Coach’s Opinion And Recruiting
Before I get started with this blog, let me say what I am about to write about is not related to specific skills college coaches look for in an athlete. I am not going to talk about scores or anything else that pertains directly to the technical aspects of the sport of gymnastics. For all that info my hope is your club coach has insight on that, plus you probably would not want my advice anyway. What I am going to dive into is the part of the recruiting process that parents often overlook but is often critically important to the overall success of an athlete earning a college scholarship. The part that is most overlooked is the recommendation from their current coach.
Let’s be real, most gymnasts are not the “who’s that chick” type of gymnasts. You know, that gymnast that after every event parents are like “who the heck is she and where did she come from? The gymnast that after the awards are given out, you promptly look her up on mymeetscores talking about “did she compete last year?” When you look at the rotation sheet, and you see her team listed your first instinct is to say, “here we go.” As with most sports, there are typically a few of those types of athletes out there, and then there’s everyone else. If your daughter is “that chick” then much of what I am going to write about won’t directly pertain to you because although your gymnast may have a bad attitude, there is most likely going to be some college coach who figures the reward of having your athlete on the team outweighs the risk. For the rest of the regular folks, having a good recommendation from your club coach is super important. The one thing college coaches want to avoid at all costs is a potential “basket case” for an athlete or difficult parents. Coaches only have a certain number of scholarships available, and they want to avoid giving it to someone who may be un-coachable.
Parents often by default assume that their current coach would give their child a good recommendation, which is not always the case. Ask yourself this, if your gymnast’s coach had to give an honest assessment regarding your athlete today what would he/she say. Would your coach answer the question right away, or would there be an awkward silence?
Keep in mind that a coach’s recommendation doesn’t only affect your child but affects the athletes who come after your child that also want to attend that same program. If a college gets too many subpar athletes from a particular gym, then that coach will most likely start looking at that program with skepticism when it comes to recruiting. The truth is a coach and a program lives and dies by the number of people they get into college. Why do you think when you go to a competition, recruitment banners showing what gymnasts went to what college is always hanging from the rafters. You can forever see a parent look up and say, “See, that is what I am talking about.”
As the reputation of the gym grows, so does the status of the coaches. Good coaches understand that an excellent reputation is like gold in the coaching world, and they should try to protect it at all costs. For a coach to protect their reputation, they develop specific mechanisms that would behoove parents to be aware of even if they don’t agree with them.
Coaches do have favorites
Part of getting a good recommendation is being able to earn a spot on the coach’s infamous “favorite” list. My guess is right about now parents are gasping thinking “a coach shouldn’t have favorites.” Coaches just like parents have favorites, and if they tell you they don’t then your child might not be one of them. (shots fired) The good news is that for good coaches getting on the “favorite” list is pretty straightforward (in theory). The answer is, wait for it, wait for it, wait for it, have your gymnast do what the heck they are supposed to do. I have a saying, “coaches see everything but comment on very little.” That means when your coach told your gymnast to do ten full turns, and she only did 8, the coach saw that. When your daughter looked at you and asked you what’s for dinner during practice instead of focusing, yep, coach saw that too. Or when the coach is giving your daughter instructions, and she is missing half of it because you are trying to coach from the sidelines, the coach saw that too. Let us pause for a moment of silence for the passing of the parent’s pride who are guilty of this. The truth of the matter is coaches want athletes who can follow the simple instructions. No coach can guarantee the “W,” but any coach worth their salt can ensure progress. Unfortunately, an athlete’s inability to listen and process information is an unnecessary obstacle to that goal.
A great example of coaches wanting athletes and parents who can follow instructions. My daughter’s coaches have been on a vacation that last two weeks(must be nice). Embedded in their two-week vacations was a one week vacation for the gymnasts. Before the coaches left they gave some simple instructions for what the athletes needed to do during their week off. Those instructions were for the athletes to record themselves for 30 minutes conditioning using time-lapse on the iPhone and email it to the coaches daily. Outside of the fact that I am still rocking an iPhone 6+, so you are asking a bit much on the memory tip the request wasn’t too difficult but being a coach, my guess is many athletes did not do it. From a coaching standpoint, my question is simple. If you are not willing to dedicate 30 minutes a day to ensure your athlete fulfills a coaches small request, is it reasonable to ask them to go above and beyond the call of duty for your gymnasts?
Coach Push Other Athletes More Than Others
Here is another truth that may be hard for parents to accept. When it comes to college recruiting coaches will push other athletes more than others. Everything goes back to reputation. If a coach believes one athlete is more coachable than the other and everything else is even, then it makes sense that a coach would push the athlete that has the highest potential to put them in the best possible light. For example, as a coach, I have a recruiting relationship with a couple of colleges. Periodically I will get an FB message from a coach asking what I have in the pipe as far as talent. At that point, I have a decision to make. Do I push the athlete that may be marginally more talented, or do I err on the side of the athlete that is more coachable and has a better attitude? In order not to put myself in that situation I tell parents not to be naive to believe that just because a coach trains their child and they pay their fees that somehow a coach is obligated to give their child a good recommendation. If you think I am exaggerating, below is an actual message I received from a coach.
In closing the good news is that it doesn’t take much to get and stay on a coach’s good side. Most coaches want their athletes to be successful, and many cases will go against their better judgment to increase the odds of that happening. All parents have to do is “help them help you.” If you want to be able to use that money that you were saving for college on something else because your baby earned a college scholarship then in most cases, do what the coaches ask you to do.
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Until next time, peace and soul….