USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jason Smith is a former NCAA DIII athlete and college coach at all three division levels. Jason is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
You know by now that a video showcasing your athlete is a must. But for baseball and softball, it’s not as simple as it sounds. What do college coaches really want to see? Their skills video.
A skills video simply features “staged” clips of your athlete performing repetitive position-specific drills, so no game footage is needed.
This can become quite the endeavor. If you hire a professional or buy video at showcases, it could break the bank. If you can’t film outside, you may need to rent a batting cage. And you’ll definitely need multiple players—a pitcher needs a catcher, an infielder needs someone to throw to, etc.
This all sounds discouraging, I know. But honestly, it can be done. We’ve seen several families do it before—all they needed was a little help.
So, put on your videographer hat and follow these guidelines.
The best camera placement is going to be from home plate—about 4 feet to the left. This angle will capture your child covering the bag. Coaches want to see a variety of movements at this position, so film three to four ground balls hit directly at your athlete, and then three to four that are hit to their left and right/backhand.
Also, record three to four bunt coverage and double plays that are thrown to first. For baseball players, make sure your athlete starts from a couple different positions to represent lead-off base runners.
Insider tip: Team up with a few parents and plan a couple hours before practice where you can all film together. That way the other teammates can help execute the plays and—best of all—you can all knock out filming in one day.
Shortstop, second baseman
A shortstop and second baseman should be filmed from shortstop because it shows coaches their full range and arm strength. If they’re truly a second baseman only, it’s okay to field plays from there, but most general infielders will throw from shortstop.
Coaches want to see your athlete execute a few scenarios from this position and each play requires a different camera angle. Here are the drills to run:
Throw to first
The best camera angle is about 4 feet to the left of the mound. Capture your athlete fielding three to four ground balls that are: hit directly at them, about 8 to 10 feet to the left and right, and slow choppers that land in front of them (about 20 plays total). When your child throws the ball to first, you might feel inclined to follow the ball, but try not to—it will be jarring to watch. Instead, keep the camera glued on your student-athlete.
Insider tip: For baseball players, you can also highlight full arm strength by filming some of the plays from behind, with the camera about 4 feet behind shortstop.
You’ll need a mix of camera angles to show feature throwing ability and fielding when it comes to double plays. So, film most of the plays about 2 feet behind the mound, and then also get a couple where you’re with the camera behind first base. Have your athlete execute about four to six plays, showing them coming across the bag and making the throw to first. If your athlete only plays second base, they can take grounders from there instead of shortstop.
Throw to second base
This drill is pretty simple: put the camera about 2 feet behind the mound and showcase your child fielding one to two grounders hit directly at them, and about 4 feet to the left and right.
To really show off your child’s arm strength and accuracy, you should switch the camera’s position about half way through filming. First, stand in front of your athlete—about 4 feet to the right of home—and then film the rest from behind first base. Baseball coaches are used to seeing the camera positioned 3 feet behind third base as well.
They should field three to four balls that are hit:
- Directly at them (grounders)
- To their left and right/backhand (grounders)
- Slow choppers in front of them
- And four bunt coverage plays thrown to first base
Just like with shortstop and second, the camera shouldn’t follow the ball as it’s thrown. Just keep your camera focused on your child.
Insider tip: To save time it’s easier to have someone throw hard grounders to your athlete rather than hit them.
No matter the primary position, college coaches want to see recruits take balls from right or centerfield.
Softball – Throw to the cut off at shortstop
Position the camera at the edge of the grass. Show your athlete fielding about eight grounders—some hit directly to them, others to their left and right—and throwing to the cut off at shortstop. Do the same with fly balls.
Softball – Throw to third
Now angle the camera behind third base. Do the exact same fielding as before—a mix of grounders and flies—except have your athlete throw to third base.
Softball – Throw to home
Stand behind the catcher and film your athlete throwing four or five balls to home. These can be hit directly to them.
Baseball – Throw to home
This might sound a little specific, but trust me, it’s the perfect angle: stand about 15 feet in front of your athlete and then take six big steps to your left. This viewpoint gives coaches the entire perspective they need to see. Film your child fielding about eight grounders—some directly at them and others to their left and right—and then do the same with fly balls. Baseball players should always throw home.
Next, stand behind home plate to highlight your child’s arm strength and accuracy. Film four or five balls hit directly to them where they throw to home.
College coaches want to be able to see the pitcher and catcher at the same time. So, for a right-handed pitcher, that means positioning the camera 5 feet behind the mound and then 3 feet to the right (or left for lefties). Film half this way, and then move the camera behind the catcher.
Baseball pitchers should demonstrate two fastballs, breaking balls and off-speed pitches out of the windup, and then the same pitches again out of the stretch (about 12 total). Softball pitchers need to include five varied pitches including rise, drop, curve and fastballs for about 20 pitches total.
Insider tip: Make sure your athlete is completely warmed up before recording.
Coaches want to evaluate a catcher’s ability to frame pitches, throw to second and third, and throw to first after a bunt.
Stand 10 feet in front of the catcher and capture four pitches in front of them, four to the left and four to the right.
Insider tip: Don’t forget to have your student-athlete log blocks, too.
Throw to second
Record your athlete throwing to second base six times, filming the first half from 3 feet behind second and the other half 2 feet behind your athlete.
Throw to third
Exactly the same as throwing to second, except the camera is behind third base now.
Bunts and plays to first
Angle the camera 3 feet behind the mound with a wide view—coaches need to see the first baseman catch the ball. Log two mock bunts where your athlete makes the play at first.
Most parents are intimidated to film their athlete hitting, but it’s actually easier than you think. You can be outside or in a batting cage. Either way, your athlete should be pitched practice-type fastballs (if your high school has a pitching machine, ask to borrow it!)
Here’s what coaches are looking for:
- 10 to 15 swings with camera behind catcher area
- 10 to 15 swings with camera angled 5 feet to the right of the plate for right-handed hitters, or 5 feet to the left for left-handed players.
Insider tip for baseball players: Coaches prefer you to use an aluminum bat, not a wooden bat.
Optional base running
This is not required but, if you have a speedy athlete, record their quick base running or film a 60-yard-dash.
We recommend investing in a tripod. You can find one on Amazon or eBay much cheaper than buying new. A steady camera is key to making video look seamless. Also, for the best quality, use a 1080 HD camera—your iPad could even work.
Filming your child takes some effort, planning, and extra help, but when you put the money you saved toward their college tuition, you’ll be glad you took initiative.