Parents have an essential role in their child’s recruiting process but find it tricky identifying where exactly they fit in. A successful recruiting effort is a joint endeavor: the student leads and the parents support and advise, mostly behind the scenes.
Providing mature, adult perspective is valuable parental support. Keep the big picture in mind and demonstrate a healthy commitment to the process—not just the result. This begins early by focusing on the values of competitive rowing itself, not thinking about getting something like an athletic scholarship or Ivy admit.
Parents can also help by encouraging and facilitating their child’s participation in multiple sports. Even if they want to, do not let young athletes only row. Similarly, parents should not push their child to specialize. Doing any single sport four seasons a year as a developing teenager is rarely a good idea.
At a concrete level, parents can accompany their child on unofficial visits to colleges. Besides the anticipated benefit of seeing colleges, these trips can be incredibly rewarding experiences when parents begin seeing their child as a young adult and together confront the reality of their soon leaving home.
Scholarship or not, college is expensive. Parents should educate their child regarding what is financially realistic. The money talk should occur early; before an athlete gets fixated on one college or one type of college. In the same vein, parents can also help their child see the broader picture of college life beyond rowing and life after college. They are likely the only ones thinking about the return on investment of a particular school and course of study.
Parents must let the athlete communicate with the college coaches. When a parent contacts a coach because “my son is too busy,” coaches the coach will immediately think he won’t be able to handle rowing and studying at that institution. Parents should become involved if the discussion turns to scholarships, financial aid, or admissions support, but otherwise leave it in the student’s hands.
Frequently parents say, “It’s their choice. We want to leave it up to him or her.” This is as dangerous as dictating to a child where to enroll. For most recruited rowers, selecting a college is the first significant, consequential decision of their lives. Parents should voice their opinions and offer advice. They know their child better than anyone and are best positioned to offer counsel.
Finally, parents have the life experience and maturity to better manage expectations than most teenagers. If mom and dad remember that the application is accepted or denied, not their child, then everyone is more likely to feel satisfied rather than disappointed when all is said and done.