As the parent of three children that are heavily into sports, I am constantly seeing other parents in action. My son is a college cross country runner. My oldest daughter is an 11th grade swimmer and track and field athlete, and my youngest daughter is playing travel basketball as a 4th grader. While I see many level headed parents out there, I also see wound up ones that need sedatives at some games, and parents who mean well but are not knowledgeable about how to help their child succeed in recruiting. I wanted to share 7 observations for parents that can help not only in recruiting but also make sure your child has a satisfying experience in sports:
* Make sure your child eventually finds the sport they love. I first got my son into little league baseball as I have always loved that sport. It wasn’t for him. When he started running he loved the camaraderie of cross country teams and really embraced the sport. I never had to ask him if he had gone for a run that day because I knew he did since he loved it so much. With my oldest daughter, I first got her into basketball because I also love that sport (I live in Indiana!). She didn’t like it all, but fell in LOVE with swimming. I was totally fine with that and have supported her at Meets. They both have had extremely positive sports experiences.
* Chill out at travel team tournaments and other competitions. I know you care deeply, but I continue to see parents make idiots of themselves during competitions. I’ve seen parents thrown out of a 3rd/4th grade basketball tournament my daughter was in because they were so wound up at the officials. Before these tournaments, pray, meditate, think deeply about how you are going to act, and even bring a friend along to watch you and hold you accountable if you start acting a fool.
* If your child has the potential to be a college athlete, get educated on the different levels of college sports. I have done hundreds of talks for NCSA and have found that parents (especially mothers and please don’t take that the wrong way) often have no idea about NAIA schools, high level Division 3, Division 2, low to mid level Division 1 and so on. Don’t just watch D1 events on TV with your kids. Take them to nearby college athletic events of all levels. As you do, it will open your eyes to the level of competition at all levels. As I often say, 80% of all high school athletes at a typical-sized high school would have a hard time getting quality playing time for a good NAIA college program and 90% of all high school athletes at a typical high school would have a hard time playing much for a D2 power.
* Be sure to read the book Athletes Wanted by Chris Krause. It is loaded with information about recruiting. Another book I suggest is Put Me In, Coach: A Parent’s Guide to Winning the Game of College Recruiting by Laurie A. Richter. A problem with books on recruiting from 7 or more years ago is they don’t have information on how the internet has changed recruiting so much. Athletes Wanted is the best book in that area. Also, make it a point to read the blog area of ncsasports.org each day. Follow NCSA on Facebook and watch the video clips from the recruiting experts. Spend 10 to 15 minutes each day reading or watching so that you are better educated on recruiting.
* Don’t always buy into the “your child needs to specialize in one sport” talk. First of all, that is a case by case basis of every young person. An athlete that goes to a high school with a huge enrollment often has to specialize, like it or not. An athlete that wants to play a high level of Division 1 often feels led to, and even wants to, play that one sport year round. However, you’d be surprised how many college coaches are out there that want kids that play multiple sports. I was talking to the dad of a swimmer at my daughter’s swim meet and he said they had just come from visiting a college coach who would not have recruited the girl if she was only doing swimming year round. The college coach wants fresher athletes and those that compete in different sports because college sports want competitors.
* Don’t feel you have to be on a Club or Travel team that plays a national schedule. I remember an interview I did with Notre Dame volleyball coach, Deb Brown, in her office a couple of years ago. She said if you had the ability and the desire to play at a top D1 program, you needed to play on a national team, but most kids want to play college closer to home (within a few hours). You can get exposure being on a club or travel team that plays a schedule within your region. You can’t just wait to be discovered at those events. You need to let the college coaches know your schedule so they can make the effort to watch you, but don’t feel pressured to be on a travel team that goes everywhere from Orlando to Vegas UNLESS you are fine with eventually signing with a school far away from home. I find that probably 4 out of 5 kids want to stay within 4 hours of home because they are close to their family. Again, all of this is a case by case basis. You have to figure out how your child ticks in all of this. I just delivered a corporate motivational talk to a real estate company in the Midwest. The company leader that brought me in has a son playing tennis at Whitter College in California, 2000 miles away. He is doing fine because he has thrown himself into the whole student-athlete experience there. That’s him. For others, that may not be their thing.
* Spend time talking with your athlete about what this is all about. I see parents running around like chicken with their heads cut off at many showcase, travel tournaments and combines. Those are important things to do but you also need to have regular conversations about what is the ultimate objective: to use athletics to get a college education so that you can become a leader in society and give back to others. My quarter of a century as a sports anchor showed me what was truly important in all of this, and it goes beyond winning a bunch of games. What this is about is getting to the college that is the right level athletically and academically for you, busting your tail while there, networking with future job prospects, learning about time management, teamwork, and competitiveness, and developing teammate relationships that will last for decades. A lot of parents go through recruiting with no real purpose. They just hope that some school spots little Johnny or Suzy and offers a really good scholarship. That is why it is important to talk with a recruiting expert now to get more clarification on what your goals are and where you are in reaching those goals.
Charlie Adams is a peak performance/positive attitude speaker who delivers keynotes and seminars to companies. He has seen a growth in companies specifically looking to hire recently graduated college student-athletes because of their competitiveness, ability to manage time, leadership skills and team spirit. He is the author of Stoke the Fire Within and the upcoming book How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!! He has helped train many of NCSA’s recruiting speakers and often speaks on the recruiting process himself.
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