Dear Coach Bryant:
My husband and daughter have a special bond. He has never missed one of her tennis matches. He introduced her to the sport and is incredibly proud of her success. He tells everyone he meets that coaches from excellent college programs are coming to watch her play.
Soon we will be traveling to meet with those coaches. Now I’m wondering how to handle those visits. I think my husband comes off a bit too strong in his advocacy for her. I’ve sensed some tension when he has talked with recruiters after her matches. Of course, he thinks I’m wrong.
I think he would listen to you. Could you give us some pointers about how to handle the recruiting process?
Concerned in California
Your question reminds me of the brilliant way a boys’ soccer team manager handles sideline coaching. He carries lollipops to every game. When parents get too loud, he hands them a lollipop to shut them up!
That manager is not trying to insult the parents; he’s trying to protect his players. He knows parents can absolutely harm their children’s chances of not only enjoying their sport, but of being recruited well. Here’s why:
Recruiters watch Parental behavior
When coaches watch potential recruits play, they also watch parents. After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Parents who lack self-control often raise children who lack self-control. If a parent is carrying the child’s bag, that’s another big red flag. No one wants a diva.
Recruiters hear parental comments
Recruiters hear parental comments. Recruiters are attuned to post-game chatter. If a student just lost a match and her parent is hammering home everything she did wrong, the recruiter will wonder if that player can compete without worrying about post-match criticism. The psychological piece is crucial, because a student’s relationship with a parent can jeopardize her ability to handle higher-level pressure.
Recruiters resist parental advocacy
When meeting a coach, the parent’s job is to smile, shake hands, say, “Glad to meet you,” and step away. Coaches will ask students what they want to know, and they don’t want to hear a parent brag about their child’s accomplishments. In fact, an over-involved parent can be a red flag, signaling that their child hasn’t learned to speak and advocate for herself.. The conversation that the parents should be in the room for is a discussion about finances. When the topic involves a scholarship, tuition, or fees, that’s the time when your guidance and point of view are welcome.
Well-meaning parents can totally jeopardize the recruiting process for their children. Recruiters are seeking players who not only play well, but function well as a person and team member. They make recruiting visits to watch students compete and watch how those students and their parents interact with others. Sometimes they eliminate a potential recruit because of what they see off the field/court. When they invite student-athletes for campus visits, they do so to get to know the student, not the parents. Since they recruit high school students daily, they know how to ask the right questions of a nervous or introverted recruit. It’s the recruiter’s job to put the recruit at ease.
The best way parents can help their students during recruitment is to get out of the way. Let coaches be coaches. While you and your husband will always be your child’s biggest fans, now is the time to let her go.
All the best,