Recruiting for Parents

5 Pieces of Advice For Parents of Athletes

water polo player visits to learn about the recruiting process

The recruiting process is complicated and often confusing. But raising a student-athlete is no cakewalk, either.

While we don’t have a recipe for foolproof parenting, here are five pieces of advice for parents of athletes, and questions to help you objectively consider if it’s a tip you should heed in the ways you participate in youth athletics.

Be present for your child.

I know a man who has filled his basement with VHS, DVDs and burned files of his daughters’ dance recitals, track meets and soccer games since they were babies. (The various media types I just referenced give you an idea of how old his daughters and I are.)

It’s great that there’s a collection of their achievements, but both of his daughters–now women–have told me that sometimes, they wondered if their dad was actually watching him. Or if he was too busy fiddling with his equipment to know that Megan got her PR in the 400, or that Amber assisted the goal that tied the game.

Even as filtering our life through tweets, vines and Instagram becomes more common, is the reticule of your view screen burned onto your retinas? How many times have you watched your student-athlete compete without pulling out your phone or your iPad?

Be respectful of coaches and referees.

I’ve interviewed college coaches across multiple sports. Almost every time I ask them what qualities they look for in student-athletes, coaches tell me horror stories about poor sports, or prospective recruits who shout from the dugout in their parents’ direction, or worse.

Those behaviors don’t develop in a vacuum. Are you finding yourself angry at the way a game is progressing? Are you raising your voice at referees or at coaches? No matter how old your child is, make sure you’re setting a positive example for acting like a champion.

Be mindful of who the athlete is.

Any teenager might say they’re being dragged somewhere by their parents. I may have been guilty of this, myself. (I definitely was.)

But there’s a difference between normal teenage grumbling and a disengaged student-athlete who’s becoming turned off from the sport because they feel like their parent is dragging them into it.

Are you negatively reviewing his performance? Are you listening for signs that she might want to try her hand at other sports in the off-season?

Be engaged, but allow your athlete to grow.

I hardly know which maxim to begin this section with. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” “Fortune favors those who dare.” (That phrase, in Latin, was my high school football team’s slogan). “No pain, no gain.”

On the one hand, you want to see your child succeed. But on the other hand — as we learned from The Mighty Ducks — letting student-athletes work through challenging situations for themselves helps them become successful, independent athletes.

Are you reminding your daughter to pack all of her sticks for hockey practice? Are you researching what spikes will work best for your son’s hurdle race?

It’s a balancing act to encourage your student-athlete, and to help them succeed, without smothering them.

Be supportive.

One of my favorite pieces of advice for parents of athletes continues to be this gem from a contributor to this blog, a master softball coach, and our partner, Amanda Scarborough:

I love to watch you play.

At the end of the game, when the meet has finished, or your child’s packing her rackets up after a match, that’s all any student-athlete needs to hear: your support.

Are you saying it?

If you have more specific questions about how you can support your student-athlete on their way to playing their sport in college, our national scouts are always here to help. Get started by building a free recruiting profile today.

About the author
Andy McKernan

Andy McKernan is the content strategist at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. A content marketer with a background in creative writing, Andy brings several years of experience to NCSA.