5 Tips to Finding the Right College Match for the Student-Athlete

ImageI’ve begun casual conversations with my daughter about her future.  It’s time.  She’s ending her sophomore year and the next 15 months can be overwhelming for any parent, let alone a 16 year old.  Because she’s the baby, and my middle one is graduating leaving the house in a few months, it’s terribly emotional, and I’d love to somehow pretend the whole process is not happening and put off college decisions for the third time, but it’s time!  If we don’t have light, enjoyable discussions about her college plans. that keep communication open and moving, it can get intense if left until crunch time.  There’s just too much to consider and it’s too overwhelming, even without adding high emotions due to time pressure and panic. I’ve found that an attitude of exploration, adventure and casual discussion with time to process works best.  Take the entire 15-18 months to wade through tons of information so that you’re down to 3-5 choices before they begin their senior year.  College visits occur in September and October and early signing happens in November.  The important thing is to find the best match in 5 particular areas among your college choices.

Here are 5 factors that will help sort through colleges and help you and your child find the right college match:


  1. ACADEMIC:  Explore career paths and interests, identify schools offering courses and major to match.  Often it’s much easier to change majors at a larger school, so if undecided, identify the biggest school that your child would feel comfortable attending to give them the widest choices.  When school choices are narrowed down, find out the GPA of the teams and graduation rate.  You can find how their job placement is too.  Clarify the balance of academics and athletics and how valued each is at the school.  Often the culture of the school reflects that balance.  It’s also smart to ask what academic support is offered for student-athletes.
  2. ATHLETIC Focus: It’s important to recognize what your child’s athletic goal in college will be; are they looking to have their sport just be a ticket to get accepted to a dream school, or do they want a college team experience, to compete at the NCAA championship level, or want to develop beyond school and compete nationally or professionally?  Ask about school/team/coach goals and ensure an intensity match.  High expectations are attached to scholarships and pressure to perform must be shared with an athlete’s personal desire to excel.  Compare roster size with those who travel and compete.  Your child will need to decide if it’s important to go to the biggest school, to say that they are going to the biggest school even if they never get to compete, or are a team superstar at another school.
  3. COACH: As you go through your child’s junior year, getting to speak with coaches is important.  They may not contact your child, but you can initiate a call or email to ask questions.  As soon as coaches are permitted to speak to your child, do so.  Also encourage them to engage with athletes on the team to ask questions about the coach.  Try to discover the coach’s style of coaching, find if there’s a natural, easy personality connection, what their expectations of athletes are, how long they’ve been at the school and their 5 year plans.  The school’s reputation in a sport has more to do with the coach.  Dynasty’s can be traced to specific coaches.  Look for the right coach over the athletic reputation of the school, especially if the current coach has been there less than 5 years and is building a program.  You want someone who clicks and can bring out the best in your child and who wants to help your child achieve their goals to be the best match.
  4. PROGRAM:  Ask questions about team training.  Do they build athleticism, functional development that is sport specific?  Do athletes improve there?  How many move on to national or professional play?  Are records or championships current or all set in a prior era, under another coach?  What’s the team culture?  Is it more social or are the athletes committed and focused on excelling?  Does the college support the team or are athletic programs in jeopardy of being cut?
  5. SCHOLARSHIP:  Coaches who have scholarships to offer will do so, but it doesn’t hurt to ask what it takes for an athlete to get one at the schools in which your child is interested.  It’s not hard to get a feel for the level of athletes on the current team and size up whether your child would fit in as a contributor.  Understand that accepting a scholarship, especially at the D1 level, is somewhat like being hired for a job and performance is expected.  D3 schools can’t give athletic scholarships, but have scholarship and financial aid packages they create that actually could be more generous than D1 schools have to offer.  Consider the debt load your child will carry post-graduation and make sure they don’t start life in a pit of debt right out of the gate.  

If you have any questions, ask away…  I may not have the answers, but have some interesting perspectives on how to navigate the recruiting process.  My son played baseball with most of his Bucknell University cost covered (Patriot League schools have unique scholarship rules) and daughter will attend Cal-Berkeley on a full scholarship in the fall.  My youngest just began receiving her first pieces of mail and emails and so begins her recruiting season.


Class of 2016: Ready to Start Your College Recruiting Season?


My youngest is finishing her sophomore year, and we’re recognizing the first signs of collegiate recruiting season beginning.  Having gone through college recruiting with both older kids, we know what’s ahead.  College recruiting begins when kids start high school and coaches start to keep watch.  But it kicks into high gear late spring of sophomore year and through junior year of high school.  Colleges mail info, talk to their high school and club coaches and watch.  Typically the best college coaches gather at high level tournaments and championships so they can view as many of the best athletes as possible at one event.  They’ll scan results and know where to be looking.  So what can you do to help your child be “seen” by the best schools?


  • First, read the article on finding the right college match for your student-athlete.  Know what kind of college or university, what level athletics your child is best suited to pursue.
  • Don’t invest in services that claim to dish your child up to college coaches.  College coaches, those I know and in all our experience, don’t need them and don’t use them, so you paying for videos and profiling is not a smart use of your resources.
  • Check out the web sites of schools that are interesting, look at the rosters of the sports team to see how your child would fit in terms of talent level.  If your child would be a genuine contributor on the team, fill out the student-athlete recruit questionnaire.  Coaches will start watching to size up the athlete if they weren’t already on their watch list. 
  • Look for your child to participate in as high a level of competition as they can compete.  If they are especially talented, but the high school team isn’t that great, seek a club team that can develop their skill and competes at least at a regional level, and at the national level.
  • Look to make showcase teams.  These are select teams or club teams, at professional training centers, that are put together, coached and taken to showcase tournaments and events where college coaches do show up in droves, hungry to watch top talent.  Baseball is definitely one of those sports where this is key.  If you’re going to invest, this is where to do it if they can earn a spot on a team.  It has the potential to put your child in front of hundreds of coaches.  This is a smart investment if you’re good enough to earn a spot on one of these teams.
  • Be careful of your expectations.  Landing a full-scholarship is extremely rare.  35%, 55% is much more realistic for many sports.  Full scholarships do exist, but your child will have to be a game-changer and huge contributor to team/school program in order to land a big scholarship.  There will also be pressure to perform, like being hired for a job, so help your child understand the responsibility and ensure their focus for college athletics matches the expectations of the scholarship and intensity of the program.


Fear This: Sandy Hook Shooter Warns All Parents

Image“She wanted to give him a good day, but didn’t think enough about giving him a good life.” “She wanted to make everyone think everything was okay.”

Her son walked into the place she worked, and shot her four times; once for her, once for his dad, once for his brother, and once for himself.

Emily Miller, editor of the Washington Times, said that while everyone will comment on gun control and mental health issues, but “We can point to a mother who should have more aware”.

“I think constantly about what I could have done differently and wish I would have pushed harder” to be involved in my son’s life. “You have to know your child”.

Peter and Nancy Lanza were successful professionals; a vice-president at a large company and elementary school teacher. They had a nice home in a nice place and had, by all appearances a nice life. It seems that appearances were important. But it was hollow. Images are not real. Peter and Nancy divorced, and for two years, Peter became disconnected from his ex-wife and son. Their son, Adam Lanza grew up and is now infamous. His legacy: after studying and planning for years, he killed twenty-six innocent teachers and children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, his mother and himself in the worst rampages in our history. Something went terribly wrong in the space behind giving good days and the image that everything was okay.

As parents, we have to shift from building images to building our children within a real family. Children need parents. They can’t be brought into existence and then left to themselves to grow up or have it be expected that it’s someone else’s responsibility to ensure they’ll not only become whole, but realize great, positive potential. There’s more involved than pursuing our careers in the guise that we’re providing for the needs of our kids. The lavish things we give them are the least important. Children must know they’re more valuable than the things we propose to give them. They need to know they are not interruptions to your personal life or distractions from your career, or disruptions to your down-time. They need time, energy, attention, wisdom and love invested in them. Not to provide good days, but what is best for them for a good life. They need us to know them.

Hindsight is 20/20. Peter Lanza says we should “Fear this happening to you”. I can’t imagine coming to a place where you believe, “I wish he had never been born”. We can’t predict, nor guarantee the lives our children will lead, but we can absolutely heed this father’s agonizing plea for us to know our kids. If we choose to know them, invest in nurturing their core, and surrounding them with the right influences and leadership we, not only may prevent tragic ends, but actually enjoy significant connections with our children and see them go on to contribute their best to the world.

<P = Z (know their passions and strengths) x C5 (strengthen their core) x E (surround them with nurturing and leadership)


Can You Change Your Child’s Future by What You Do in the Next 40 Days?


It’s the beginning of Lent. I’m not Catholic, but I like turning the focus

inward; to sacrifice, giving up a bad habit or putting something positive

into practice that will connect and strengthen my spiritual core. Since I

believe that your children and mine were created specifically for a

unique purpose, using the 40 days of Lent to put 40 practices, principles

and mindsets into place that make the most of who our children have

been created to be, seems to fit the spiritual intention of the season.

Print the list.  Write each thought on a card or Post-It.  Work down the list over the next 40 days giving one some thought each day:

1. Love the child you have. Never give or withdraw affection as

reward or punishment for performance.

2. Magnify internals, diminish externals.

3. Maximize natural talents and strengths.

4. Fuel passion. Expose kids to as wide a range of interests as possible.

5. Secure their internal compass. Respect their mind and heart.

6. Emphasize process over outcome.

7. Redefine success as maximizing individual potential.

8. Evaluate objectively, not emotionally.

9. Don’t overestimate talent, underestimate character

10. There’s no “fail”: teach to learn, adjust, move forward.

11. Quitting is not an option, especially when it’s hard.

12. Encourage risk-taking.

13. Always find positives.

14. Expect excellence, not perfection.

15. Don’t rescue. Let them experience consequences.

16. Encourage 1% improvements daily.

17. Expect 100% of the best they can give.

18. Operate from a center of inner excellence .

19. Ask: What’s the wise choice?

20. Clarify Me vs. We. When do I do what’s right for the family or team

over myself?

21. Demand respect of others.

22. Understand winning and losing.

23. Own responsibility for responses in any circumstance.

24. Fulfill every commitment.

25. Honor your word.

26. Allow zero excuses or blame.

27. Choose challenge over ease.

28. Surround yourself with others going the same direction to the same


29. Have fun and laugh.

30. Coach a child to figure out solutions to their problems.

31. Don’t indulge in permissiveness.

32. Encourage them to adapt and overcome.

33. Provide what they need to chase their dreams.

34. Contribute the best to the world.

35. Control the Controllable.

36. Look for life lessons. Coach not punish.

37. Explain “why”.

38. Hold high standards and expectations.

39. Believe that hard work pays off.

40. You are the only parent they will have. No one can replace you.

Raising an Olympian: Why Allowing Our Kids to Fall, Makes Them Stronger.

Last year, I played PE teacher. I hadn’t taught in a classroom since before I had my own kids and wasn’t expecting the cultural shift that had since taken hold of both parents and school administrators. I walked into the gym in September expecting to provide fun fitness experiences and information that would be life-lasting. By October, I knew I had a literal fight on my hands. I had been called into the principal’s office consistently to redirect my plans. I couldn’t infer a child needed to improve their fitness since that would make them feel bad about themselves. As the weather chilled, I could no longer take them outside where they might get cold. I couldn’t use the fields in the morning since it would make their shoes wet. I couldn’t use the climbing rope since they might fall. I couldn’t use the trails because they might trip and fall on unpaved surfaces. I couldn’t insist that a child run, as they MIGHT have an underlying medical condition that MIGHT cause a problem. If a child’s face flushed or they breathed heavily, I was encouraged to have them sit out. I was called into question for children not being given A’s on their report card. It was offensive to suggest Pop Tarts and Lunchables should be replaced with healthier choices. It gave me a window into the environment being created for many kids today. Adults want to give kids a great life and do what’s best for them. They’ve created a calm, safe, easy, happy and….

… incredibly debilitating life for kids.

If I could have at least one do-over in parenting, it would be to have been a much more hard-core mom. In my quest to be the most loving mom, the one who provided as best I could, the one who would protect the hard blows, rescue, soften, make easier, I missed an opportunities to make them tougher. I could’ve strengthened my kids more, not only to handle elite levels of competition, but to thrive in real-hard-core-life.

Sports pyschologists have done research, but it doesn’t take a doctorate to figure out that one “IT” factor of successful people is their mental toughness.

So, do we just get mean? Nasty? Abusive? Is that what it means to be a tough parent?

Come on…. common sense, good judgement and balance…

It means that from the time our kids are toddlers, we need to become “velvet bricks”. It means to love them enough to let them experience the positive and negative consequences of the choices they make and the discomfort of new experiences. We need to allow them to take risks and feel the anxiety; stretch to feel pressure. It means working through challenges, obstacles and difficult things while handling distractions and interference. It means allowing them to feel the pain of falls, the frustration of setbacks, the anger of shortfalls, struggle of work and wrestling to figure solutions. It starts as they wobble across the room during their first steps and picking them up to go a little farther and progresses until they take their leap into adulthood as you smile encouringly. It’s only then, they gain the self-assurance and elation of their accomplishments.

Parents: Tough parents raise strong kids.

Toughness strengthens character, attitude and thinking needed to maximize potential.

Make it normal for kids to take appropriate risks and face challenges, work and figure out solutions to problems, resolve consequences, and make improvements.

Diminish externals and strengthen internals: don’t allow kids to blame or make excuses, but own responsibility for their effort and responses.

Focus on building the child, not the “star”, on the process, not outcome and responding objectively not emotionally as they develop.

Encourage with positive guidance. Help your child learn how to analyze situations and performance, determine how to improve, adjust, and move forward.

Acknowledge when it’s hard, but encourage them to overcome: “I know it hurts”, “I see that it’s hard.” “When that happens, yes, it’s frustrating..” “Yes, you’re sad”
“… but let’s move on and figure out how to make things better.”

When your kids face the hard things in life, to have equipt them with strong character, attitude and thinking helps them not just survive, but thrive in maximizing their potential.

Raising an Olympian: What Parents Can learn from Mikaela Shiffrin

“I enjoy pushing myself to new limits” – Mikaela Shiffrin

There are definite ingredients in people who live big lives and accomplish great things. The one ingredient that’s the trigger then the fuel is passion. They all were exposed to things at 2, 3, 4 years old and something clicked, powerfully, with one thing. For Mikaela, it was skiing and by the time she was 6 years old, she was training. But, it wasn’t her parents manufacturing a champion. They weren’t driving her to great heights. The passion was within Mikaela. As with almost every champion, she loves what she does. She loves the process of improving and repeating the details until she gets it right.

“You put your best into it, and at a point, you’re not even trying anymore, it just works”


Be involved with your children. Explore the world with them from the time they’re toddlers. Let them try everything and anything especially when they’re 2-3-4 years old. Watch them discover their passion…

Then make your home a happy, fun, light environment to fan the flames.