Visiting college campuses is a great thing for young athletes to do. Visits show them what college life is really like; they take you beyond glossy websites and brochures and show you all the bumps, scrapes, and hidden delights colleges have to offer
If you can, schedule your kid's visit with the coach at the college you are visiting. That way, when you get there, you'll find a schedule waiting for you that lists the people he'll stay with, who he'll go to class with, when meals are, and so on. Then again, maybe he won't get the royal treatment. Donʼt worry if this happens. Some coaches roll out the red carpet for recruits. Others require prospects to be more self-sufficient. Either way, a can-do attitude will go a long way.
A recruiting visit is an athlete's one real chance to investigate the school and the team. Remind yourselves when you go that you will have a ton of say in this whole decision. He may be trying to convince the coach to recruit him, but he has to convince you that his school and team are great as well. Remember, if you donʼt like a college, you donʼt have to go there just because the coach wants you to come.
Most importantly, this is where your kid might go to college. Ask him these questions:
- Does it feel like home?
- Does it feel like a great place to spend four years?
- Does the campus have the right vibe?
- Do you like what you see in terms of style, the quality of play, the quality of coaching, the teamʼs attitude on the field, as well as the social dynamic off the field?
Discuss these questions while you're on campus and at the dinner table when you get home.
While you're on campus, encourage your kid to go off on his own, while you wander in another direction. Much as you might like to relive the glory years, your kid needs to try this place out on his own. Take the tour with him and then encourage him to go off with some of the other kids on the college team and get the "real college experience" by staying in the dorms with some of the players and eating in the cafeteria.
Finally, the two of you should meet with the coach. Try to sit down with him one-on-one. Ask for a tour of the facilities, watch a practice, and a game. In the few days that you're there, do as much as you can to simulate what the college experience there would be like.
Then, once you get home, get your kid to honestly answer the one most important question: How did you like it?
Avi Stopper is a former college soccer coach, author of the recruiting guidebook Make the Team, and founder of CaptainU.com, a website that guides high school athletes and their parents through the college recruiting process.