I recently renewed my SafeSport certification as a requirement for my accreditation as a USA Rugby & World Rugby Educator. Part of this process involved learning how to recognize the signs of misconduct among athletes and the adults who are a part of the game. While rugby has been lucky not to have any scandals such as what USA Gymnastics tragically dealt with, it got me thinking a lot about the safety of our rugby athletes.
As more college programs are able to recruit in the traditional sense, it brings up a lot of issues for me in ensuring that students and parents are aware of conduct that is expected and things that are red flags and unacceptable. Recruitment is a funny process because, for the most part, we urge students to be proactive and do all of the communicating; however, this does not mean parents, high school coaches, and other invested adults should be left out of the conversation. High school students are minors, so we all need to ensure they are protected.
Here are some of my most critical guidelines to follow:
While I do stress that for successful college recruitment, communication should be between a student-athlete and college coach (meaning the parent(s) should not be the one directing all the communication), any communication between a player and college coach should be messages that a student is comfortable showing a parent. In most cases, I recommend that students email college coaches and cc their parent(s) on the communication, so everyone is on the same page.
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I would urge that you stick to email for all recruiting communication instead of using text, Facebook/Facebook Messenger, Instagram, or any other social media platform. If a coach reaches out to you through social media, I would forward the conversation to email and follow step 1 above. You can be friendly in your conversations, but you are not friends.
Anyone stating they are a part of a college program should be easily identified through the rugby team’s website (listed under Staff or Coaches). Just because someone says, they are a part of the team and could “help you” does not make it so. Do your due diligence and ensure the person you are talking to is truly part of the program. The Director of Rugby or Head Coach is the person who can speak to your chances of admission or scholarship.
On recruiting trips (unofficial or official), there should be a detailed agenda of your visit that your parents should be provided ahead of time. The itinerary should list with whom you will be meeting, when, and where. All contact information should also be listed. It goes without saying, but under no circumstances should you be put in a situation where you are uncomfortable or feeling unsafe. If this happens, call your parents and leave the school immediately.
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If you (the student) ever feel like a college coach (or even a college player!) crosses the line with you, please tell a trusted adult ASAP. You should not feel ashamed or that you did anything wrong. You will not “lose a scholarship” or your college admission if you report someone for acting inappropriately. You can always report to Safesport anytime.
The bottom line, the recruitment process is for the student-athlete to drive the process, but the parent(s) are still along for the ride. They MUST be included in all conversations. If a coach resists this, there is a problem.