1. More to college than football - Set objectives with your son for his college career. He plays football, but what other interests does he have? Is it the arts? Is it traveling abroad? Does he want to be close to home? What is he interested in studying? Outline all of his aspirations inclusive of his football plans and determine the objectives for his college experience. Create a checklist with these details to measure all of the universities.
2. The football program – Understand the Head Coach’s philosophy (on and off the field), the direction that he is taking the program and his plans for your son. What position is he considering for your son? Could he be considered for more than one position? How does he envision your son contributing to the team? Look into the current student-athletes and recruits that play the same position as your son. Will your son be able to compete for a position? Not starting as a freshman should not be a deterrent. However, your son has to weigh how important being active immediately and continuing in the same position is to him. Talk to current student-athletes and get their perspectives on the team and locker room culture.
3. Coaches are not immortal – I’m sure that your son has a favorite college coach. He will be excited to be recruited by this coach and eager to play for him. Head Coaches are the face of a college football program, but they are not permanent fixtures at a college or university. They are not guaranteed to lead the program for the duration of your son’s college tenure. It’s important that you guide your son, so he does not select a university solely to play for his favorite coach.
4. College or University APR – APR stands for Academic Progress Rates. As part of their academic reform initiatives, the NCAA implemented the APR program to track and measure the academic performance of student-athletes. The programs with low APRs can lose scholarships and possibly face other penalties. The NCAA has released the 2010 report. Look up the APR for the colleges or universities that are on your son's list. This provides some information on how current student-athletes are performing in the classroom.
5. Education is still the key – Your son’s goal may be to play in the NFL. I believe that you should encourage him to do his best and reach this goal. Having said that, I also think that it is imperative that parents are realistic about their son’s ability and stress the importance of an education and experience outside of football. Even if he plays in the NFL, the average career length is 3.5 years. That means on average, NFL players are finished playing in their mid-twenties. (Very young!) What will he do after he finishes his career in the NFL? What are his plans if he does not play professional football? It is important that he is prepared for both situations. This brings me back to my first point, set objectives based on all of his aspirations, not just football.
6. It’s your son’s decision – I think that this is the most difficult part for parents. Your role is to provide insight and guidance to help them make the best decision. This decision is not to vicariously accomplish some things that you did not do in undergrad. And please no threats of being removed from the will if they do not choose your alma mater. I’ll give you a pass if he attempts to go to a rival. I’m not a mother yet and if my son told me that he wanted to play football in Ohio, let’s just say I would only see him lose at Michigan Stadium! Seriously, do your best to remain objective and present information and not make the decision for him.
At 15 and 16 years old, your son’s world might revolve around football. (OK, after Super Bowl, even I go through a little seasonal depression.) But, there is more to life than football. Do your part to expose your son, stimulate his other interests and guide him to have a well-rounded college experience.
This is an exciting time for you and your son. So enjoy the process and we look forward to hearing from you on National Signing Day!
Heels & Helmets