The push from parents for their young athletes to play collegiate sports has become overwhelming. The NCAA generated 1.12 billion dollars in 2018 (1) and with all that money comes promises of free or reduced tuition, housing, food, top level coaching, new facilities with Gucci equipment, and the list goes on and on. Who wouldn’t want that for their child? The problem is the parents fall in love with the idea, and can end up causing more harm than good for the people they care about most. This article will help parents set up their young athlete for success when they take the next step.
Build a Better Athlete
Recruiting has changed immensely since I did it as a tall skinny baseball player from Southern Illinois, but a few things haven’t. Parents need to take some extra measures if your kid plays a single sport. Stand up for your child, and always remember college coaches aren’t your friends (yet).
Single sport athletes are now the norm, instead of the exception, like they were when I was growing up. Kids played multiple sports with varying planes of movement, energy demands, and strength requirements back in the mid 90’s and it wasn’t as next level focused as it is now. Today, kids play a single sport mostly with outside skill lessons on top of their chosen sport practices. They play on multiple travel and school teams, all star showcases, and will sub on teams during weekends when they “aren’t busy.” Everyone is worried about building a certain skill set, and very few are worried about building the athlete. There’s two big problems with this approach.
First, keeping your young athlete in those repetitive movement patterns for years on end without intervention, leads to injury. Think about all the violent rotations in a single direction that a softball hitter completes in their lifetime or all the max effort overhead arm-swings a volleyball player has in just one season. If your kid is going to be that single sport focused athlete, pay a qualified strength and conditioning coach to build and help execute a very specific training program to strengthen and balance your young athlete’s body to withstand that stress.
The other issue when skill development is given preference over athletic development, is lack of projection. College coaches obviously want great players of their given sport, but they want athletes that can be developed. Coaches aren’t trying to find that high school player that is overweight and slow, but can crush 85 mph fastballs off of a 17 year old. Coaches want athletes that have the potential to be brought up to a new level because they haven’t hit their peak yet. Put your youngster in a position to be the kid that gets tagged as a projectable athlete, and not just a high school level all star.
Grades and the ‘Gram
I think everyone agrees that parenting has its challenges especially in the world we live in today. As parents, there’s some guidance that we need to give our young athletes, if their dreams include college athletics. When a name comes across a college coaches desk as a prospective recruit, I can tell you the first thing they’ll do is get on the internet and look at all of their social media accounts. TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat will give that coach the first impression of your little angel before they’ve ever spoken or met with your child. Make sure they’re putting themselves in a positive light and showing that they’ll be a good teammate and person on campus. College coaches can’t “fix” your kid’s grades. If little Billy can throw a football 80 yards on a rope, but can’t pass Algebra 1, they have no use for them no matter what Hollywood would like you to believe. Academics will follow your child longer than their sport, make sure their grades put them on track to get a diploma. Parents need to do their research on the coaching staff, program, and university as a whole to help their kids navigate through all of the information that will be thrown 100 mph in their direction. Does the school have their desired major? How many upperclassmen on the team play my kid’s position? Does the school size fit my child socially? These are all questions you should be helping your child answer before any ink hits the paper for a commitment.
Keep Coaches at Arm’s Length
The last thing that I would really like parents to realize is that college coaches aren’t your buddies. They spend countless hours calling, writing messages, taking you to dinner and putting you on the field at football games to accomplish one goal and that’s to make their team better. They have families that depend on a paycheck that directly stems from their ability to put a quality product on the field or court. That product can mean monetary bonuses, a job at a bigger university, or a sponsorship from Nike or Adidas. As a recruit, your kid is a means to that end and nothing more. Eventually your athlete will have a relationship with that coach, good or bad, but at the moment they are a number to get that program to a better place. If your kid doesn’t have anything in writing when it comes to scholarships, don’t be surprised when the rug gets pulled out for a bigger fish. Once your athlete has made a decision, get things in writing as soon as possible and don’t let it go untended because the coach is “a nice guy that would never go back on his word.”
Help Them Enjoy the Ride
All the preparation and build up for a potential college scholarship or college athletic experience can be extremely exciting and stressful for the athlete as well as the parents. As parents we spend thousands of dollars on equipment, lessons, and teams to give our kids a fighting chance in competitive sports. Spend some time with them and talk about presenting the best versions of themselves. Give them the tools to be a balanced, durable athlete and not dread getting out of bed at 40 because they hurt from years of abuse. Be that buffer to filter out all the bullshit they will have to wade through during the recruiting process. The collegiate athletic experience can be one of the most beneficial social and professional events in your child’s life. It’s our job to give them all the tools to be successful.
TRAINING: Bedrock – 7 Days Risk Free
PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 344 – Ivy League Coaching w/ Tom Newman
PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 329 – Daniel Roose & College Basketball Culture
PODCAST: PA Radio Episode 353 – Mastering the D3 Dynamic w/ Mike Caro
BLOG: Upshots of Playing NCAA Division III Athletics by Tex McQuilkin
EDU: ACL Injury Prevention – Power Athlete Academy
Nolan Bastien is a former D1 college athlete and has a B.S. in Exercise Science. He has his CSCS and TSAC from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, EXOS XPS certification, and is a Power Athlete Block One Coach. He is currently a professional fireman in the city of Indianapolis and a dad to two girls, both of which play two travel sports.
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