College Athletics: A Journey, Not a Destination
Becoming a collegiate athlete is an every evolving journey with unexpected twists and turns filled with both tremendous satisfaction as well as disappointment. The trap that athletes and their families trying to navigate this process often fall into is that they place the most emphasis on “making it”. The commitment has been seen as the end all be all to college recruitment. It looks great on your Twitter and Instagram feed and believe me, there is no better feeling than signing that National Letter of Intent. But, if that is all we are searching for, if that is the main goal of this experience, you will be massively disappointed.
We are in an age of constant information and the recruiting process is just another vessel for this. Articles, videos, recruiting platforms and services flood the market. As parents looking to do what is best for their child, this often leads to a lot of misdirected information. The truth is, every single athlete that goes through the recruiting process will go through different experiences. My experiences as a player, mentor and coach have led me to believe that we need to be proactive in managing the things we can control. Things like your education, your body/training/recovery and your skill development. If we focus on those things, the recruiting process tends to shed light on the type of student-athlete we are.
By the way, those things such as your education and managing your body/training/recovery do not stop whether you achieve your end goal of playing college baseball or not. You will still have to get up and face the tasks at hand each day. For those that go on to play collegiate athletics, you will have to be prepared to finish your high-school career because it matters. You will have to continue to get good grades and stay out of trouble. You will have to be prepared once you get on campus. You will have equal competition once you get there. You will have to compete with athletes that have been on campus for 2-3 more years than you. You will see a NEW recruiting class with those same commitments come in right behind you. You will have to compete for playing time and a role on the team. You will have to withstand adversity.
These things don’t change!
So, the point of emphasis on this is to not look at college athletics as the “end goal” but another experience along the way. Stay present in the moment and do the best you can TODAY to make sure your opportunities are present tomorrow.
Exposure v. Being Exposed
One of the key elements to the college recruiting process is honest assessment. Be it from a trusted advisor, college evaluation or from ourselves we need to be honest with where we are as a player. I used the exposure v. exposed ideology as I believe too many athletes want to create exposure for themselves to college coaches before they have been exposed to quality preparation, talent and competition. We may think we are really good, but good is relative. How good are we? Statistically speaking, 10% of high school baseball players go on to play at the next level, 1 out of 10. Do you show up to the field everyday and are one of the top 2 players on the field? That needs to be step-1. If you are, great! Now, find someone that can give you an honest evaluation of your skillset and academic profile, that’s step-2. For step-3, let’s look into some showcase and exposure venues that match that student-athlete profile. Once you have done those three steps, you are in a place to begin creating exposure for yourself. We need to know who we are first before trying to get others to figure it out for us.
Embrace the Proactive Athlete Mindset
The proactive athlete mindset is centered around managing our actions each and every day, on and off the field. My college coach used to say that we are the sum of the decisions we make. Every decision that we made he encouraged us to ask “What’s Important Now?” or “W.I.N” for short. The answer should always be our “Attitude, Concentration and Effort” or “A.C.E”. Every situation we encountered he advised us to manage our attitude, concentrate on the objective and give as much effort as possible. I can’t tell you how valuable that is. The proactive athlete mindset puts athletes in a position to take ownership and responsibilities over their own lives. Tying into the recruiting process, each time I have the ability to play or practice I want to approach it with my best attitude, concentration and effort. Am I preparing myself properly? Am I managing communication with my teammates and coaches effectively? If I am, the outcome or result in a game will take care of itself. We will not be consumed by the end result but immersed by the process.