Navigating The College Baseball Landscape/Recruiting Process
Things have changed drastically since my junior year of high school baseball in 2005. Fast forward 12-years, I now find myself working with countless of families and athletes on their recruiting process. That same process that I was immersed in as a high school junior more than a decade ago. The most recent article in the New England Baseball Journal featuring one of my former coaches and mentors Justin Blood and other program heads outlined some very interesting components to the current state of the college baseball recruiting process. It is no doubt that recruiting has certainly become an "Arm's Race" in attempt to not "miss" high level ability when it is presented. But what does that mean for the athlete and their families?
First and foremost, you control your own destiny.
I tell this to everyone that I consult. Most people have it backwards, they want to create exposure to collegiate programs as fringe prospects before they have exposed themselves to high level baseball (competition, training, etc.). The most successful athletes that have come through my door value their work and competing over "who's sitting in the stands". They work their tails off in the gym, they play hard and compete between the lines and let the game dictate where their abilities will take them.
I completely understand the urgency to "be seen" and get athletes out to coaches and recruiters of prospective programs with the amount of competition out there. But, the recruiting process needs to take it's course. If a coach sees you early on in the recruiting process they are going to form an opinion, for better or for worse. You want to make sure that you are prepared for your opportunities and truly enjoy competing as those two things never go away no matter what level of baseball you play.
The market is crowded.
The recruiting market is overcrowded. Ask any collegiate coach about the amount of emails from players, coaches, parents, recruiting services, showcasing venues, you name it. There are endless amounts of players and events as they will tell you the landscape is dense. There are literally "select" tournaments with "open registration" and hundreds of teams participating. It's part of the landscape so we all have to adjust, players and coaches alike. So, how do you stand out?
As I mentioned previously, I believe your ability is the number one indicator of the level you can ultimately play. Often times, coaches recruit early based on an athletes "projectability" or the prospect of what the athlete "can be" years ahead given the tools they currently posses. The second most important thing is how aware the athlete is of those tools. This is important as it shapes realistic expectations on ability. The reality is that a small percentage of high school athletes will play at the DI level and that is ultimately determined by the collegiate coaches evaluation. No matter how many showcases you attend or your coaches relationship with a program, the coaching staff ultimately determines who they choose to bring in. With that, there is also a group of high school players that will not compete in college. One of my early baseball mentors used to say that, "there is no D-4" meaning that at some point there is a cutoff to who can and cannot play at the next level. This leaves a lot of athletes "in the middle" frantically competing for their opportunities. Many of those athletes are good kids with average to above average students with strong baseball ability and can manage tuition at a private university. It's arguably a more competitive recruiting landscape than competing at the DI level as there are thousands of athletes that meet the profile. I don't say this to be pessimistic but to provide a realistic point of view. If the athlete knows where their talents shake out, they can take the necessary steps to target programs that profile their academic and athletic abilities. They can spend less time sifting through programs that offer limited academic and/or baseball opportunity and hone in on a program that meets their needs.
After all, our goal as a collegiate athlete should not be to just show up and take attendance, but to thrive. Often times, athletes and families operate in a "top-down" mentality, usually centered around a programs NCAA division. Cycling through possible DI or DII during freshmen and sophomore years to dwindling possibilities and DIII looks their junior seasons. For athletes that have an understanding of their abilities, they can make much better use of their time during this process. I encourage athletes to reach out to DII and DIII programs early. It usually gets a response stating, "Thank you for our interest but we are still focusing on the _____ class. Please consider a prospect camp in the future for a better evaluation." But here is the thing, the majority of those programs have maybe 1-full time staff member, if that. These guys work extremely hard and are on the recruiting trail consistently. They are limited as budgets don't allow for extreme travel and expense coverage. Plus, they can't be everywhere. If you can provide a coach at that level with some good information about yourself, some data points (video, academic information, upcoming schedule) you have just made that guys job easier. Not to mention the fact that he knows you have done your homework!
Help take some of the guesswork out of the process and be proactive!
Your early commitment doesn't guarantee you're going to be successful.
It's crazy to me that the recruiting process has sped up so rapidly. I have a lot of friends on the other side of the recruiting process and I can't imagine the stress put on them to "not miss". Equally as stressful for the families of kids that are going through the early phases of the process getting information form their club coaches around visits, camps and potential offers. There is a lot of focus on getting the commitment but is there a correlation to those athletes that commit early (at the end of their freshmen or sophomore years) and their success rate at school? I would argue that aside from financial implications (scholarship), there is nothing that can point to having more success on the field than maximizing your opportunity and production. Sure, athletes that are committing 2-3 years prior to their freshmen year in college often have some fantastic tools and ability, but that doesn't guarantee production. Believe me, I was a guy that got $4,000 in my first DI scholarship year as a freshmen and left as a draft pick and in the top-ten of multiple single-season and career statistics in 3-years. It all comes down to values: how much value you put in a number or amount assigned to you, how much faith you have in your ability to help a team, how hungry you are to prove yourself right, how much you value being a part of your programs culture. Those are the things that make athletes successful.
Did you find this article helpful? If you wish to work with us on your college recruiting process, please contact me. We are happy to help.