Dear Coach Bryant:
Last week I saw some college scouts at my child’s game. A coach told my son someone would be visiting, so I was watching for them.
Since I wasn’t sure they would seek me out, and I wanted to make sure they saw my child playing, I went up and introduced myself. They were polite, but didn’t seem particularly interested in talking with me about my son.
Did I do the wrong thing? What should I do next time? How involved do I need to be in these recruiting conversations?
It’s totally fine for you to approach a scout and introduce yourself. And since compliance rules might dictate their interactions, it’s totally fine for scouts to be polite but not engage in extended conversation. Plus, it’s important to remember scouts are there to work, not socialize. College reps are usually there to watch several students, not just one. Even if scouts enjoy meeting you, they will be too busy to do much more than what you experienced last week.
I wish more parents asked these questions. Many don’t realize that scouts/coaches not only watch students, but parents. In fact, a parent’s behavior can impact a student’s recruitment. While you spotted those scouts, you never know when others might be watching. College coaches often contact high school coaches to not only ask about a student’s character, but about parents. They know student athletes can really excel when their parents step back and allow them to spread their wings.
Here’s some of what I tell proud parents about how they can best support their high school athlete:
- Make sure your sideline behavior is exemplary. Never criticize a referee, coach or player, publicly or privately. Never try to coach your child (or anyone else) from the sidelines. Over-involved parents raise recruiters’ red flags.
- Make sure your high school child knows how to ask his/her own questions of a coach. A parent exhibiting exemplary sideline behavior never corners their child’s high school coach before or after a game to ask about their child, a coaching decision or anything else. Even a parent’s seemingly-innocent question (“I just want to understand the strategy here…”) sends the message that they are questioning the coach.
- Make sure your priorities are right. Your ultimate goal is to help your child grow into a confident and independent person. Wise parents shun the “prestige” communities often ascribe to raising an athletically-gifted child. Rather than getting wrapped up in their child’s success, smart moms and dads consider their child’s sport a character development tool.
- Make sure your job description is clear. Your job as the parent of a student athlete is to get your child to games, practices and campus tours. Then your job is to step aside. It is your high school child’s job to talk with college coaches/scouts. A parent’s communication with a college coach should be limited to financial concerns.
Like you, my husband and I are proud parents. While I coach professionally, I don’t coach my sons. When we see one of our sons after his game, we simply say these five words: “We love watching you play.” If he wants to talk about his performance, we don’t do so on the field – or even on the way home. If something is bothering him, we encourage him to take time to think about it. If his concerns persist, we suggest he communicate with his coach. We teach him appropriate ways to reach out to his coach. We don’t let him complain to us or others about the coach or other players. We redirect his energy to what he can control – his effort and his attitude.
While my husband and I don’t claim to be perfect, we follow these policies because that’s what coaches hope proud parents will do. The reality is that the parents who take this approach are more likely to help their students maximize their athletic potential while also reinforcing the lifelong lessons they want them to learn from their play.