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 parents and some 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 don’t.

Although any of these situations may happen, none of them should hinder the ability to handle the recruiting process or hamper the dreams of a student athlete. There is a place for everyone who wants to attend college.

I also believe that all parents want to meet and feel comfortable with the people at the college who will be responsible for taking care of and supporting their 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 the child not only in academics and sports, but also in life. This assurance will, or will not, come to you when you walk through the process with your child, but not for her.

Below are some examples of different levels of parental involvement 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 paragraphs highlight some examples of over involved parents. 

Your daughter likes sports, and you played in high school or college. When she is 10, you decide to put her on a travel team, the best one in the area. It makes you so happy she is playing the sport you played. You’re not sure she is happy yet, but because sports brought you so much fun and success, you know she will feel it soon.

A letter from a college addressed to your daughter comes in the mail. It contains a questionnaire for her to fill out and return. Instead of giving it to your daughter, you fill out the questionnaire, show her what you wrote, and mail it the next day.

Your daughter’s high school coach tells her that a college coach is interested in her and that the coach would like her to call.  She 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 and will take it from here when that coach calls again.

Your daughter is on a campus visit and the coach is asking her questions about what she would like in a college experience. Instead of allowing your daughter to formulate her own answers, you answer for her. You ask more questions than your daughter and dominate the conversation that the coach started with your daughter. 

These are actual examples of parents being over involved or excited and talking over their child. What are other ways parents could handle such situations?

  • If your daughter shows early interest in a sport, let her decide if she wants to play the sport or join a team. When it comes from her, you know it’s real.

  • If your daughter begins to receive communication from colleges, let her respond and let her fill out her own paperwork. If she asks, help check her work, but make sure it’s her work and not yours.

  • If your daughter comes home and communicates with you about anything in the recruiting process, foster that communication. Second, the college coach wants to hear from and get to know the athletes. Eventually, most coaches want to talk with parents also, but if parents call first, it is a signal to college coaches that the parents will be over involved.
  • On a campus visit, when a college coach asks your daughter a question, let your daughter answer first. The question is directed at her for a reason. Coaches want to know if she can speak for herselfand if she is truly interested. They’ll have their questions for you as well.

If you are too involved in your daughter’s recruiting process, especially at the beginning, you can create problems in the future. If you take sole control early on in the process, it becomes yours and not hers.

She may not want you in her conversations with coaches. She may stop telling you about it altogether. She may become complacent and allow you to take over completely.  If you try to control the situation, she may end up going to the college of your choice, not hers. That could lead to an unhappy college experience for her.

You should be involved in conversations with coaches, but you shouldn’t drive them. Share the recruiting process with your daughter. Let her lead you and the process. Always remember: it is her next four or five years. She needs to decide on the right college and coaches for her.

"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.  

Your daughter asks you for an opinion about a college, and your answer is, “Oh, I don’t care honey. Go where you want to go.”

Your daughter asks to go visit a college and you say, “I can’t get involved because I am too busy at work. You will have to find your own way.”

At an early age, your daughter asks you if you think she can 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.”

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? 

  • If your daughter asks for your opinion about a college, feel good that she has included you. Give her your opinion, but also show support in that you are happy she is thinking about college.

  • When your daughter asks about visiting a college that is far away, even if you truly can’t help her get there, let her know that you will help her figure out a solution. 

  • When your daughter asks if she can play in college, let her know that if she really wants to play in college, you’ll help her find out about it. Let her know you believe she can play in college. 

  • If a college coach calls you, 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.

While too much involvement can be damaging, too little can also harm your child’s chance of finding the right place for her.  Ignoring her excitement, questions or concerns may lead to more issues down the road.

She may not think you care. She may stop communicating with you. She may end up not going to college to play at all, when she could have had 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

Keep in mind, that this is your daughter’s choice and she has to lead you. You are there to encourage, support, be a sounding board and help when she needs it.  

Commit to Her Recruiting Process

When she commits to her own recruiting process, you commit with her. If she changes her mind throughout the process, follow her lead. If she loves her college choice, you will know it and so will she. 

If she wants to play in college, she wants to know that you will help her find a way.

Listen to Her and Watch Her Actions 

You can tell if your daughter is passionate about something from her words and actions. Listen and watch carefully as she goes through the college search and the recruiting process. Be careful not to anticipate what she is going to do or say. This can happen unintentionally when you are so familiar with her.  

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

Be Flexible

Your daughter is likely to change her mind about colleges, coaches, and majors. She may take a visit and then not want to go to that college. That was not a wasted visit. She may be ready to commit and then change her mind. She may start with a list of 10 schools and end up at one that was not on the list.

Many things will cause her to change her mind. It is normal. If you feel like a pin-ball sometimes, know that this is normal. By allowing her to go through these shifts, she will come to an understanding of what she really likes.

Invest in Her Progress

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

When she gets mail, calls or anything else that indicates she may be recruited, be excited with her, but remain level-headed. Sometimes she is on a very long list of recruits for a college and sometimes she is on a short one. You may not know which yet, but just keep watching and learning.

If she is getting no interest from coaches, remain supportive by following her lead on college. When she knows you are available to help and support her, she’ll likely ask for your opinions.

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

Stay With Her Through the Recruiting Journey 

Stay with her through the entire recruiting journey. At times things may not make sense or you and she may be uncertain. Stay the course with her and continue to work through all the uncertain times. Things will make better sense as you progress through the recruiting process.  

She may run into disappointment from college coaches who recruit her for a while and then drop her or show less interest than earlier. She 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. She may feel like she is getting the runaround at times. 

You may feel overwhelmed and confused at times. 

If you and your daughter 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 daughter less attention than earlier, encourage her to ask the coaches directly if they are truly losing interest. 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 daughter by asking questions, getting good information. Stay with her through the whole adventure of making her decisions, through the twists and turns of the recruiting process, as she discovers her next chapter.  

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