It’s important to keep in mind that all communication during the recruiting process is dictated by the NCAA recruiting rules and calendar. Once communication can begin, parents need to let their athlete do the talking. When the parent is the one calling the coach, sending emails, and answering their questions on visits, it doesn’t give the coach a chance to bond with the student-athlete.
Joyce Wellhoefer, a former Division 1, Division 2, and NAIA college coach for more than 20 years, recalls a recruit she removed from her prospect list, even though she was a top athlete. “We invited her on a visit, but the whole time she was there, I never got a chance to connect—or really even talk to her—because her mom kept answering questions for her,” she says.
With that said, there are a few time when it’s acceptable for parents to enter the conversation with college coaches. In this section, we will share when parents should talk to college coaches and what those conversations should look like.
Parents often wonder how they can help their student-athlete stay on track in the athletic recruiting process. While college athletic recruiting is a team effort, it’s essential for sports parents to avoid taking the lead when interacting with college coaches.
Here are three do’s and three don’ts for parents of high school athletes:
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Yes, parents should absolutely talk to college coaches. The real question is, when is an appropriate time for you to introduce yourself? After competitions or during unofficial and official visits are great opportunities for parents to speak with coaches.
After the game/competition.
This allows the coach to focus on the entire competition and finish jotting down recruiting notes. Keep the conversation friendly and casual. Consider asking questions like, how much athletic and academic support could your child expect to receive? What’s the offseason training schedule like? What are the most common majors on the team? If the coach is interested in your student, they’ll most likely inquire about your recruiting process. And when your child joins the conversation, remember to let them control the conversation. Don’t take over and answer questions for them and remind your athlete to smile and make solid eye contact.
Unofficial and official visits.
These are a great time for parents to step into the conversation. When it’s time to ask questions, allow your athlete to take the lead, but also know that college coaches understand that parents might have logistical questions around admissions and financial aid that a student-athlete might not think to ask. This is your time to ask those questions and coaches are more than happy to answer them.
For coaches, extending an offer is a family decision, so the more they know about the parents, the more they know about the student-athlete. “Coaches want to evaluate both the student-athlete and their parents,” says JC Field, a former Division 1 baseball coach. “We want to know their strengths because a lot of the time we can assume their student-athlete has similar strengths.”
College coaches understand that parents play a pivotal role in the recruiting process and often attend camps, combines, showcases and other types of recruiting events to support their student-athlete. Parents are often surprised to hear that college coaches don’t just evaluate student-athletes at recruiting events—they evaluate parents, too. To avoid jeopardizing your child’s recruiting, it’s best to maintain a mild, supportive demeanor on the sidelines and always act under the assumption that college coaches are watching.
Official visits provide your child an opportunity to tour a college’s campus, meet the team and get to know the coach. It’s also your opportunity as a parent to ask important questions that will aid the decision-making process. Below is a list of questions we suggest all parents ask during an official visit.
What does the life of a student-athlete look like?
As a parent, you’ll want to know what your child will be doing on a regular basis. What is the typical practice schedule? Does the program practice year-round? How much traveling will your athlete do? How will your athlete’s academic schedule be impacted by athletics?
What type of academic support do athletes receive?
Athletes don’t just have to be academically eligible to get admitted to the college, they must remain eligible to compete each year. Ask the coach if they offer additional services for student-athletes, such as study hours and access to academic tutors.
What are the housing accommodations?
Both you and your student-athlete will want to have an idea of what living on campus is like. What are the dorms like? Do athletes tend to live together? If it’s not already part of your schedule, ask the coach if you can get a tour of the first-year housing.
Do athletes have the same meal plan as regular students?
In 2014, the NCAA made it mandatory for D1 programs to provide student-athletes with unlimited meals and snacks, but those same rules don’t always apply to D2, D3 or NAIA programs. Make sure to ask whether student-athletes are on the same meal plan as their non-athlete peers, as well as what types of dining options are available. Some schools have even started to offer specialty athletic nutrition facilities – complete with chefs and dieticians – to help their athletes reach peak performance.
What is the college doing to create a safe campus?
Ensuring that their child is safe is a top priority for parents, especially when most will be away from home for the first time. It’s understandable to ask questions about campus safety and security – does the school have security or police officers stationed on campus? How does the school communicate with students during emergencies? Are there transportation services offered for late nights or off-campus activities?
What happens if the athlete gets injured?
It’s every parent’s worst case scenario – their child gets injured, and they’re out for the season. Though the NCAA requires college athletes to have healthcare insurance, schools are not obligated to pay for an athlete’s medical expenses, and it’s not uncommon for parents to have to cover part or all the out-of-pocket costs. If the coach has brought up the possibility of an athletic scholarship, it’s ok to discuss whether that scholarship will still apply if they’re out for part or the entire season.
What is the application process?
Even with a verbal or written offer from a coach, student-athletes are still not guaranteed admission. Ask the coach about basic admissions questions, such as the minimum GPAs and test scores required, application deadlines and whether they’ll be able (or allowed) to provide feedback or review the athlete’s application before they officially submit it.
What about scholarships and financial aid packages?
Once your athlete has received an offer, it’s time to inquire about athletic aid, if it’s being offered. What’s tuition and room-and-board costs? What need-based aid, and academic or merit-based scholarships are available? What expenses will my athlete be asked to cover (i.e. equipment)?
What are the next steps?
No matter where an athlete is in the recruiting process, it’s important for parents to know what to expect and what to do next. Will there be any follow-up visits or appointments? What paperwork or admissions-related materials do families have to prepare or fill out? Are there any important or upcoming deadlines to be aware of?
Read more: Do parents go on official visits?