On Wednesday pen will meet paper.

A contract between athlete and an academic institution will be agreed upon. It’s an exchange of athletic talent for a full-ride (or partial) scholarship. A sense of relief and excitement can be found in a smile when the athlete looks up from paper.

Somewhere nearby a parent will probably be snapping some pictures and they will most likely let out a big sigh of their own.

Parents have been through the exhaustive process almost as much, if not more in some cases, when it came developing and supporting their child as they grew into a sought-after collegiate athlete. It all culminates during the annual national letter of intent signing day.

And somewhere else there is a parent whose child has shown a high level of athletic ability but is not yet of high school age. They might see a list of athletes lucky enough to earn an athletic scholarship in the days to come and wonder if his family will have a similar dream fulfilled someday.

Some get overwhelmed by the process and they will miss out on some opportunities, others handle it with aplomb on their own while others seek out as much help as they can.

There will be a handful of athletes from Ahwatukee Foothills finishing the process on Wednesday while others are still going through it as underclassmen.

So the AFN contacted some of the parents who have been involved in their son’s football recruitment.

Those contacted were Jeff Preston, the father of Desert Vista senior Cody, who is headed to the Colorado School of Mines; Patrick Melvin, the father of Desert Vista senior Lorenzo, who is committed to Northern Arizona; and Sarah Barnes, the mother of Mountain Pointe junior Jalen Brown, who is one of the state’s top recruits for the 2014 class.

They were asked similar questions and different ones as well. Here are some of their answers that could possibly be used as a starting point for families who are going to go through it someday themselves.

One thing is clear — the recruiting process is like a snowflake in that each one is different.

The size of the program, the level of play, the location and only about 1,083 more variables make each experience unique.

“Every family will handle things differently, and I would just say make sure to talk to your child about the best ways to talk to coaches and what he or she should be thinking about throughout the process so they ask the right questions, such as academics, family support, schemes, coaches track records, etc, and then just allow your son/daughter to handle the communications however they feel comfortable,” Barnes said. “Jalen did not want to talk to coaches or media folks at all at first — he just wanted to play ball, and in fact, I still often end up finding out about his offers from others before he even tells me!”

Communication is a must whether it is within the family or from an interested school.

There are plenty of quality athletes that miss out because they don’t initiate a point of contact. All it can take is going to the school’s website and filing out some basic information. There is no room to be hesitant because nothing can be negative.

That nugget is more for the lesser-pursued athlete because for players like Brown or his teammates Kenny Lacy, a UCLA commit, and Natrell Curtis, one of the state’s top 2014 lineman, or Desert Vista junior Jalen Jelks, who recently received an offer from Arizona, the communication comes non-stop.

“The amount of communications Jalen has received via mail, Facebook, etc. — it really has been a bit overwhelming how often and how many schools have reached out and as I understand, it is about to get more overwhelming when the phone calls can start,” Barnes said.

For others a lot of groundwork has to be done and the payoff can seem like it is so far off at times, but when it all comes together it is something special.

But make sure the fit is right.

“Don’t fall in love with a school, conference or division,” Preston said. “Keep an open mind and look for the best match both athletically and academically.”

The key is to get started early if there is any hint at all. Brown received his first offer when he was a freshman so it was clear early that by the time he steps onto campus in the fall of 2015 he will have essentially the pick of the nation.

Most athletes have to sweat a little more for that first offer and a lot of times the last thing the recruiter wants to talk about is the play on the field. They can see that on the Internet with one visit to a recruiting site. What they don’t know until the initial conversation is if there is a mutual interest and if it is a good fit.

“When it comes down to it, the recruiters and/or coaches have a job to do and sometimes the personality and ‘approachability’ of the recruiter or coach has a magnificent and significant effect on the decision of the student athlete and their respective support systems (parents and families),” Melvin said. “The student-athlete may have the ability but if they don’t have the grades, it’s all null and void. Take the ACT/SAT early and often.”

Far from being complete, the experience of the three area families gives just a peek into the recruiting process.

There is so much more that can crop up, but when it all comes together it ends when the pen meets paper.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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