Many parents of former college student athletes say that, if they had to do it over again, they would have started the recruiting process earlier. What does “earlier” mean? Why are they saying this? When is the best time to begin the recruiting process? Parents want what is best for their daughters. They want to be there for those tough decisions about college and recruiting.
If your daughter really wants to play college sports, then getting a head start has many advantages. Starting early means starting in 8th, 9th or, at the latest,10th grade. That may seem early, but to give your daughter the best opportunity to find the right college without being pressured at the last minute, it makes sense.
Here are some reasons why starting the recruiting process early can be helpful.
Most parents, when they initially begin the recruiting process, are “in the dark” about how to begin, when to begin and what the very first steps should be. If this is you, don’t worry. You are not alone.
When you have more time to ask questions, to gain some knowledge about rules and college sports, you will ultimately have a better understanding of the recruiting process. Each new piece of knowledge that you acquire gives you the opportunity to better assist your child with the recruiting process.
Let’s face it, your daughter is going to need guidance. The recruiting journey is not an easy trip. It takes work, dedication, research, knowledge, patience, time and energy. The more understanding you have, the better equipped you are to tackle the process.
To be honest, the more time you give yourselves, the better decision making you’ll create. You’ll have more time to really contemplate what’s important. Your daughter will have more opportunities to learn about herself and to try things that will make a difference in a college choice. For example, in 9th grade, how does your child feel about being away from home? If she has never been away from home, then allowing her to take some trips, without her parents, early in high school will help her begin to learn what she likes or dislikes about being away from home.
How does she feel about big towns, little towns, big schools and little schools? Questions like these can be answered slowly and with actual experience if begun early. If you wait until she gets recruited, that could be later in high school, and then there is less time to discover things.
The same holds true for the pressure that the recruiting process brings. Pressures come in different forms throughout the recruiting journey, but with more time to digest these situations, the easier they are to handle.
For example, if there is no college preparation until your daughter begins to get recruited, and she doesn’t get recruited until late in her junior year or when she’s a senior, the amount of time to make decisions and learn gets shorter and shorter. That means there will be more rushing around and cramming everything into a much smaller window. There is an increased risk of making mistakes when you have to rush.
What if you don’t know if your daughter is college material at such a young age? There would be nothing lost if she decides not to play in college. All the self-awareness and decisions around college would still apply. Finding the right college fit should still be a high priority.
If your daughter dreams of playing college sports, begin to form a “working list” of what is important to her at a young age. Begin to make a “working list” of potential colleges that may suit her needs.
Then you can begin to look into some of the things that are important to her. In doing so, she may begin to change and learn what those important things are. You can begin researching anytime.
Again, all of it will help her, whether she ends up going to a college that was on her initial list or not. Throughout the process, she can freely change her mind and continue to learn and research before any of the tough decisions need to be made.
It allows for breathing room to form and reform her thoughts and opinions about what college should look like for her.
The recruiting process is a large and overwhelming entity. Taking on the entire process at once is almost impossible. You and your child need time to process all the information, choices, opportunities and decisions that come with recruiting. Starting early in her high school career allows you more time to digest it in smaller, doable pieces.
What can be learned before a college coach ever comes calling? A lot. Begin early and help your daughter learn as much as she can about herself, about her wants, about her likes and dislikes and about her dreams. Doing this work early makes the process easier when it comes time to researching colleges, narrowing choices down and making commitments.
Taking multiple visits to colleges is an advantage, even the same colleges. Every time you step on a campus, you learn something. Many athletes commit to college without ever having stepped foot onto the campus. Making decisions based on pictures on a website or pamphlets in the mail is a mistake. Obviously, the caveat is that right now we are all dealing with COVID. That makes for some different challenges in terms of visits.
The more information you have about each and every college, the better chance of a successful choice. One visit may not be enough. What if the college is across the country? I would still suggest finding a way to make more than one visit.
The same holds true for getting to know the college athletes. You can take as many unofficial visits as you want. You can work with the college coaches to meet with you on unofficial visits. You can ask to meet players. You can watch practices. You can walk around college campuses. You can take tours through admissions or with coaches. There are many many opportunities to get a feel for colleges and for college campuses.
As with most things, the more you put in, the more you will get out of the recruiting process. The more time you can put into all the nuances, adjustments, setbacks, preparation, execution and follow up, the better the chance that your daughter will attend, stay, be happy and graduate from the college she chooses to attend.
The bottom line is you don’t have to wait to be invited. You can pursue this journey with your daughter on your own, whenever you are ready.
Waiting is delaying the process and the time you will have when it comes down to deadlines and decisions. Give yourselves the time to make a good choice. It will make all the difference.
Former parent, Patricia Frazier, speaks about how injury in sport can affect the student athlete.