For parents to play a vital role in the college recruiting process, they need to do their due diligence to understand it. In regards to the athlete being attractive to college programs, most parents understand that; receiving good coaching/training, playing against quality competition, putting together an impressive highlight video, and attending various prospect and/or showcase events, are important elements. Many more aspects, however; should be understood and addressed appropriately to help insure a positive outcome.
It is very difficult to earn a full athletic scholarship, so what it most often comes down to is trying to have as good of a selection of attractive colleges as possible, that are affordable. Understanding the basic differences between what D1, D2, and D3 schools can offer is a starting point. When partial athletic scholarships are offered, being able to qualify for substantial academic scholarships can make all the difference in regards to the schools being affordable for many families. If money is no object and an athletic scholarship is not offered, then the objective is simply to find a college that is seen as an attractive choice, and that the college coach says that the athlete is welcome to join the team as a walk on.
Stress academics early on
Parents need to hold their kids accountable to a high academic standard early on, so that when entering high school, good academic habits and work ethic are already in place. So just as some parents may pay for special camps and training programs to help take their kid's game to the next level, it may be necessary to invest in some tutoring to do the same for their academics. Even if a college wants to offer a full athletic scholarship, the student-athlete also must have a good enough high school academic record to be able to gain admittance to the school.
Who's job is it?
Another mistake parents and athletes often make, is believing that it is the high school coach's responsibility to do the heavy lifting in regards to contacting the colleges that are a good fit. While it certainly helps if a coach has a program that is highly regarded and regularly attracts interest from colleges, and if the coach includes team participation in events that afford good exposure; it is a mistake for parents to leave their child's fate in someone else's hands. Parents should meet with the coach and develop some type of coordinated approach. Parents and athletes are able to contact college coaching staffs directly, however; some are better equipped to do so more skillfully than others. The high school coaches can be a great help assisting in this area.
Level of competition
Deciding what level of college competition is appropriate for the athlete is another important consideration. Many make the mistake of focusing most of their attention on big schools and other colleges that they have previously heard of, and neglect some smaller and lesser known schools that could be a great fit. The more experienced high school coaches may have had a lot of dealings with a variety of schools that are at a variety of levels, and can help steer things in the right direction, but once again, parents and the athletes need to be willing to initiate communications with the coaches. If the goal is to be a professional athlete, it helps to know that many professionals attended small schools. If you can really play, the pros can find you.
Up close and personal
If colleges are interested, they typically will invite the athlete to one of their prospect camps during the summer. Parents also can elect to register their child for prospect camps for schools that they and/or the athlete are interested in without being invited. Some of these types of camps have numerous schools represented and are advertised as such. Some camps, especially those hosted by larger schools, may not clearly advertise it, but they may have many coaches from smaller schools attending their camps also. Schools that really are interested likely will invite the athlete and family for an official visit, as early as during the athlete's junior year of high school. Schools foot the bill for official visits, but it is important to know the rules and limitations.
Not easy to earn playing time
If a school shows interest, it is important to realize that regardless of how much the coaches genuinely may want the athlete to join his/her program, that the coaches each year try to bring in as many good players as possible. This includes bringing in athletes transferring from other schools, ie; D1 athletes moving to lower levels in search of more playing time. Often a freshman will be asked to redshirt during the first season, and then may try to gradually earn playing time during the ensuing years. This is not only true for Division 1 programs, but for many at the Division 2 and Division 3 levels as well. It is important to note that the D3 redshirt rule is different from the D1 and D2 rule.
Non-sports related visits
Aside from attending a camp, it is very important to otherwise arrange to visit the colleges being considered. Academic considerations such as; making sure the college offers the course of study the athlete wants, and being satisfied with the degree to which the athletic program supports academics are important factors. When the parents and/or athletes visit at their own expense, it is considered an unofficial visit, and can be done whenever desired.
Transition to life in college
Once in college, the student will have new found freedom, and there will be many things that can distract from putting forth the required time and effort to academics. Entering college with good academic habits is obviously a big plus, but successfully pulling off the transition to college life requires a desire from the student-athlete to do so, and a willingness to put that desire into action. Effectively prioritizing activities, managing time, and exercising discipline are key academic success factors, and it helps if the team has a strong support system in place. Lack of success in these areas may result in the student/athlete getting poor grades and being placed on academic probation, and eventually may have to leave the school. Other miscellaneous details should also be considered when selecting a college.