Dear Coach Bryant:

Our family needs clarification on what it means to be “committed” to a college coach. Our daughter, a high school junior, expects to play golf in college. We even think she may have several colleges to choose from. But now we’re hearing other juniors’ parents say their daughters have “verbal commitments” to play, but are still talking to other coaches, to “keep their options open.”  

That sounds sketchy to me. What does a verbal commitment mean? 

Skeptical in Scottsdale

Dear Skeptical:

For me, a commitment is a commitment – verbal or written. However, students sometimes misunderstand where they stand in the recruiting process. I compare that process to interviewing for a job; in the early stages of a job search you are seeking and evaluating offers. Then there’s the stage when you have committed to a job, but haven’t yet started work. If you continue to interview elsewhere at that commitment stage, you could hurt your professional reputation. That analogy pretty much summarizes the college recruiting process. Here are some specifics on what I advise:  

  • Clarify the coach’s intent. Students need help understanding what coaches mean when they say, “We’d love to have you on our team, but we don’t know if you can get in.” Although those coaches are explaining they don’t have control over admissions decisions, too many students hear those coaches making a verbal commitment that they can attend that college and play for that team. It is actually the student’s job to assess not only a coach’s interest, but whether he/she qualifies academically and financially. Parents should not allow their child to commit to a school until they have a firm commitment (verbal or written) from both the coach and the admissions office. 
  • Communicate the student’s interest. Once a student has an offer – verbally or in writing – then it’s the student’s job to evaluate the offer. It’s the parents’ job to help the student understand the high level of commitment that comes with any acceptance. I typically suggest my clients take some time to compare any other options. When asked, most coaches will agree to wait a week or two for a student’s final answer. 
  • Confirm the student’s integrity. Once students make a verbal commitment to a coach (even if nothing has been signed), they shouldn’t talk to other coaches without telling them they have verbally committed elsewhere.. Those who do so are burning bridges. A coach should be able to trust a recruit’s word, and the recruit should be prepared to play at that school for four years. Those who accept a spot on a team and then take a “better offer” are demonstrating a lack of integrity. They are also hurting other players competing for a spot on either team. 

The Reality

Once a student says “I’m coming,” to a school, that student is done with recruiting. When other coaches come calling, that student must tell them they’re playing elsewhere. I tell clients that college recruiting is like job recruiting – it’s wrong to accept a position, then quit to go to another job before beginning work. That’s why students should carefully clarify each coach’s intent. Once a confirmed athletic/academic offer is received (verbal or written), the student should thoroughly evaluate that offer, then respond with integrity. Character matters. Always.

All the best,

Amy