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My son and I are in the process of preparing for his first college showcase tournament of the year with his competitive soccer team. I have all of the information I need about where to go and when to be there in TeamSnap, so that part is easy. What I’m not quite ready for is wading into the college recruiting process again. My daughter managed to navigate it and currently plays collegiately, although it may have been despite our efforts as her parents. We all learned a ton through that process and I’m hopeful that experience will make this time around a smoother one. From one parent to another, here are 6 things we learned along the way:
Be honest about your child’s abilities
Not every athlete is going to be the next Mia Hamm or Michael Jordan and that’s okay. What will be hurtful is if you constantly tell your child that they are the best and can go play anywhere they want when that really is not the case. Now, I’m not saying that you should tell little 7-year-old Joey that he’s never going to make it to the pros, but when your child is looking to play after high school, you have to be realistic.
At the end of many camps that your child may attend, they are often provided with a written evaluation of their skills. One camp that my daughter attended even went so far as to list what level they believed she could play collegiately. You can also seek out an impartial coach within your club or organization for an opinion. Having an evaluation that is neutral, yet candid, can help you set expectations appropriately at the beginning of your search.
Know the rules of engagement
That sounds so formal, I know. However, the rules around when, how and who can talk to college coaches are formal. They vary depending on the division the school participates in and often from sport to sport. You should be familiar with what these are for your child’s sport. Attempting to work outside of these boundaries, intentionally or unintentionally, can definitely start you off on the wrong foot with the coach.
Let your child do the talking
Whether it be in written form or a telephone call, the coach needs to hear from the athlete themselves, not the parent. The coach wants to understand the athlete’s true level of interest in their program and the school. In addition, your child is preparing to go off to college where they will need to handle things on their own. Teach them now and it will help them in the long run in all areas.
If your child, like mine, is nervous and unsure the first few times they email or talk to a coach, be a coach yourself in that situation and help them come up with words to use. Proofreading their email and suggesting more appropriate language or role-playing a phone call with them will help tremendously. This is not the time for them to fire back with a “who dis?”
Your child does not have to play at a D-I school
Division I athletics are stressful, as many of the athletes at these schools will tell you. Not everyone is cut out for it, even if they have the athletic ability to do so. Make sure to talk to your child and find out what kind of experiences they are looking forward to having in their college career. If it includes a lot of extracurricular activities, then D-I athletics is probably not for them. If it includes a social life, D-I is probably not for them. Division II and III schools are great places to play, go to school and have time for other activities.
Merit aid spends just like an athletic scholarship
Athletic scholarships? Highly unlikely. The average percentage of high school athletes that go on to play Division 1 is less than 2%. Of those, only 56% get some level of financial aid, with only 1% of these players obtaining the coveted “full-ride.” The average D-I athletic scholarship is just under $17,000. If you know of any colleges where the tuition is $17,000, let me know! I will totally transfer my daughter. 😉 Even at a D-III school where there are no athletic scholarships, there is plenty of merit aid available to student-athletes. On the plus side, if your child is injured or not able to continue playing for some reason, the school cannot revoke merit aid.
You do not need a special recruiting company to help your child get their information to the right people. What you do need is good information, presented in an organized manner that will catch the coach’s attention. If your team uses TeamSnap, then it will be easy to pull together the game record and player statistics.
I highly recommend creating a brief profile outlining your child’s athletic, academic and extracurricular activities. It can be on a personal web page or just a PDF that you send, however you should be brief so that a coach can know at a glance if this is an athlete they are interested in. Most coaches are also looking for well-rounded students, so this is the time to mention that your child had the lead in the school play their sophomore year. Videos are also great, but again, be brief and keep it focused on your child. Anything over 2 minutes is going to lose the coach’s interest. You can send this information to coaches prior to any tournaments you will be attending or just as a way to let them know you are interested.
As a parent, we all want to help our kids achieve their goals and dreams. Along the way, it’s important to make sure that our endeavors are not making their efforts harder. Good luck with your college search and be sure to post and let us know how things are going!
Jenn Southan is the former Director of Customer Experience for TeamSnap and is currently consulting for several youth sports-related companies. When not working, you will probably find her on a soccer field.