The recruiting process can be exciting for those going through it for the first time. The attention, the visits, the conversations of what could be. On the flip side, the process can leave a sour taste. The disappointment, the misinformation, the frustrations.
The ups/downs associated with your son’s process will inevitably impact you too. For some dads, that impact is far greater, for others, not as much.
What’s important here is making sure the recruiting process has ownership. It shouldn’t belong to you, or your buddy from college, or to the chatty cathy down the street, the process should belong to your son.
Once your son takes hold of this journey, refusing to let go even when it seems like the best thing to do is just give-in or give-up, you will see something amazing happen: growth in your child.
Below we highlight 21 tips to help dads with this process. These tips come from from some amazing dads who have been through it, and from my perspective dealing with parents for 10+ years who had son’s go through the process. In this article, we uncover the line between making this process about you vs about your son. We communicate ways to find the perfect fit. We teach lessons on failing forward. We discuss how and why your son can grow from beginning to end.
Kicking it off with No. 1 – making the process about your son.
- This ain’t all about you pops. Ask questions about what your son thinks, as opposed to immediately imposing your own opinions or decisions on your son as it relates to all the factors that go into making a college decision.
- Give your young man a chance to grow up during the process. There are many ways your son will grow and mature through the recruiting process. It’s quite incredible to witness in fact. One of the biggest ways in which you can give your son a chance to grow is:
- Let them speak for themselves. Will they have awkward phone conversations with coaches because they don’t know what to say? Yes. Will they accidentally butcher a question while sitting down in that coaches office for the first time? Possibly. Will your son be anxious, nervous, or at times petrified, to have certain conversations? Of course. Regardless. Let your son speak for himself and he will get better at those tough conversations with adults and mature along the way.
- Don’t be afraid to have him make mistakes in the process. Your son will undoubtably learn from his mistakes if playing lacrosse in college is something he really wants. Bite your tongue. Go in another room. Listen from a distance. Whatever it takes to allow your son to have the freedom to make mistakes, do it.
- Check your ego at the door. It is their process that you should guide them through and be there for them so that they can learn how to make the first big decision of their lives.
- Block out the noise from other parents and social media. There will be a lot of “he said, she said” thru this process. Don’t take everything as gospel. Also, don’t get caught up with all the content on recruiting you see via social media. The kids you read about on social are unique to your son. Your son might play with some of those kids, you might have coached some of those kids, or maybe you just saw a tape on some of those kids: regardless, they ain’t your son.
- Be honest — with coaches, with yourself and most importantly with your son. Part of being honest is getting constant feedback from people you trust and from this you don’t know particularly well.
- Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Your son is an individual that deserves individualized attention, not just what everyone else is doing.
- Admit to yourself what the strengths and weaknesses of your son are. We’re not just talking about lacrosse skills, but also talking about where he is socially, verbally, mentally and psychologically. Make a conscious effort to work on improving those items throughout the process as well.
- Ask lots of questions when you/your son are interacting with the coaches.
- Make sure that you interview the coaches and you as a parent are satisfied entrusting them with your son for 4 years. So many people worry about x and o’s, but the coaches will be spending more time with your son than you will over the next 4 years. Make sure that the coaches are the right type of people and that they are reinforcing the values and character of the young man that you raised.
- Take notes and create a list of pros and cons about each school, coach, team etc.
- Love your son unconditionally regardless of the outcome of your process.
- Be tough with him and make him mentally strong, but make sure he doesn’t lose confidence in himself along the way.
- Help, don’t handle. Your son will turn to you for assistance, give it. If he turns to you to take-over, don’t allow it. If you really want to know if your son wants to play at the next level, let him do the work necessary to get recruited and create more opportunities throughout his process.
- Don’t treat your son’s process exactly the same as another one of your children who went thru it. A great example of this is boys getting recruiting during COVID in 2020 vs the classes of recruits who got recruited in 2019 and earlier. The circumstance, the timing, the opportunity this year was simply different than in years past. So don’t treat the process entirely the same for your son today vs. years ago.
- Have an honest conversation with your son about what the family can afford for college. Having a ceiling or none at all, on what you spend for your son’s college experience is something worth communicating. Your son will better understand the reality of their school search and will limit or expand their list accordingly.
- How will college be paid for? During the process, talk with your son about your family’s plan to pay for his college degree. Are you paying for it all, regardless of price? Are you paying half, your son the other half? The worst thing for your son is to graduate college and be in an unexpected well of debt from student loans he didn’t expect to pay off in the end. This will leave him feeling stressed, choosing a job for the wrong reasons post-college, and will even leave your son with doubts; wondering if he coulda, shoulda picked a school which was more affordable.
- Educate your son on what life might look like without pursuing college right after High School. Don’t let lacrosse be the driving force behind every decision. If he wants to consider learning a trade or pursuing a one or two year degree in a trade that will forge a successful career path, explore that, don’t push it away because of lacrosse.
- Have some conversations with your son about college without lacrosse in the equation. Assess what life would be like at specific schools without lacrosse. This brings the focus of the conversation to the school itself, the students, the location, and the campus life, not the lacrosse field.
- The process will be over sooner than you think, although it doesn’t feel like that at times. Remember, his college career will be over quicker than you think. However, the father/son relationship will last a lifetime, don’t ruin that relationship during the process, there is nothing more important than that!