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Parents in Recruiting: How Should a Parent Behave?

Your son or daughter is a high school lacrosse athlete with dreams of playing in college. You’re a proud parent who is thrilled to support your child in whatever way you can, but you’ve never experienced college recruiting before. And even if you did play lacrosse or another sport in college, times have changed quite a bit since then.

So, how should a parent behave during the recruiting process? Mike Schanhals has been a college lacrosse head coach since 2004, and he had two sons go through the lacrosse recruiting experience, too. He’s lived both sides of college lacrosse recruiting, and these are some of the best tips he has for parents who are entering the world of recruiting with their child.

Parents in Recruiting: How Should a Parent Behave?

Search for the right academic fit first, and then consider lacrosse. Some of my fondest memories are of road trips with my wife and sons to check out schools and programs. We had a great time, and it was well worth investing the gas money and effort to drive across the country to get a feel for different schools.

There are many great opportunities out there. You can use this tool to assess your child’s admissions chances.

Try to make a list of 20 schools and work it down to a dozen or so by the time you decide where to visit. Reach out to the coach (or make sure you connect through your club coach if you are looking DI) and admissions before you visit.

Promptly Fill Out the FAFSA

The FAFSA is a race – it’s first come, first served until the money runs out. You can use an estimated cost calculator to decide what initial schools to put on your fit list, but you really won’t know the actual financial cost until each school has calculated your aid package.

If you are a recruit, you may be able to request an expedited financial aid package, and perhaps a “likely” letter to access your chances of getting admitted. These are questions that you can ask your admissions counselor.

You may also be asked to fill out a CSS profile, which is a tool some schools use during the admissions process. Know how to ask these questions when you’re on your visit.

Your Child Should Do the Work, Under Your Guidance

As a coach, it’s very important for me to get to know your child during the recruiting process. Your job as a parent is to listen carefully and help have conversations about the recruiting process with your kid. You can help them assess the fit, narrow down the list, chauffeur them to campuses, ask questions of the admissions reps and financial aide people, and rebalance the hype and excitement over lacrosse toward school and student-athlete fit.

College is a significant investment of time and money, and you can help your child understand the business side of it all. Coaches these days are very wary of helicopter, or lawnmower, parents. Let your kid be the face of their search with your support in the background.

Go to Prospect Day

If there is a prospect day happening at one of your top three-to-five schools, you should make it a priority to go. Not only will your kid get a better feel for life on campus, but they will also get to know their potential future teammates. They will get the vibe of the program during prospect day more so than any other event on campus.

Feel free to ask for feedback after the event as well. These can be great learning days, and your child’s transition from a high school to college athlete depends on a great amount of growth during their last years of high school. Make sure you sign up early – spots go fast at the more competitive schools.

Each Coach Has a Very Small Network of Trusted High School & Club Coaches

We know and trust who we know. Everyone else, we take their recommendations with a grain of salt.

Almost every high school coach will sing the praises of their kids. What makes your kid different from the rest of the recruits? We expect that they are leaders, that they work hard, that they have been recognized as All-American/All-State/All-Conference and are on the honor roll. The recommendation from a trusted coach can weight heavily in our decision to offer a spot.

As a parent, you will not know who has good connections with your high school or club coach. Every network is different, and no matter how much money you pay to a club team, you can’t guarantee the fit or relationships. Pay for your kid to get better as a player and to have fun playing more competitive ball. Be very skeptical about sales pitches that promise or imply how connected they are to us college coaches.

It’s Not Personal, But It Is Personalized

Understand that each college has an admissions profile and each coach has recruitment needs. We may have too many lefty attackmen, so we may just not be looking for any during the recruiting cycle that your kid is in. We may need a longpole, who is from out-of-state, with at least a 3.8 GPA, and the right CSS profile. If that student-athlete enrolls, then we will need someone with a different profile next year. If not, then we still are looking.

Especially at the DIII level, it’s not an exact science for us, nor is it a shopping trip where we just grab up who we want like we’re an ACC or Big Ten team. Typically, we will “offer” a spot to eight to 10 people, and then we get any number of “walk-ons.” We generally don’t know exactly how many are coming out for fall ball until all deposits are due May 1. We may still get a handful who contact us over the summer, or who transfer from other schools.

Last year, we were fortunate to have nine players selected to the All-Conference MIAA Team – two were transfers, one was a former DI early commit, one was a walk-on, and the rest were recruited athletes who chose to be student-athletes here.

Yes, Every Coach Will Recruit Athletes “Over” Your Child

As coaches, we are so competitive that we will recruit hard every year and work the player development process to put the best team on the field. We also mentor all of our athletes and know that regardless of playing time and accolades, we are invested in developing the full potential of each of your children.

College lacrosse is not for everyone, but it is a rare privilege for those who earn the opportunity. All of my best to you as you enjoy the process with your child.