The Write Stuff: Laurie Richter

When Laurie Richter’s son was beginning his college search a few years ago, he wasn’t just seeking an academically challenging and socially rich environment in which to spend four years.

A high school athlete, he was also looking for a place to play basketball. The Richters quickly discovered, however, that navigating the recruitment process was a confusing, exhausting and stressful affair, with few resources available to help them through it. Laurie decided to do something about that.

She published her first book, “Put Me In, Coach: A Parent’s Guide to Winning the Game of College Recruiting,” in 2009. In it, she takes parents and kids through the complex recruitment process and offers advice on how to get noticed by colleges.

“I spoke to so many other parents that year who were going through the same thing, and there was so much angst about it,” she says. “This was just sort of a mission to help other people navigate this.”

Though Laurie had never written a book before, her years spent as a market researcher prompted her to approach her subject as a research project. She examined sports programs and interviewed coaches from around the country, and found that one of the most common mistakes people make is not being proactive enough in promoting their kids. In other words, don’t wait for that college scout to call you.

“The very best kids get contacted, but the vast majority have to initiate contact,” Laurie says.

She advises putting together an academic transcript as well as a film reel of games and clips highlighting an athlete’s skills. The key is to start early; Laurie says that waiting until a teen’s junior year to begin assembling footage and researching colleges is too late.

And don’t be afraid to reach out to college coaches and athletic programs.

“Outside of Division I programs, coaches are desperate to hear from kids. They don’t have the resources to travel and find people,” she says.

For parents, Laurie suggests a dose of realism.

“People aim too high,” she says. “Make it your business to get an objective assessment of your kids, and keep them focused on the fact that it’s a college decision, not just a sports decision.” Only a tiny percentage of college athletes go on to play sports professionally, so it’s crucial to apply to schools that meet your child’s needs academically and socially, as well as athletically.

For Laurie, the story ended happily: Her son Dylan currently plays basketball at Washington University in St. Louis. Now, she hopes, other families can enjoy the same success without the exasperation.