Parent Involvement in the Recruiting Process

Is there such a thing as “the right amount of parental involvement” in the recruiting process? The tough thing about answering questions like this one is that every recruiting situation is different and comes with its own challenges.

Some families only have one child and can put a lot of time and energy into that one child. Other parents have many children, so parents get spread pretty thin. Some athletes have two or more parents and other have one. That makes a difference in time and possibly financial resources. Some families have the financial ability to travel with their children around the country visiting colleges, while others do not.

Whatever your situation is, it doesn’t have to hinder the ability to handle the recruiting process or hamper the dreams of your student athlete. There is a place for everyone who wants to attend college.

As a parent, you want to meet, and feel comfortable with, the folks at the college who will be responsible for taking care of, and supporting, your children when they get there. So the right amount of involvement in the recruiting process is the amount that gives enough assurance that the coaches, administrators, professors and community will assist your child not only in academics and sports, but also in life. Which situation will help your student athlete grow as a person, a student, and an athlete? And how much involvement is necessary to find out?

Below are some examples of different levels of parental involvement, during different times of a child’s career in sports and in the recruiting process.

Woman working at standing desk with wall full of Post-its behind her

What It Looks Like to Be Over Involved 

The following four examples highlight some situations where parents are over involved. 

Example 1: Your student athlete likes sports, and you played in high school or college. When they are 10, you decide to put them on a travel team, the best one in the area. You choose which sport for them, and it makes you so happy that they are playing your sport. You’re not sure they are happy yet, but because sports brought you so much fun and success, you know your child will feel it soon as well. You put all your financial resources in this bucket and the child only plays this sport while going through high school.

Example 2: As a high school junior, your son receives a letter from a college coach. It contains a questionnaire for your him to fill out and return online. Instead of allowing him to fill it out, you fill out the questionnaire for him, and then hit the submit button.

Example 3: Your daughter’s high school coach tells her that a college coach is interested and that the coach would like to set up a call.  She excitedly comes home from practice and communicates this information to you. So you pick up the phone the next day and call the coach from work. After work, you tell your daughter that you made the call, liked the coach, and will take it from here when that coach calls again. You’ll decide when the coach can talk to your child.

Example 4: Your son is on a campus visit and the coach is asking him questions about what he would like in a college experience. Instead of allowing your him to formulate his own answers, you answer for him. You ask more questions than your child and dominate the conversation that the coach had initiated with him. At the end of the visit, you may feel like you sold your son, but the coach has no idea who he is yet.

These are actual examples of parent over-involvement. What are other ways parents could handle such situations?

Example 1: If your child shows early interest in a sport, let them decide if they want to join a team. When it comes from them you know it is real. Let them try other sports as well. Cross training has many benefits, especially at younger ages.

Example 2: If your son begins to receive communication from colleges, let him respond and let him fill out his own paperwork. Make sure it’s his work and not yours.

Coaches usually can tell when it is a parent.

Example 3: If your daughter begins to receive communication from colleges, let her enjoy reading them and responding. Let her fill out the paperwork and invest in her process. Doing her own work will increase the odds of the college decision being the right one for her.

Example 4: If your son comes home and communicates an interest in the recruiting process, foster that communication. Ask questions and engage with him about it. Often, he’ll continue to share how he feels with the process and will ask for your help when he needs it. When he is on campus visits or when talking to coaches, let him have his own voice. He’ll feel good about it and the college coach will have a better understanding of who he is.

If you are too involved in your child’s recruiting process, especially at the beginning, you can create problems in the future. If you take control of the process, it will eventually become yours and not theirs.

If you try to control the situation, your student may end up going to the college of your choice, not their choice. An unhappy college experience will likely follow.

"Do Not Disturb" smartphone setting turned off

What It Looks Like to Be Uninvolved 

The next few paragraphs are examples of parents being uninvolved in their child’s recruiting process.  

Example 1: Your daughter asks you for an opinion about a college, and your answer is, “Oh, I don’t know. I think you should just go where you want to go.”

Example 2: Your son asks to go visit a college and you say, “I don’t have time because I am too busy at work. Get your coaches to help you.”

Example 3: At an early age, your son asks if you think he could play in college and your immediate answer is, “Yes, but I’m not going to be available to take you to practices and summer games. I think you should really just concentrate on academics.”

Example 4: A college coach calls you and you never call back or communicate with the coach. You decide not to share this information with your daughter. 

What are alternative ways of handling the four situations? 

Example 1: If your daughter asks for your opinion about college sports, feel good that she is including you. Give her your opinion, but also show support in that you are happy she is thinking about college.

Example 2: When your son asks about visit a college that is far away, even if you truly can’t help him get there, let him know you will help him figure out a solution.

Example 3: When your son asks if you think he can play sports in college, let him know that is he really wants to play, you’ll help him find out more about it. Let him know you believe he can do it.

Example 4: If a college coach calls, even if it is a coach you know your daughter is not interested in, call the coach back and have an honest conversation. Be open and honest. Allow your daughter to say she is, or is not, interested. Coaches want to hear from her.

While too much involvement can be damaging, too little can also harm your child’s chance of finding the right college.  Ignoring the excitement, questions or concerns may lead to more issues down the road. Your child may think you don’t care. They may stop communicating with you. They may end up not going to college to play at all, potentially missing a huge opportunity. 

Your interest matters. Your support and encouragement are important.

Young female soccer player poses with her mom, dad and trophy

A Guide to Parental Involvement

The right amount of involvement is tricky and will vary depending on family situation and the wants, needs, and values of the student athlete, but here are some broad tips for parents.

Commit to the Recruiting Process

When your child commits to their own recruiting process, you commit with them. If they change their mind throughout the process, follow their lead. If your athlete loves their college choice, you will know it and so will they. 

If they want to play in college, they want to feel assured that you will help them find a way.

Listen to Them and Watch their Actions

You can tell if your child is passionate about something from their words and actions. Listen and watch carefully as they goes through the college search and the recruiting process. Be careful not to anticipate what they are going to do or say. This usually happens unintentionally because you are so familiar with your child, so you may have to check yourself once in awhile to make sure your child is leading the way.  

You may be surprised at what you learn when you truly listen and watch. 

Be Flexible

Your athlete is likely to change their mind about colleges, coaches, and majors. They may take a visit and then not want to go to that college. No visit is a wasted visit. They’ll learn more with each one. Your child may change their mind and coaches may change their minds, too. It is a bit of a chess game until the college is chosen. Flexibility and patience are key.

Many things will cause your child to change their mind. You may feel like a pin-ball sometimes. This is normal. By allowing your child to make these shifts, they will come to an understanding of what they really like.

Invest in Their Progress

Invest what you can. Sometimes, money is required, but most of the time, it’s just a shoulder, an ear, or more of your time that is required. Whatever you give will eventually pay off when your student athlete is happy and has landed in the right college choice

When your child gets mail, calls or anything else that indicates the possibility of recruitment, be excited, but remain level-headed. Sometimes the student athlete is on a very long list of recruits for a college, and sometimes they make the short one. You may not know which one yet, but just keep watching and learning.

If your student athlete is getting no interest from coaches, remain supportive and be patient. Ask the high school or club coaches for help and continue to be open to opportunities. Sometimes they come when you least expect them.

Empty country road lined on both sides with autumn-colored trees and crop fields

See the Recruiting Journey Through

Stay with them through the entire recruiting journey. At times things may not make sense and there will be uncertainty – sometimes a lot of it. Stay the course with your child and continue to work through all the uncertain times. Things will make better sense as you progress through the recruiting process.  

You may run into disappointments from college coaches who recruit your child for a while and then drop them or begin to lose interest. Your child may hear from the head coach at the beginning of the process and then have less interaction with the head coach later in the process. You may feel like your child is getting the runaround at times. Don’t take it personal. There will be many shifts throughout the process. Stay in it for the long game.

You may feel overwhelmed and confused at times. 

If you and your student athlete have questions, you can get answers. Try not to guess or interpret without asking for information. Figure out where to go to get the information you seek. For example, if a coach is giving your child less attention than earlier, encourage them to ask the coaches directly about the interest level. If you need more help finding this information, contact Find My Team at  

The answers are out there and you can find them.

Ups and downs, uncertainty and confusion are part of the recruiting process. You, as the parent, can help yourself and your child by asking questions, getting good information. Stay with them and try to stay positive through the whole adventure, through the twists and turns of the recruiting process, as they discover the next chapter.  

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