruiting your teen, and encourage them to do the same.