I recently had a chance to do a question and answer with a parent who saw her son eventually sign with a Division I-AA powerhouse. This All Stater really shined during the end of the season and was able to secure a scholarship despite having two major Division I players also on his team. This is a very in-depth account of what the stress that parents go through during the recruiting process. I owe her a huge thank you for helping inform readers of what she went through. This is part two of a two part article.
Were all coaches honest with you during the process?
“Yes. I will always have a warm spot in my heart for an assistant coach at State University #1. John REALLY wanted to go to school there with two teammates and the assistant coach really tried to make it work out for John, but he was very honest with him. After we got back from our trip to State University #3, he visited the boys at school that week and he asked John how the visit went. John told him that they had offered him a scholarship, and the assistant coach asked, “How much?” (as in %-wise). John told him that they offered him a full-ride, and the assistant said to him, “John, I would like you to come to State University #1 and play football, but I can’t promise you anything. If you were my son, I would tell you to take it.” I think that had a HUGE impact on John, and made him realize the magnitude of what he had been offered.”
Talk about your official visits. What did you do on them?
“We went on two, both to State University #3. At least I think they were “official” as I didn’t really understand the difference. He was invited by the college both times if that counts. The first one was just him being invited to come to State University #3 and watch one of their games. We got a tour, they talked to us about financial aid and scholastic requirements and we watched them cream their opponent. The second one was about three weeks after winning the state championship game, he was invited to State University #3 for a visit. He had the a wrestling tourney that day, so he didn’t go Friday night or Sat a.m. like a lot of the kids. We traveled there on Saturday night, after the conclusion of the meet, were greeted by the coach responsible for recruiting our area, and John spent a few hours with a couple of the young men on the team. The next morning we had breakfast with the rest of the recruits invited there that weekend and their parents, along with the coaches and the president of the college. Following breakfast we met with the head coach in his office, where he offered John a scholarship to play football for State University #3. It was quite a whirlwind experience and somewhat overwhelming. I know that when we walked into that office, I was not expecting him to offer to pay for my son’s college education.”
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Were you surprised about what schools offered and what ones didn’t?
“Quite frankly, there wasn’t much that went on that DIDN’T surprise me. A lot of that stems from the fact that, as I said, with Facebook and MySpace, the coaches have access to the kids’ contact info and don’t have to come through the home like I would have expected. I am sure that John was contacted by many coaches while at school, as there were many coaches who would visit the high school and ask his high school coach if they could talk to the boys. However, John had his mind made up that he was going to play football at a big school, so he didn’t even tell me when the coaches would visit. In fact, my husband and I ended up having his high school coach call us when he knew ahead of time that assistant coach at State University #1 or head coach at State University #3 was coming to talk to John so he would have a parent present and we would know what the heck was going on. I understand that a lot of the kids are 18, but John was 17 the whole time and I guess I would have thought from a legal point of view, the coaches would have wanted the parental input. Also, who the heck trusts an 18 year-old to make informed, logical, mature decisions? That is why I thought that they would make more of an effort to communicate with the parents. As assistant coach who recruited John for State University #3 kept in touch with my husband and I quite regularly to let us know what was up, and he and another assistant even came to some wrestling meets before he signed to keep in touch but that was after they offered him. There were a lot of DII coaches who would call in the evening, but I fielded most of those and told him that he had committed to State University #3.”
How difficult was the decision of a walk on at the dream in-state school vs. scholarship money at the Division I-AA level?
” It wasn’t difficult at all for me, but it was HELL on John…;-) Actually, it was terrible on all of us. Obviously as parents, we were looking at things from a financial and “head” point of view. The athlete, John in this case, was looking at it from a “heart” point of view. He had always admired the State University #1 football program and two of his best friends were going to go there. He was nervous about going off to college and leaving his “utopian” existence and everything he knew and loved here in his hometown, and the perfect solution to him was to go with two teammates. He always considered himself to be capable of playing at that level so he felt that if he went as a walk-on he would earn a scholarship once the coaches saw he was just as good as they were. It was simple to him. Plus, he had no frame of reference to State University #3 or any kind of personal connection. He had never been to a game, or cheered for them until the fall of his senior year. It was a really hard decision for him, but eventually, he did call the coaches and tell him that he would verbally commit to State University #3, because he knew that the “smart” thing to do was to take the sure thing and get a free education. Then he texted me from school and told me that he had committed. Until I got that text, I honestly didn’t know what he was going to decide to do. It was a lot of drama, that involved some yelling (he felt as though I was pressuring him and eventually refused to even talk to me about it) and crying (mostly on my part 🙂 and more distress than I would ever have imagined. I always thought that if your child was good enough at something that he/she was being recruited to do it in college and people were offering to pay their way, it would be nothing but sunshine and light….not so, kimosabi. It was awful to watch John struggle with his decision, and it was terrible trying to give him advice without sounding like I thought it should be an easy choice for him or I was pressuring him. It eventually got to the point that my husband would talk to him about it, but not me. I was glad when it was over and the letter was signed!”
If you could do it all over again, would there be anything that you would change?
“I would have tried to be more interactive. John had told me as a freshman in HS that he was going to go to college on a football scholarship. I should have put more credence in that statement when he made it I guess. He then did his part and worked his butt off and did exactly what it took to make that come true. But I now know that just because your kid is GOOD enough to play college football doesn’t mean he will get a scholarship. John’s experience is the perfect example of hard work and talent mixed with good fortune and good timing combining in just the right way to achieve a positive results. Had our HS team not been as good as it was, had John’s team mates in HS not have been as good as they were, had he been hurt and not had the opportunity to excel when given the opportunity, he probably would never have gotten the scholarship offer that he did. Mostly because our family was naive regarding the steps we should take to promote him, and get him the exposure that an athlete needs in what is a very competitive arena. All you have to do is look at the website that other athletes have established to see that getting a scholarship to play college football has become about marketing the athlete and getting them exposure, and in the case of “borderline” athletes, those young men that are not superstars on their teams or play on bad teams that don’t make the papers or the all-state lists, that exposure is even more important. In our case, we learned as we went, but it was pretty obvious in talking to other parents that we didn’t do even a smidgen of what a lot of them did to get their kids noticed.”
Do you have any advice for other parents about to go through the process?
“Be patient. The coaches may try to pressure you and your son into making a decision right away. When our son got his offer, they wanted to know by the weekend whether or not he was going to commit to them. Your son may be overwhelmed or intimidated by adult coaches who are calling them or stopping at school all the time and constantly asking for an answer. What we found out was if they think you are good enough to offer a scholarship to, more than likely they will wait for an answer. They might still ask all the time, but they probably are not going to pull the offer and give it to someone else if you don’t feel comfortable answering them in a week’s time. Contact the school or coach and let them know that you would like to be informed when they are going to visit at school so you can meet them. It is a big decision. Go visit colleges, even if you don’t get to talk to the coach, talk to someone in the academic department in which your child is interested. Your child is going there to get an education and how comfortable they are on the campus and the kind of academic support they will receive should be one of the main factors that affect their decision.”
Any other words of advice?
“Be supportive. It is an exciting but scary time in their lives. They need to know that no matter what they decide, you are behind them. Bite your tongue. Offer opinions when they are solicited, but try not to harp on them. It will be a much more enjoyable experience for all of you.”
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