Recruiting Column

Recruiting Column: Interview with Colorado Mesa baseball coach Chris Hanks

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting.  Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student-athletes of all talent levels and ages.

(Photo: Colorado Mesa Athletics)

(Photo: Colorado Mesa Athletics)

Win eight out of every 10 games you play in. Win your conference championship and compete for a national championship every year. Play in a home stadium that will make you pinch yourself every time you take the field. And wear some pretty slick uniforms while you do so! Play for a coach that will care about you like you were his own son. Play for that same coach, who just so happens to be one of the winningest college baseball coaches in modern history. Oh yeah, and spend the next four years of your life living in Grand Junction, Colo. Sound like a dream? Nope. This is a second-to-none, real college baseball experience. This is Colorado Mesa University baseball!

This week, I had the great privilege of sitting down with Chris Hanks, the skipper of the Colorado Mesa Mavericks. Here is his advice to high school athletes, all over the country, navigating the college recruiting process.

Q: How do you and your staff identify recruits?

A: First of all, we start by trying to find kids that reach a standard that we are looking for, both academically and athletically. We recruit guys that we feel are going to fit in well with our program as a whole, not just on the field. Our starting point in finding those guys usually comes from one of the connections me or my staff has established within the baseball community. That might be a high school coach, a travel ball coach, a scout or a junior college coach. I will also say this, we get inundated with emails from prospective student-athletes on a daily basis and we try to read each email and watch every video that we receive. Typically speaking, when we hear about a guy we have interest in, we want to learn more and we try to get to a reference point on that young man as quickly as we can. Regardless of how we hear about a player though, we ultimately need to connect with the people that will recommend a young man or not.

Q: What does it take for a recruit to get a scholarship offer from Colorado Mesa baseball?

A: We have to arrive at a point where we think a recruit can come into our program, as a true freshman, and at least contribute that first year. Obviously, the more heavily we believe they can contribute, the bigger the scholarship offer is going to be. It’s important for these athletes to understand that regardless of scholarship amount, if we make you an offer, it means we have confidence in your abilities. And with the limited number of athletic scholarships we have at the NCAA Division II level, we really need to project early production out of any recruit that we make any size offer to. It really is a unique honor to be offered a scholarship from any program at any level.

Q: What is your advice to a recruit interested in your program that you have not yet identified?

A: Send us some video. Have a coach recommend them. Come to one of our prospect camps. If you are really interested in learning more about becoming a part of our program, be persistent in your efforts to show us. Much like many other programs, we are getting tons and tons of emails from recruits, each and every day. If we don’t check our email on the right day, we may completely miss an email from a very qualified student-athlete. Listen, it happens and we don’t always go back far enough in our email to see the one that you may have sent. So, I would really recommend being persistent in your efforts. Take the initiative to make us learn more about who you are and what you can offer. It’s usually pretty indicative of the type of player you are if you have the confidence level to do whatever it takes to get in front of our staff and we admire the kids that stay after us.

(Photo: Colorado Mesa Athletics)

(Photo: Colorado Mesa Athletics)

Q: How impactful is a phone call from a coach recommending a recruit?

A: If you really are a young man that can play in our program, I guarantee that you have a coach that would be willing to call us on your behalf. We know that and that is why we take calls from high school or travel ball coaches so seriously. Bottom line, if that coach is willing to put his neck on the line for his player, we are going to pay attention. That phone call is powerful because a coach can usually speak to some degree, without bias, about that player’s skills. We aren’t just interested in hearing about what the player does well, we want to hear about his shortcomings and we want as honest of an assessment as we can get. Most of the time, that phone call is much more meaningful and productive, coach-to-coach.

Q: What is your advice to parents of student-athletes going through the recruiting process?

A: You need to get out and see what’s out there. Make an effort to form decisions based on what you see and experience, as opposed to what you think and hear. Understand what each school can offer your son or daughter in every aspect possible. In the perceived world we live in, NCAA Division I is everything. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. It’s a shame that recruits that are competing for Division II scholarships can be made to feel inferior or second-class. The reality of college athletics, especially in 2016, is you can achieve a world-class experience at all levels, not just Division I. Don’t get so caught up in the signing parties and the “rah-rah” of announcing your decisions, that’s really only the start to your college career. Parents and student-athletes alike, need to consider what the four-year experience looks like. Take your unofficial visits, go get on the campuses that you have interest in. Go to a practice. Talk to alumni of the school and the program. The most important thing you can help your kid do is find a fit. Help your child find the school that will make them the happiest.

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