If signing day was on a holiday, it would be on Halloween.
The college sports recruiting process is like going through a pitch-black haunted house with clowns and dolls jumping at random moments. It’s scary, you don’t know what you’re getting into, but somehow you’ll get through it and embrace the journey.
Every recruitment is different. Some athletes get offers as early as eighth grade and some don’t get their first offer until midway through their senior season. Some players are prioritized for two years, just to be told a college is no longer interested in a span of two minutes. Others are backup options for months and are one breakout season or growth-spurt away from being a top target.
One thing is certain in every recruitment: It is difficult for a 17-year-old to choose a collegiate destination without guidance. That’s where parents come in. They should know their kids better than anyone.
“It’s another football season,” Neumann Goretti coach Albie Crosby said. “People think it’s really easy, but it’s a lot of work and conversations to it.”
“It’s one of their first adult decisions,” Imhotep Charter basketball coach Andre Noble said. “You have to really do your homework.”
However, the reality is that most parents enter the process just like the players. Most of them don’t know what to expect unless they’ve played themselves or raised another child who went through the process.
Eric Edwards is the father of University of Tennessee defensive back Romello Edwards, from Neumann Goretti. He had Division II scholarship offers but decided to trust his skills and walk on at the University of Tennessee.
Crosby got in contact with people at Tennessee and helped Edwards get that opportunity.
It wasn’t Eric Edwards’ first rodeo; Romello was his third son going through the process. “I’ve learned that each kid is different,” he said. “You can’t treat each kid’s recruitment the same.”
Troy Bouie didn’t know much about the process himself. He knew it was a business, and he wanted to be educated. He reached out to reliable coaches to help gain the knowledge needed. His son, Tre’Sean Bouie, had offers from lower Division I programs, but he decided to play at Assumption College, a DII school in Massachusetts.
Troy Bouie wanted to help his son however he could.
“I think they need to guide their children," he said of the parents’ role. "We are going to see things that they don’t see.”
Transparency in the process
Just about every college football athlete who played youth sports was dominant. As players get older, they grow and mature in different ways. While some grow to check all the boxes physically, others are left being told that they’re too small or slow.
As a parent, that can be hard to accept. All your life, everyone tells you how your child is going to be the next big thing. Compliments come in bunches each game from fellow parents and other fans. Still, it is the job of a parent to be 100% honest with their offspring, and that can be difficult.
“Some parents aren’t real with themselves,” Eric Edwards said. “I’m not going to sit here and say my son is Deion Sanders, but you have some people that do say their son is Deion Sanders. They’re not being truthful to the kids.”
Edwards and Bouie each had to have the moment with their son. Edwards sat his son down and told him that at that moment, he was too slow to play at a school like Tennessee. Bouie had to tell his son that he was too lean and had to gain weight.
Parents often seek high school coaches’ advice for transparency in the process, but it can create problems. Coaches have helped players get offers and attention, but it’s the non-offers that create conflict. High school coaches take flak from parents who believe it’s the coaches’ fault. Edwards knows how hard Crosby tries to get players to certain schools, but sometimes he just can’t.
“We as parents are so unappreciative of coaches because we don’t understand the process,” Edwards said.
You typically have two types of parents in the recruiting process: Either they’ll be heavily involved with a hands-on approach, or they’ll sit back in the shadows and only enter the picture when needed.
Coaches and experienced parents suggest the first option. No one knows a kid better than the parent.
“The coaches can’t do it all,” Edwards said. “Look how many kids the coaches have to deal with. They have to deal with hundreds of kids. You have to get involved.”
The biggest battle between parents and kids is finding the right fit. Recruits often chase logos and brands, while parents generally look for the best all-around fit from an academic and football perspective.
Crosby once had a player who wanted to attend West Virginia. He looked the player in the eyes and asked him to name five cities in West Virginia. He gave him 10 seconds. No Google, no phone, no help. If he could name them, Crosby was going to pick up the phone and call West Virginia to try to help him get the offer.
“He was like, ‘Morgantown,’ and he got a brain freeze. He didn’t know,” Crosby said. “At some point, football is going to end, so you need to know what else you can rely on.”
Recruiting parents is the second-biggest battle going on. College coaches carefully examine which parent has the most influence, and it’s a full-court press after that. College coaches are trying to get parents to visit just like the players.
It’s not the business parents are accustomed to handling, but it’s a process that has to be figured out fast. There’s no in-between because you only have so much time to get it done.
“It’s a scary process," Crosby said. "You believe you know, but you just don’t know.”