University of New Orleans coach talking to HS players at Mystic Schooners/DBI Showcase, July 2018

 

Selecting a college is stressful.

The most knowledgeable coaches and parents – those who may have gone through the process themselves and supposedly have the experience – cannot avoid the pressure of the “final” choice.  Or the paralyzing feeling of getting the whole thing started!

Some comments often heard around the high school ball field:

“When do I reach out to college coaches?”

“Why has no college coach has contacted my son?”

“How many showcases should I attend?”

“I haven’t heard back from the coach, am I no longer of any interest?  Should I look somewhere else?”

“National Letter of Intent Signing day is in November, our school is holding a big signing ceremony, but I don’t know where I am going yet!”

These are familiar parts of the hundreds of college conversations that take place each year.  Each conversation is different, this should be no surprise, right?  What significance does another person’s college choice have on your or your child’s selection?  Yet parents invariably look across the diamond and see their son’s teammate courted by a fine college program and begin to worry about their own son’s baseball future.

Everybody writes their own story – just start writing it as a family!  In other words, family communication is essential in reducing stress levels.  This is not a case of, “It is up to my parents”, or, “It’s his choice, he is the one who has to go there for the next four years.”  College changes the family dynamic, children leave to begin their trip to autonomous adulthood (I know, don’t laugh parents) and the household of their youth is forever changed.  It is important for everyone to embrace this change together.

There is a lid for every pot– Sounds old school, certainly, but you get the idea.  There is a coach out there who will welcome you, the student-athlete, to his college program.  It is advisable for you to be proactive in reaching out to many of these schools that you think would be a good fit.  If you need help figuring out who and where those schools are enlist the aid of someone you trust for objective advice on how to reach out to schools.  There have been numerous cases where I have made a simple phone call on behalf of a player and his family to get the coach/student athlete conversation started.  It isn’t as difficult as it seems.

If you are not recruited for baseball you are in the majority.  College baseball is not college football or basketball.  They are not bursting at the seams with recruiting budget money.  They welcome contact from HS prospects and will, if there is a need at that particular position, return the call (it may take a few calls, so be patient, you are one of many doing the same thing) and begin some dialog.

Showcases are the way of the baseball world.   College coaching friends of mine utilize showcases quite often because it is easier on their travel budgets.  Showcases are a win-win in my mind if a player is a hard worker.  Take pitching for example.  If a young HS sophomore attends a showcase and is touching 85-88 mph on the radar gun that is an easy win for that player.  But if another young soph is at 70mph, while other juniors and seniors at the same event are high 80’s or 90, it can be disheartening.  It really isn’t a bad thing.  Good mechanics and  fundamentals will lead a coach to keep an eye on that pitcher’s progress.  So if the coach follows the same kid and sees him at 76 three months later that is a win!  And in a year he is low to mid 80’s – another win and now a real prospect!

It is good to get a baseline and stay on the database of college coaches.  It only takes one or two per year at most to gain the most benefit.  The exception may be in a case where a young player is considering colleges in different parts of the country.  Most regional showcases are attended by the same coaches in that area.  It isn’t necessary to attend every event is the northeast, for example.  Coaches have told me often, “I don’t need to see him, I saw him last week at that other showcase in the other end of the state.”  So it can be a waste of time and money.  Play it smart when it comes to selecting where to go.

Be realistic, be respectful, don’t take it personally, and keep the dream alive!  Often players are excited about the prospect of playing a certain school only to find the feeling isn’t mutual.  There are many reasons but likely the school has a player they feel is a better fit, it’s ok.  That “better fit” may end up choosing to go somewhere else and you, as the “second or third” choice may get that call after all.  A players job is to keep working, stay positive, and trust that they will land in the right spot.

Do not discount your Senior Year!  If a player is determined to be a the school of his dreams, do not stop working toward your goal!  A common theme over the years begins with a conversation something like, “My son just wants to relax and enjoy his senior year so we want to make this college choice before September (of junior year sometimes).  This logic is understandable but there are so many opportunities to continue conversations with college coaches – who still have roster spots open in many, many cases – and keep them aware of your interest level and work effort.  It may take one more off-season of hard work to polish up what may have been a weakness (i.e. foot speed, power, pitching velocity, or secondary pitch) in a coach’s mind.  So let them know you are working and send them video and your spring schedule.  Those games in April and May could be the clincher, I have seen it happen many times!

Good baseball is good baseball ,don’t sweat Divisions – Take a look at the MLB draft board each year.  There are more draftees from small obscure schools than ever.  And these guys can play!   In the age of social media and advanced scouting technology there is no one who is a true “hidden secret”.  As a scout told me once, “A kid can be locked in his home, if he is good we will know about him.”  Our Mystic Schooners program is predominantly filled with Division I players but we have had our share of DII, DIII, and Junior College players in our ten years who have been all-stars and signed professionally.  If you can play the game it will clearly show to scouts and coaches.

Body language is often the great separator!  There are many good kids out there and there are many good ball players out there.  There are fewer who are both.  Players who blame others or have been known to throw a helmet or bat usually stand out – negatively – in the eyes of coaches.  As one coach succinctly put it to me, “I don’t need to have any knuckleheads.”  In a case of similar skill sets the player who does thing the right way and is a good teammate will usually get the nod.  This applies to both games and showcases!

Your college education experience will be the greatest time of your life, baseball is a part of it.  Make sure you visit and see it all before you choose!  90% of the players I have spoken with over the years, when asked about their selection of school, said, “Coach, I just knew it was the place for me, it felt right.”  And the opposite has happened where a player visited and didn’t like the vibe of the program or the college in general, choosing another college on his list.  Some kids have had their minds set on one school all their lives and it is a no brainer, but that is probably less common than on may think.   It is important to remember that you are interviewing the program as much as they are recruiting you.  Ask good questions of the coaches, players, students, professors, anyone on campus you think may help you in making an informed choice.

Be as patient as you can and know that in the end you will make some college coach look really smart by taking you into their program!  There is no one way to figure out this process but if you take a step back, look for help from those you trust, you can begin your college career knowing that you did this on your terms!

Good luck.