Who is Driving the Recruiting Process – Parents or Athletes?

When it comes to the recruiting process, everyone’s situation is different and unique. But one thing should remain a constant for every journey: the driver.

Who is driving the recruiting process in your family? If the answer is NOT the student athlete, expect problems down the road.

If you are a parent, it makes sense to want to be involved. It makes sense to want what’s best for your child. It makes sense to be supportive, encouraging, and proactive. It makes sense not to wait until the last minute to find solutions.

However, it does not make sense for parents to drive the process. At least not in the long run. In fact, it’s dangerous to take the wheel away from him or her and take over the process.

Here are some ways you could be harming your child’s recruiting process:

  1. Making calls to college coaches for your child.
  2. Writing letters or emails to college coaches trying to sound like your child.
  3. Texting college coaches for your child.
  4. Having all communication come through you as the parent.
  5. Doing all the talking for your child.

These five things can affect the way college coaches evaluate your child. College coaches are trying to figure out if your child will be able and willing to function in college without their parents.

They are trying to figure out if the athletes they are recruiting have their own voice. Can they speak for themselves? Do they really want to do this, or are they just trying to appease their parents? Will they do the required work, or will the work stop as soon as they obtain a scholarship or a roster spot on a college team? How will they deal with conflict when parents are not present to help fight their battles?

These questions and many other factors influence how your student athlete moves up and down the recruiting lists of college coaches.

Did you know:

  1. College coaches can tell when the emails, texts, and letters come from the parents?
  2. College coaches get irritated when parents step in to answer questions directed to their children?
  3. College coaches really do want to talk to and get to know the student-athletes on the phone?
  4. Some college coaches have removed athletes from their recruiting lists due to the parents acting as “interceptors” or for being “high maintenance” when it came to trying to recruit the athlete?

The more the process is driven by the student-athlete, the better the opportunity for that individual to not only get to know potential college coaches but also to find the right fit in a college. The student athlete must do the work of figuring out what is most important to him or her and which college situation best matches those needs.

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So how can parents best help? What is the best way to help the student athlete when his or her recruiting process begins to reach an overwhelming level?

Be a Great Sounding Board

At the very beginning, let your child know you are a sounding board. You will listen to them without judgment about college, sports, and the recruiting process. You are available to discuss options, choices, and decisions.

Your opinion matters, especially when it’s asked for – and it will be.

Your child is going to feel stress and pressure no matter which sport or which level he or she is contemplating.

With parents walking through the process alongside the athlete, it is much easier.

Help With the Hard Stuff

The recruiting process is difficult. It may even seem scary to the student athlete and family. Let your athlete know you will dive in with them and help with whatever the process requires, especially the hard stuff: recruiting paperwork, researching, scheduling visits, finding the right travel team, communication, and supportive decision-making.

When the process gets hectic, complicated, or overwhelming, the student athlete is going to need help. You are the first call to action.

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Encourage More Than Take Over

Taking over the process may seem like the easiest thing for you to do, especially when your child begins to get overwhelmed or disinterested. Knowing the difference between overwhelmed and disinterested is an important first step. Have you asked them?

If the athlete does not get excited about doing the work necessary to find the right college fit, college sports may not be the most important thing to them. Are you more excited than he or she is? If at the end of the day, you learn that your child is not really into it, letting go is necessary.

If your child is definitely interested but just overwhelmed, then a different approach is required. Instead of pushing them to do the work, take the role of an encourager. That should be all that is necessary for a student athlete who is serious about college sports. When you see the excitement in your athlete, you know he or she really wants it and should go for it. Now you know you can jump in with them, but not in front of them.

Parents are vital in the encouraging role. Your child needs you to listen, love, and support them throughout the entire process.

Put Your Ego on the Shelf

It feels good that your child is standing out on his or her high school team. It feels good that your child is getting mail, phone calls, or texts from college coaches. He or she is in the paper, on the local news, or on the radio. Coaches are talking about him or her.

It’s easy to let your ego start leading your decision-making. Be careful. For some parents, the ego begins to take over the communication, the decision-making, and the process. If you allow it, the ego will sit the athlete on the bench and take over the process. 

If your ego takes over, it could be disastrous. Remember to let the student drive the process. Keep your ego in check.

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Plan to Be Thrown Off Guard

The recruiting process is unpredictable. There are twists and turns that you cannot foresee, so it’s important to be ready, especially when your child gets a little deeper into the process. You may need to schedule a last-minute campus visit or schedule a meeting with your child’s high school coach, counselor, or travel coach. You may be crunched with a deadline to get some recruiting paperwork filled out or a transcript discrepancy reviewed.

You never know what you will need. Be prepared to be thrown off guard. Knowing that upfront helps.

Thinking ahead helps you plan for the unexpected. You may be calling grandparents, siblings, other parents, in-laws, friends or neighbors to help out. You’ll probably split time with your significant other, especially if you have multiple children. You may have to take time off work and/or plan around your other deadlines and commitments.

As your student athlete dives further and further into the recruiting process, more flexibility and planning is required.


When all is said and done, if your child drove the process – figured out what he or she really wanted, did most of the research, communicated with college coaches, and made the final decision – chances are higher that he or she found the right place.

Celebrate the process, the journey and the decision. When you look back and see all the work, time, energy and money that were invested in this process, it is worth it. You and your child did it.

Being a parent is challenging, but when you see your son or daughter enjoying college and college sports, you will be happy you allowed him or her to drive the recruiting process.

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