As the parent of a competitive athlete, you know all too well that the college recruiting process can be full of daunting obstacles and unforeseen pitfalls. By now, you’ve likely helped your child navigate through a variety of youth sports challenges and you’re feeling fairly confident as a sport parent. Congratulations on making it this far!
But be warned: When college recruitment begins – which can be in middle school for many athletes – you’ll be faced with an entirely new set of circumstances that must be addressed and understood before you reach your destination. In my experience, even parents who have been through the recruiting process with another child tend to make common mistakes that can delay their commitment and narrow their options. To increase your chances of a successful outcome, here are five common mistakes that you should avoid at all costs during your recruiting journey.
5. Assuming that “we’ll continue to evaluate you” is good news. While this feedback from a college coach can sometimes be taken at face value, it’s also commonly used to politely express lack of interest in a player. Bottom line: Don’t assume that you understand the coach’s intended meaning. Ask your club coach or recruiting advisor to request a more detailed evaluation of your child’s performance and potential suitability for that program.
4. Not accepting negative feedback. If your child emerges from a showcase or ID camp with negative feedback from a college coach, take it for what it is: an evaluation of their suitability for that program. Too often, players receive negative feedback and assume the coach was mistaken or just didn’t see them at their “best.” Although it can be painful to hear, negative feedback provides opportunities for players to take accountability for their level of performance, seek ways to improve before attending the next camp, or simply accept that their skill-set is not what the coach is looking for and move on.
3. Not understanding a program’s expectations. A coach will almost never discourage a player’s interest in their school. Rather, it’s the responsibility of parents and players to determine which schools are the best fit. So before your child sets their sights on a specific school – and spends time and money attending ID camps – make sure they understand what they’re potentially signing up for. What’s the team’s playing style? What traits are expected in their position? What’s the coach’s philosophy? How demanding is the practice and game schedule in relation to academic commitments? Do your research and know the answers to these and other questions before adding a school to your list.
2. Specializing in one position. At the youth level, playing one position may not create at a significant disadvantage, but if your athlete aims to play soccer in college, they absolutely must have the versatility to play well in multiple positions. The stakes are extremely high on a college team, with upwards of two dozen players constantly competing for a limited number of spots. If your child wants to get more playing time – especially as an underclassman – developing their skills in other positions can create opportunities to contribute to the team.
1. Parents acting as advocates. This mistake tops the list as the most common – and the most deadly – mistake a parent can make during the recruiting process. Put simply, parents should never reach out to coaches to advocate on behalf of their child. Although your outreach may be well-intentioned, this behavior will almost certainly create a negative impression with the coach. Coaches want players who are mature, assertive and able to handle the responsibilities of young-adulthood they’ll face in college. It may be difficult to relinquish control, but your child must take the lead in communicating with coaches and ultimately defining their future. If you believe your child isn’t ready for this, consider engaging an expert to help inform and empower them.
As a college recruiter, I’ve learned a lot from speaking to thousands of sport parents and college coaches over the years. And while there isn’t a magic bullet when it comes to recruiting, there are certainly some straightforward tactics that can help you identify and commit to the best school. Whether this is your first foray into college recruiting or you’ve been down this road before, you’ll no doubt benefit tremendously from avoiding these common mistakes.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at email@example.com.