Dear Coach Bryant,
My daughter is a standout softball player. Our small town is devoted to the sport, and it seems like everyone we know turns out to watch her play. One of those supporters told me his brother-in-law is the softball coach at the college where my daughter has her heart set on playing in two years. He said he could put in a good word for her. And, he mentioned that he is a donor to the school.
Since we seem to have an “in” with this program, how should I follow up this lead?
Networking in Nebraska
It is great to be part of a supportive community, and I’m sure your daughter is grateful for those who want to help. However, I tell my clients in similar situations to proceed with caution. Here’s why:
Recruiting is not about insiders
It may be that your friend could help your daughter get a meeting with the coach. If your daughter is a standout player, the coach may already have her on his radar, and would be open to meeting her. But in the end, recruiting decisions are based on athletic ability, not inside contacts.
Recruiting is not about money
Unless your friend has a campus building named after him, it is highly unlikely that his endorsement will result in special attention from the coach. While some coaches may be vulnerable to donor pressure, most adhere to ethical standards when assembling their roster. Money rarely makes a difference.
Recruiting is not about parents
As a parent, I understand how you have served as your child’s advocate in countless parent-teacher conferences and coaches’ meetings. But now your job is to teach your daughter how to reach out to coaches at her target schools. Even if the donor-friend is able to make an introduction, coaches want to hear from the recruit, not the recruit’s parents.
“Who you know” is not a recruiting strategy in college athletics. Athletes gain attention from coaches through their own efforts, on and off the playing field. Parents can help their students organize and strategize their contacts, assemble lists of likely schools, and narrow the options as they do systematic research.
All the best,