When Parents Ruin Player’s Opportunities

By - Reid
04.25.24 06:32 PM

One of the more popular topics in coaching circles today is how to manage parents. While this has always been a topic of discussion at the college level, recent years have forced this once-small piece of the process into the limelight of the recruiting conversation. There are plenty of reasons why parents have felt more emboldened in the youth sports space, primarily because of the economy of youth sports we see today, but it is important to understand how much damage a parent can do to a child’s opportunities in college by not knowing when to get out of their own way. In this article, I want to touch on the three most prominent ways a parent can negatively affect their child’s chances of being recruited by ANY college coach today.

When a parent talks for/over their child in the recruiting process

Parents love hard, and they love irrationally. This is a wonderful quality in so many areas of life, but when a parent tries to take over the conversation with college coaches, bad things happen. This is normally done when a parent is trying to “protect” their child from being taken advantage of, but there are other - more effective - ways to support your child. This is a perfect opportunity for parents to test drive their kids managing a conversation, while they can serve as mindful listeners. Parents can take mental notes, written notes, or whatever they need to do to prevent VOICING their feelings in the moment. When the conversation with a coach is over, parents can then ask their child how they felt the meeting went and build the conversation from that point. Parents should feel comfortable voicing questions about safety, logistics, etc., but trying to dominate the conversation or play “hard ball” is only going to hurt their child in the overall recruiting process.

When a parent lives vicariously through their child’s athletic success

This happens more than we care to admit, but every parent needs to know that they are not the ones going to college. They are not the ones playing for a particular coach, and they should not expect to rise or drop in social status based on their child’s college decision. The recruiting process is equal parts exciting and stressful, and it is impossible not to imagine yourself in your child’s shoes when considering different college opportunities. We don’t expect parents to separate entirely from this process, but rather to constantly remind themselves that they had their lives, they made their decisions, and now it is time for their child to do the same. Would a parent have wanted their own mom or dad tell them where to go to school? Did their own parent do that, and did they appreciate that opinion? Support and guidance are different than influence and steering, and parents who understand that are far more likely to be invited to their child’s college games with open arms.

When a parent expects a return on their investment from youth sports to college

Let’s be honest, sports are expensive now. The average family who competes in youth sports outside of their school can expect to pay an average of $10,000 PER YEAR in high school. Many families have the expectation that their $40,000 high school investment is owed a return in the form of a scholarship, and the fact is that the vast majority of families are going to report a loss on that bet. A lot of this has to do with the fact that we’ve given families false impressions of the impact an athletic scholarship can truly make outside of six DI sports, so when it comes time to reap what families felt they sowed, the money simply isn’t there. Moreover, putting a $40,000 weight on a 15, 16, or 17 year old kid to perform well in a sport that has always been a game to them is a recipe for disaster. In what other rational scenario do we put that kind of pressure on a minor?