John Engh, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, Weighs In
As many youth sports teams conduct try-outs for their summer and fall teams, I have had numerous parents approach me through social media and via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) over the past few weeks asking questions on which team their child should be joining for this upcoming school year. The majority of these parents are very well-intentioned and looking to support their child and find the best environment for their student-athlete to grow and develop. Some are very concerned though, that if their child does not choose THIS team, they will not have opportunities to get seen by a college coach in order to be offered an athletic scholarship.
I try to calm their concerns from an insider’s perspective (having been a college coach for 14 years, high school varsity coach for 3 years, and a director of coaching for a youth club), that getting evaluated by a college coach has more to do about their child marketing themselves to a coach, than which team they choose to play on when they have not even reached high school! As a Recruiting Educator, my FREE blogs and 8 Facebook groups (see links at the bottom of the page to join!) are aimed to help teach families how to do that process if that is what the child wants to pursue in college.
Over the past 2.5 years, I have been interviewing 65 college coaches across all sports and athletic directors at various college athletic programs throughout the United States for my book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide. The overwhelming majority of these athletic staff voice their concerns of seeing very high rates of burnout in very talented student-athletes in high school and even middle school. In the preparation for my upcoming book, I have also interviewed multiple youth program directors including those representing AAU, Police Athletic Leagues, Positive Coaching Alliance, 3Dimensional Coaching, YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs, and various specific sports competitive clubs. I have started to realize the extent to which they are seeing an influx of parents pushing their kids into year-round athletic programs and high rates of burn-out.
These conversations prompted me to focus on youth sports in this series: “How Should Youth Sports Programs Prepare Student-Athletes for the College Recruiting Process?” Did you miss Part 1? Click here! I have invited the Executive Director of the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NAYS), John Engh to weigh in this week a bit on youth sports, college recruiting, and preventing kids from burnout.
Role of Youth Sports
Youth sports should provide children with opportunities to participate in programs that are fun, teach skills, promote healthy physical activity and offer lots of chances to learn and develop important life skills like teamwork, respect, good sportsmanship and the value of working hard and always striving to do your best. Children should be exposed to a variety of sports so they have a chance to discover what interests them. If there is a sport that grabs their heart and they become passionate about playing it and dream of playing in college or beyond, that’s great. But the child needs to be the one driving that dream, not the parent.
Coach Renee: What role does the NAYS play in all of this?
John: For the past 37 years, NAYS has provided training and resources to help volunteer coaches, parents and league administrators fulfill their ever-changing and challenging responsibilities. By working with more than 2,000 recreation agencies nationwide, and U.S. military bases worldwide, we strive to help programs provide top-quality experiences for all kids that are memorable for all the right reasons.
We offer a variety of free trainings for anyone involved in youth sports that they can complete online at their convenience, such as Concussion Training and Bullying Prevention Training; and for those who become members of the organization they have access to a multitude of resources.
Recruiting Advice & Perspectives
Coach Renee: Since only 3-10% (depending on the sport) of high school student-athletes go on to play sports in college, what perspective do you have for those organizations who are focused solely on pursuing athletic scholarships for college?
John: Be realistic. I’m sure parents are tired of hearing it, but the facts are clear that only an incredibly small portion of athletes will earn an athletic scholarship, so pushing and pressuring kids is not the way to go. All the alarming numbers regarding burnout and overuse injuries reveal a major problem today that can be traced back to disillusioned parents.
Allow their love for the sport to evolve and if they have the skills and work ethic to be part of that elite group of scholarship athletes they will be recognized. But forcing them into year-round training, and having them play on multiple teams all year long, is a disastrous route to take.
As Terry Pendleton, former National League MVP and now coach for the Atlanta Braves told us for our Game Changers series, “Kids don’t have to play in 2,000 leagues all summer long to be seen. If he’s that good he’s going to be seen.”
Coach Renee: What advice do you offer to parents about their role in the college recruiting process?
John: For that elite group that does have a chance of playing in college, we would encourage parents to have a serious talk with their young athlete to evaluate if this is what he or she truly wants. Often, kids are burned out and worn down by the sport by the time they finish high school and may just want to be a regular college student, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
For those who love the sport and are excited to continue with it in college, those stories are also inspiring and great to see that a young person’s hard work and dedication paid dividends. Bottom line: Keep the focus on the young athlete and what’s truly best for him or her.
Coach Renee: What resources does the NAYS offer for parents, coaches, and student-athletes?
John: Our SportingKid Live site (nays.org/sklive) is a terrific resource for coaches, parents and young athletes. The free site features the latest youth sports studies; coaching tips from the biggest professional and collegiate coaches in the game today; parenting tips; interesting stories on world class athletes who share what their youth experiences were like and their advice for today’s young athletes; and insights from leading experts on a variety of topics pertaining to youth sports.
John, thank you so much for your insight on youth sports and the college recruiting process. Would you like to learn more about the college recruiting process? We encourage you to scroll down and join some of our 8 FREE Facebook groups for parents, coaches, athletic directors, coaches, and other administrative personnel. Also, join our email list to receive a FREE Special Report: Strategies To Emailing A College Coach on the right side of this blog!
You can also find more information about NAYS:
Want some help with the recruiting process? Join some of our 9 Facebook Groups:
- Parents of High School Student Athletes Walking Through The Process (All Sports)
- Beyond Xs & Os 4 HS Athletes: Health, Recruiting, Team Building, Mental Training (All Sports)
- Athletic Recruiting Education for Principals, AD's, and Counselors (All Sports)
- Club/HS Coaches Learning College Recruiting Process (All Sports)
- Play College Soccer (Soccer Specifically)
- College Recruiting for GK's (Soccer Specifically)
- Positive Team Building for Pro, College, HS, and Youth Coaches (All Sports)
- Mindset & Leadership Lessons for Athletes, Coaches/Teachers, & Business Leaders (All Sports & Business Leaders)
- Christian Competitors (Coaches & Athletes Serving Christ @Field/Court/Gym) (Sports Ministry for All)
Would you like her to do individual consulting with your family to get an insider’s perspective?
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Did you know Coach Renee Lopez can come to your school or sports organization?
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Coach Renee Lopez
As a 17 year coaching veteran, Coach Renee Lopez is a recruiting expert for high school student-athletes. She uses her NCAA Division I, II, and NAIA Head Coaching experience to help families navigate the recruiting process to be identified by college coaches and help them find the right “fit” for playing at the next level. She has produced 3 All-Americans, over 30 All-Conference athletes and Her teams have been honored with awards for team academic accomplishments, sportsmanship, and sports ministry. In addition, Coach Renee Lopez has been named Coach of the Year by her peers.
She presents recruiting seminars across the country, has recently been featured in USA Weekly, with the National Alliance for Youth Sports, on SiriusXM Radio and ESPN Radio. She is the author of the book, Looking For A FULL RIDE?: An Insider’s Recruiting Guide where she has interviewed over 65 college recruiters across all sports and college levels. In addition, she runs 9 Facebook groups to help facilitate conversations on college recruiting education, coaching education, leadership development, and sports ministry. She is also a certified speaker, trainer and coach for the John Maxwell Team, Jon Gordon Company, 3Dimensional Coaching, and the Positive Coaching Alliance.
She also does private consulting for student-athletes and their families to help in understanding the often daunting process of recruiting. (See one family’s testimonial.) If you are looking for help in the college recruiting process, please email Coach Renee Lopez at email@example.com.