We recently had the pleasure of having Doreen Kelly as a Guest on our “Recruiting Coaches Show” podcast. Doreen provided insightful and valuable recruiting keys for our athletes and, particularly, our parents. Doreen possesses a unique perspective – she is a both a renowned educator and mother of a highly recruited student-athlete: former Duke Basketball star and current Los Angeles Laker, Ryan Kelly. She has also observed and been involved in the athletic recruiting process as a coach, advisor and observer during her tenure at the prep school level, particularly as Head of School at Ravenscroft School. Here are some of her enlightening thoughts for successfully navigating the recruiting process for parents of athletes.
You aren’t going to be any better parents, or worse parents, based on who is or isn’t recruiting your child. Don’t allow it to define you as a parent or person.
I also learned that coaches had a propensity to tell me that they loved my son and I was completely uninterested in love because there were going to be days that he stunk and the only person sitting in the gym loving him was me. So I was far more attuned, as a parent, to coaches who respected my son’s game.
I learned as a Mom, that 90% of the purchasing power in this country is controlled by women, and coaches know that, and coaches were keenly interested in my thoughts, opinions, even where I went to Church and there was a keen interest in the relationship with Mom, as opposed to Dad, which was intriguing.
To be effective as a parent in this process, I learned it’s important to know the game, and to appreciate other aspects of the game. Working with other women and single moms in particular, it’s important to know that you can know enough about the game and no one has to help you take your child through this process, that you’re perfectly capable of guiding your child through the process.
And finally I learned that at the end of the day (Kevin Durant has said this and others have quoted), ‘Hard work beats talent when talent isn’t working hard.’ And so I’ve learned through that journey that hard working kids can go a long way, but its consistent hard work.
It can be an enjoyable process if, I tell parents today, you buy yourself a little pack of Kool-Aid and clip it on the fridge. Don’t open it. Don’t pour it. Don’t drink it. Keep the recruiting process honest and straight forward, be courageous, ask challenging questions, and enjoy the moment. If you’re fortunate enough to be in that position, it’s an enjoyable, honoring position. Don’t get too stressed about it, just enjoy it.
Chris and I have read the book “Mindset” by Stanford Professor Carol Dweck and talked a lot about a gross mind-set vs. a fixed mind-set. So going through the process we didn’t want to unintentionally create a fixed mind-set by which we were determining outcomes. So I think a key in the process is, it’s really important as parents to be involved, but in the role of posing questions not presenting answers. Because I one of the growing experiences for your child is to be able to come to that conclusion. So, when Ryan was getting down to particular choices, those were his choices. Our job was to remind him, you know, ‘School XYZ has a potential to recruit over you, do you understand that? So when it gets tough freshman year and you’re not playing a whole lot, you made that choice. No one forced you into that choice so you’re going to have to go work harder.’
When a particular coach said ‘Look, you could be looking for an agent at a certain point.’ We sat there and said, ‘Look here’s the truth and love. You’re 190 lbs. and you can’t hold position on the block. It’s going to take you time.’ That doesn’t sound like a reasonable pitch to you. What do you think about that? So I think being in a position of not drinking that Kool-Aid too early, and getting intoxicated by the process is important for parents as it is to remain very cognizant of asking really great questions and allowing kids to sort through those answers.