Athletic Recruiting

Should Parents Talk to College Coaches?

College coaches across all sports agree that parents play a significant role in the athletic recruiting process. NCSA’s 2019 State of Recruiting report found that on a scale from 1 to 10, coaches ranked the impact of parents on an athlete’s recruiting process as 8. While it’s true that a strong support system – including parents – can help athletes navigate the ups and downs of their recruiting journeys, it’s important not to get overinvolved because “negative sideline behavior and helicopter parenting can scare away coaches.” The best things a parent can do are to provide support and encouragement, avoid taking the lead in interactions with coaches and allow their student-athlete to be the one to shine.

Does this mean parents shouldn’t talk to college coaches?

Not so fast! Parents can (and should) talk to coaches throughout the recruiting process – but they should also know when to speak up, and when to let their child lead the way.  We’ve broken down when parents should and shouldn’t talk to a coach, what topics to stick to and how to encourage the student-athlete to speak up.

When should parents avoid talking to college coaches?

Introducing yourself to a coach, whether in person or via phone, email or DM is a great way for the student-athlete to make a great first impression. Parents should not be doing the legwork for their athletes, especially at the beginning of the recruiting process. During a Positive Coaching Alliance panel, Stanford’s head men’s golf coach Conrad Ray said that “the worst thing for [coaches] in our world is if we get a phone call and it’s the mom or dad of a high school freshman or sophomore telling me how good their kid is.”

At the end of the day, college coaches aren’t recruiting parents – they’re recruiting student-athletes. They want to get to know their potential recruits and build a relationship with them first. The more involved parents are, the more it detracts from the athlete connecting with a coach, and ultimately, hinders their chances of getting recruited. A surefire way to get noticed, and remain on a coach’s radar? Allow the athlete to take the lead, from sending that first email, picking up the phone or approaching a coach at a recruiting event.

Insider Tip: If parents have legitimate questions for a college coach, or their athlete is unsure of how to start or respond to a conversation, it’s okay to help them out behind the scenes! Parents can brainstorm questions to ask, proofread messages and jot down some talking points for a phone call or visit, but at the end of the day, emails, phone calls and most of the talking should be done by the potential recruit.

Parents should also be mindful of the NCAA recruiting rules and familiarize themselves with the NCAA Recruiting Calendars – they apply to parents, too! If the student-athlete is interested in a DI or DII program, many coaches can’t even reach out to them – or vice versa – until June 15 after their sophomore year. Similarly, if anyone in the athlete’s family approaches a coach at a recruiting event – even to say hello – they may cut the conversation short. They’re not being rude – they’re just trying to follow the rules!

When should parents talk to college coaches, and what should they talk about?

Thankfully, college coaches don’t expect parents to stay silent throughout the entire recruiting process. They understand that committing to a college or program is typically a family decision and that parents play an integral role in the process. So, when should parents approach a college coach, and what should they say?

If the child already has a relationship with a college coach, it’s completely fine to approach the coach when you see them at a camp or recruiting event. Wait until after the game, and keep it simple – a straightforward, “Hi Coach, I’m so-and-so’s mom/dad” will do. If a coach is interested, they’ll keep the conversation going. And remember, when the athlete joins the conversation, make sure they’re the ones asking and answering questions.

Unofficial and official visits are another great opportunity for parents to get to know a college coach. Coaches invite potential recruits and their parents to take a campus tour, learn more about the school/program, and answer any questions they have. It’s a great chance for coaches to get to know the family on a more personal level. For instance, is their school the best academic, athletic, social and personality fit? It’s also a great time for parents to take on a bigger role during admissions and financial aid meetings, and ask any logistical questions they have, from student housing to campus safety. After all, it’s usually the parents that will be covering at least a portion of the college costs.

How can parents encourage their athlete to communicate with coaches?

What happens if a student-athlete is too nervous to talk to coaches, they’re too shy to speak up, or they prefer that their parents speak on their behalf? It’s a parent’s job to support their athlete, but it’s also a parent’s responsibility to get their athlete to take the lead, even if they’re anxious at first. Contacting coaches is essential to the recruiting process and being proactive and reaching out first could help set a potential recruit apart from their competition.

It’s completely understandable for student-athletes to be nervous when reaching out to a coach. They may not know how to strike up a conversation, what questions to ask, or how to keep the conversation going. That’s why it’s crucial to prepare in advance, whether it’s drafting an initial message, writing down talking points for a phone call, or even practicing what they’ll say on a visit. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just like with athletics, coaches want to see that the athlete is putting in effort and getting more comfortable as they progress in the recruiting process.

The bottom line? College coaches want to get to know recruits and their parents, too. While parents shouldn’t ignore a coach altogether, make sure the athlete is handling most of the communication. Knowing when to speak up, and when to let the athlete do the talking can be a surefire way to positively impact their recruiting – and increase their chances of landing a coveted roster spot or scholarship offer.

About the author
Kristin Heidloff

NCSA Operations Project Manager