Recruiting 101: How Early Is Too Early To Recruit Athletes To College?

I recently met with a family that has a daughter who is on the USA Gymnastics developmental team. Their daughter is in seventh grade and is feeling pressure to figure out which college is best for her future. College gymnastics coaches have come to watch her practice, and she is seeing other girls from the developmental program verbally commit and posting this on social media.

If you ask any college gymnastics coach, they will tell you that they would prefer to wait until a gymnast's sophomore or junior year of high school to start recruiting her. However, they may also say they are guilty of making early offers. This trend of early recruiting began several years ago. When one college coach starts early recruiting, the other coaches tend to follow for fear that they will miss out on blue-chip recruits.

My personal advice to this family is to take their time and not rush. This decision is one of the biggest decisions athletes can make in their careers. It sets them up for success or struggle. Finding the right match for each individual is a challenge at best for even a senior in high school. A gymnast with this kind of talent will have many opportunities.

Even though this specific gymnast was obviously very mature for her age, she was nowhere near ready to make a decision about college. When I asked her how many college campuses she had visited, she responded by saying only one. When I asked her what she liked to do besides gymnastics or just for fun, she had a hard time answering this too. When you put that in perspective of being able to make a college choice, you can see how waiting and taking time for growth and development can be very beneficial.

Below are some ideas on how to address this situation:

1. View early recruiting as inspiring to your daughter and not something to fear.

2. Set a goal as a family to not make any verbal commitments to a college team until high school or whatever date you feel is best for your daughter. This will take the pressure off of your daughter and let her begin to feel comfortable with the college recruiting process.

3. Look at your calendar and start taking your daughter on some casual visits to college campuses. These schools do not have to have gymnastics programs for her to learn about college size, location, and atmosphere.

4. Set up unofficial visits to the schools that appear to be interested in your daughter

5. Remember if a college coach has your daughters best interest in mind and she has the talent, they will wait for her to mature and be able to make a decision for both her academics and athletics.

6. Don't be afraid to ask the college coach for a timeline in regard to when he or she would like a decision.

Jill Hicks Consulting is an advising business for parents and club gymnasts. Families hire JH Consulting to help them through the college recruiting process. To contact JH Consulting and to view the details of the advising service go to:

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