Should a college recruit tell a coach if they have a learning disability?

I recently talked to the dad of an athlete who had withdrawn from her university (where she had an athletic scholarship) because the coursework got to be too much for her and she was struggling in her classes. 

He told me his daughter was diagnosed with an education-impacting disability (or learning disability) in high school and did well academically at that level with proper accommodations.  However, during the college recruiting process, they did not inform the coaches about her need for assistance.

This is very common because athletes and sometimes their parents think it makes them look weak and therefore, don’t want to share such information with a college coach.  You can imagine what their reasoning is:

  • Will the coach view me differently because of my disability?
  • Will they withdraw their scholarship offer? 
  • Will they try to force me to transfer to another college after I’m already a member of their team?

It’s understandable that families wrestle with such questions. But if you’re in this situation or know of someone who is, here are a couple of things to consider.

  • When making a campus visit, be sure to stop in or, better yet, schedule time with the Academic and Student Support Services offices to ask about services offered for learning disabilities.  
  • Be honest and up front with the coaching staff during the recruiting process.  While you might find out that, yes, they do appear to be showing reduced interest and might withdraw their scholarship offer, would it not be better to find out the character of the coaches and their true concern for your athlete during the recruiting process rather than after the athlete has started their college career at that college?

If you have questions regarding recruiting visits and how to approach a coach about potential accommodations for learning disabilities and other recruiting issues, call Informed Athlete at 913-766-1235 to schedule a consult.  All consultations are private and confidential.

About Rick Allen

25+ years NCAA Rules Expertise, including Director of Compliance at 2 major DI schools

Former President of National Association for Athletic Compliance (NAAC)

Conducts compliance reviews and audits at NCAA Schools throughout the U.S.

Consulted with NAIA schools transitioning to NCAA membership status

Dad of a DI & DII student-athlete

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