Your kid’s gonna be a star. At least, if you have anything to say about it.
If you’re nurturing a student athlete with ambitions to compete in college and perhaps beyond, you’ll need to do your part to keep them on track and ensure that they properly balance their academic, athletic, and other extracurricular obligations.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of the steps you can take as a parent before your kid sets foot on campus. Where are you on this journey?
1. Start Them Early (But Not Too Early)
There’s a fierce debate over how early is too early to start your kid in competitive sports.
If you’re looking for a definitive answer, keep reading. If you’re looking for affirmation that your kid would do well to get as much time on the practice pitch before he or she begins serious competition, you’ve found it. Just remember that learning comes before a competition: you want your kid to have a healthy appreciation for play before their athletic career begins to resemble work.
2. Support Them on the Field (But Don’t Lurk Around the Practice Field)
You’re never too busy to make your kid’s game, especially when they’re young and their games are more likely to fall on weekends. Columbia University alum Ryan Nivakoff encourages parents to attend as many youth sports games as possible, even if they don’t expect their kids to compete beyond high school. Simply showing your child that their athletic endeavors matter is powerful encouragement.
By the same token, don’t waste time lurking around the practice field after school, unless you’re a volunteer coach. You wouldn’t attend your thespian student’s early rehearsals, would you?
3. Enroll Them in Age-appropriate Camps and Courses
You might not want to hang around the practice field, but you know full well that practice makes perfect. Carve time out of your kids’ summers and weekends for extra training: sports camps, skills courses, club teams, and so on. If funds are tight, look for scholarship opportunities or stick to programs with need-based fee scales.
4. Take Time Off to Travel With Them
Carve time out of your schedule, too. Competitive club and high school sports require extensive travel. If your kid is on an elite club team, you could well find yourself crossing state lines for games and tournaments.
5. Keep Them on Top of Their Studies
Schoolwork comes first — always. If your kid loses academic eligibility midway through her freshman year, her NCAA dreams may well end there. She’ll need a fallback if and when the whole going-pro thing doesn’t work out, too.
6. Supervise and Direct Your Kids’ Contact With Recruiters, Coaches, and ADs
Student athlete safety is a big issue these days, writes USA Today Network writer Mike Dougherty . Make sure your kid stays safe — and puts his best foot forward — during college recruiting season by supervising his interactions with coaching and recruiting staff. If nothing else, they’ll be grateful for a second pair of eyes and ears.
Keep It All in Perspective
Whatever else happens, keep your kid’s athletic career in perspective. If he or she doesn’t make the big leagues (or the D-I varsity squad), it’s not the end of the world. The groundwork you’ve laid during their childhood and adolescence will serve them well no matter where they land — even if they never play a day of competitive sports after high school.