An Open Letter to the Athlete We Must Stop Recruiting

An Open Letter - Fearless Coaching

Many high school athletes aspire to earn a spot on the roster of a college team. Often, the athlete, or their parents, make significant mistakes in this process. Often, the athlete doesn’t understand the right – and wrong – priorities.

Becky Carlson is the Head Coach of the NCAA D-I Rugby team at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. Earlier this week, she posted an excellent article about recruiting prospective student athletes for college athletics. It exactly matches comments and stories I hear from a wide variety of other college coaches and that I have observed firsthand. Linked here is her article; read it very carefully! Then come back to this post.

An Open Letter to the Athlete We Must Stop Recruiting

Shocked? Good! She speaks the truth! Get busy!

Or as you read did you think that all these things should be obvious? You just became a top prospect! Call us! Right now! 😉

Below are some additional thoughts and opinions from someone who coaches middle school, high school, college, and adult athletes and teams.

High School Athletes

We want to know about your character. We want to know how you handle adversity. We want to know how you relate with and to others. We want to know how you interact with your teammates and coaches. We want to know what you value and your priorities. We want to know what kind of effort you put forth of your own volition – in sports and in the classroom. We want to know how much or how little you take responsibility for your failures and how you handle your successes.

We want to know about your grades. We want to know about your academic goals. We want to know about your post-college goals and plans.

We want to know what sports means to you. We want to now your goals and dreams and aspirations. We want to know what you are passionate about, in sports and in life. We want to know about your other sports and activities, past and present.

Finally, we want to know about your capabilities in the sport. Yes, that is last. Oh, and if you can’t or won’t tell us your grades or scores early in the recruiting process, we know you don’t own them and that is a red flag. Tell us your grades and scores, how you feel about your them, and what you are doing to improve. Be specific so we know exactly what the grade or GPA score is for, and don’t give us your best practice score – competition is what counts.

Contact the coach during the summer before your junior year of high school. We even get emails from freshmen and sophomores, and email our replies once the NCAA contact-permitted date arrives. Be sure to give your first and last name, year in school and when you expect to graduate, where you live and the name of your school, your club if any, your GPA and any other academic information, and tell about yourself. If you don’t hear back right away, follow up. Be polite yet persistent! (Remember, if they don’t know your year in school, you will get NO response.)

Recruiting rules and dates vary for NCAA Division I, II, and III, so if you don’t hear back right away, keep sending periodic updates with grades, scores, and major competitions where you will be participating. Also, the college coach can email or talk with your coach at any time if you provide their name and contact information.

If you initiate contact, and if you respond to emails and phone calls on a timely basis, that sets you apart. Athletes who can’t be bothered to respond certainly are not showing good character or initiative.

High School Parents

If you make the first contact and/or make most or all of the contacts, you do your child a severe disservice. If you have to make contact on behalf of your child, there is a good chance you are wasting your time. We already know what we need to know. I’m not being harsh. Just stating reality.

Of course, once your child has established contact and we have a dialog underway, we would love to hear from you as well. This is a big decision and you should be informed about the school, coach, and team that will become a huge part of your child’s life. Just don’t dominate the conversation, especially on a visit.

When your child can’t get a word in edgewise, we can’t get to know them. Then we might pass on your child when they otherwise would have been great for us, and us for them, but we could not tell and wouldn’t take the chance.

Also, model appropriate character, especially at games. Be a good fan. Be a good sport parent. Don’t know what that means? Google is your friend! And read this posting:

The Only Six Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids About Sports — Or Any Performance

If you are not a good sport parent, your child doesn’t want you at the game. Neither do their coaches and neither do your child’s teammates. Please don’t be that parent!

High School & Junior Coaches

College coaches really don’t care about our recommendations unless they have gotten to know us well and trust our opinion. It’s nothing personal, it’s just how things work. Too many coaches give glowing recommendations for average athletes. Let your athletes shine for themselves.

This past year, I suggested to the head coach of one of the top NCAA rifle teams that she might want to take a look at a certain athlete that I have the pleasure of working with. I didn’t give her a glowing recommendation of the athlete, I just stated that she might want to take a close look. The coach understood me and appreciated that I didn’t do a sell job. Later, I facilitated a meeting at their mutual request to take place after a major competition ended and they took it from there. A year later, the young lady joined that coach’s team… she didn’t need my recommendation, had shined on her own, and earned a spot on the roster!

Encourage your athletes to get their grades, work on their sport, focus on themselves, and on the things they need in life to succeed. Grades, scores, and recruiting will turn out just fine.

College Athletes

Think you’ve got it made? Nope!

Maybe you got lucky in regard to some of the things she wrote about. Don’t take the chance that your time will run out. Your spot is not assured for all 4 years. Did you spot anything in the article that you can improve upon? Yes? Good, get busy! No? OK, hopefully that means you are not delusional and instead are one of those “perfect” athletes. If so, help your teammates become better teammates. Lead by example.

College Parents

This is college. Your child is an adult. (I know that is a shock, and sometimes they still seem to act like a child.) We deal with athletes as young adults. It is part of their development in the college years. Get out of your child’s way and let them be a college athlete. Luckily, most parents understand this.

Sadly, a few don’t. The worst examples: One couple lied to their child about which colleges accepted the student in order to force their child to go to a certain school. The student found out. That didn’t turn out well.

Another athlete was told that if they didn’t make the starting roster they would not be allowed to return to school the next semester. Yup!

You can’t make this stuff up!

Again, luckily, most parents let their child fly from the nest. You know who you are. Your child and the coaches thank you!

We love having you at the games. Remember this is college. Let your child be a young adult. Be a good fan. Be a good sport parent. Don’t know what that means? Google is your friend! And read this posting:

The Only Six Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids About Sports — Or Any Performance

If you are not a good sport parent, your child doesn’t want you at the game. Neither do we and neither do your child’s teammates.

These parents are the very reason their child’s scores – and grades – are dropping. Sadly, we have seen it happen, far too many times. Please don’t be that parent!

I hope this has been an eye-opening and helpful post. Please share your thoughts, comments, and suggestions for improvement, either below or privately, as you prefer.

College sports can be a wonderfully life-changing experience. Enjoy!


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