From the Coach's Corner: Is College Athletics Right for Your Child? Apr 1, 2013

Tom CurryOriginally published in EP Magazine, April 2013

Parents should understand that while the coach may be recruiting your child, they are also recruiting you! The college coaches often watch the recruits' parents during games for how they behave and how they interact with other parents.

By Tom Curry

These days, a college education is an expensive proposition for a family to undertake for four years. With tuitions anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 and even more, many parents and students look to athletics as a means to reduce or even eliminate tuition costs. Understanding some essential questions and issues in beginning the process of college applications and recruiting may help reduce some of the stress parents and students undergo during the high school years. It is important that both the parent and the child understand that college athletics are a totally different commitment than high school athletics. The level of commitment of the college student athlete varies from school to school. In some schools, the athletic commitment is very time consuming while in others, it may be significantly less. Let's explore some of the ideas and things that both parents and students should know as they begin the college process. Some discussion topics for your child and you are a must before the journey begins.

Students

1. Do you really want to play your sport in college? Will this be a determining factor as you begin to choose a college that you might attend? Will you be happy at the school if you are not able to play?

2. Respond to all letters from college coaches. It's important to return questionnaires and phone calls in a timely manner. Be polite and respectful. Coaches change schools all the time and they do talk with each other.

3. Fill out NCAA Clearinghouse forms if applicable. (Division 1 and 2). Talk with your guidance counselor and double check your transcript for any errors, omissions and the like.

4. What is your major? Does this school offer this major? Will you be happy there for four years?

5. Develop a set of questions that you can ask college coaches, assistants and players about the school and the program. These questions might include:

a. How long have you been at the school coach? How about your assistants? What kind of off season conditioning program do you have? What other players are you recruiting in my position? Where do you see me fitting in?

b. For current players - How much class time do you miss during the season? Would you choose this college again? Where do students go after graduation? Career services office offerings?

c. Are there kids like you on the team? Do they have similar schools and town backgrounds, experiences and outside interests? Do you fit in this environment?

Parents

1. Get your financial records in order. Is financial aid a necessity? Help is usually available in filling out FAFSA forms from your local school's guidance office. If offered, attend a workshop that covers this aspect of the college application and decision process.

2. Gather as much information as you can about as many schools as you can. Visit colleges near you and perhaps plan some visits to schools your child might be interested in during summers or on vacation breaks.

3. Talk to other coaches in other programs at the school. Ask questions of other students and parents if available.

4. Go to a game and watch the coach interact with his or her players. Do you want your child to play for this coach for four years?

5. Do other parents attend games? How far away is the school from your home?

6. What about athletic trainers, team doctors? Check out the training room and weight room. Check out the dorms. Are there separate dorms for athletes, or are they in the normal school population?

7. What about vacation times? Does the team practice or play during these periods?

8. Special needs? Accomodations? Learning disabilities, tutoring, etc.

9. Ask who makes the final decision on scholarships, financial aid and admission decisions. The coach? The admissions office? Do they work together? How much say does the coach have in the decision? In the financial package offer?

The last part of the process is being aware of, and understanding what the college coach and personnel will ask of your child and, maybe more important, you. Parents should understand that while the coach may be recruiting your child, they are also recruiting you! The college coaches often watch the recruits' parents during games for how they behave and how they interact with other parents. Many coaches just don't want the hassle anymore of over-involved, excitable parents. Be supportive and happy if your child is being recruited, or has a chance to play at the college level.

Finally, it is best to remember that no decision is ever final. Students can and do transfer. Sometimes, despite everything everyone can do to make it work, your child may just end up not enjoying the school or team they choose. During this recruiting period, take your time and get to know the college, the coach and the students your child will be with for the next four years. It's worth the extra effort to know that you have done as much as you were able to do to come to a good decision with your son or daughter regarding their college career in both athletics and academics.

About the Author:
Tom Curry has been an Athletic Director in Bergen County, New Jersey, as well as an adjunct professor in the Wellness and Exercise Science Department at Bergen Community College for 24 years. He has coached high school basketball and golf and was voted Bergen County Basketball Coach of the Year in 2002. He has spoken at the New Jersey Medical Society Sports Symposium and to parent groups on various issues pertaining to youth sports. He was inducted into the NJ Coaches Hall of Fame in 2012

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