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College Recruiting for the Elite Athlete

4. Hiring a Consultant


College recruiting is a complex process for the elite athlete, rife with rules, cautions, and the vicissitudes of college recruiters. If your son or daughter is a highly ranked athlete, your mailbox will bulge with enthusiastic letters from coaches all over the country, each promising the moon-along with an iron-clad contract.

At the same time, your teenager is flexing the muscles of independence. Lost as they may be in the maze of college recruiting, they may not want you to hand them the string that will help them find their way out.

One solution is to hire a consultant who will help the student-athlete sort through recruitment offers, initiate and respond to contacts with coaches, prepare a resume of athletic accomplishments, and handle official and unofficial visits to colleges.

Tim Donovan of Donovan Tennis Strategies cautions parents against pushing their athletic children toward highly ranked colleges that may not be the best fit. In many of the families who seek his services, he says, "It's the parents driving the kids. They have this quest for the kid to be a special athlete, for bragging rights."

Donovan himself is happiest "when I can help kids who were under the radar, great student-athletes who didn't have the exposure." Although presenting a student's record is about "enhancing chances" for admission and financial aid, the greatest benefit for the young person working with a strategist may to relieve the pressure from within the family when it comes to college recruiting.


  • Yet another expense: Paying a consultant constitutes yet another expense at a time when the family's budget may already be spread thin.

  • Possible lack of expertise or personal service. With the exception of sport-specific consultants like Donovan, most college-recruiting consultants are spread thin and know less about the sport in question than the athlete and his family.

  • Unrealistic promises. "Bragging rights" apply not only to families, but to consulting services as well, so that athletes and families need to be both careful and assertive about finding the right fit for the individual, regardless of promises, rankings, or other lures.

Handing off the reins

Finally, for parents of elite athletes, who have necessarily remained heavily involved in the logistics of their children's lives throughout their growth years, handing off the applications process to the student himself may be even harder than for parents of other high-school juniors and seniors. Bear in mind that most athletes who drop off college teams do so because they did not choose that team, or even the institution, in the first place. Allowing your child to take the reins of the college recruitment process, even if he makes a poor decision, may be the best thing you can you do for your child.