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.
As a senior in high school in 1998, all I wanted to do was play college baseball. I know, I’m getting old, but that’s not the point here. Almost 20 years ago now, I spent hours upon hours of dreaming and preparing for the next level. In fact, as an 18-year old kid, playing baseball was the only thing I could imagine doing for the rest of my life. Outside of that, I really had no idea what I wanted to do. Heck, I had no idea where I would even go to college or what I would study when I got there. I just knew I had to keep playing the sport I loved!
I’m guessing some of you high school athletes reading this can relate to what I’m saying. And if that’s the case, then read on.
Knowing what I know now, if I were to give my 18-year old self some advice about the college recruiting process, here is what I would say. Indeed, hindsight is 20/20!
Then: Why does being a good student matter so much?
Now: Taking pride in the classroom and being a great student are so much more important than being a great athlete. Listen, I know you don’t want to hear that because you love the game you play more than anything. In fact, you have dreams of getting paid big money to play someday!
But, statistically speaking, being a good student sets you up for a much better chance of long-term success, than being a good athlete ever will. I’m not saying you should stop chasing your dreams and I’m not telling you that you won’t eventually get that multi-million dollar contract. I’m simply advising you to make sure you put the same amount of energy and passion into both your academic career and your athletic career.
- You’ll be more attractive to a larger number of schools, which in turn, will give you a larger number of options during the recruiting process. And, ultimately, having more options will lead to a better chance at being happy with your college selection. So many recruits end up having to accept a scholarship offer because it’s the only one they get. No recruit should ever limit their scholarship options because they aren’t willing to work in the classroom.
- Being a good student speaks to your work ethic and character. Every college coach in the country would tell you that if they were deciding between two recruits with the same physical abilities, they will take the recruit that is the better student. Why? Because the better student is likely to have that same work ethic on the field as they do in the classroom. They can be trusted with expectations, and getting good grades is an indicator of self-discipline.
- No matter how good of an athlete you are, your career will end! Even if you end up in the top percentage of athletes that make it professionally, you’ll still have the great majority of your life left to work. One of the worst feelings about your career ending is the uncertainty of what you will do next. On the contrary, there’s nothing better than knowing you have another career waiting for you when the other one ends. Understand something… you are in total control of what career awaits you!
Then: Who determines where I end up?
Now: You do. You are in control of this process, no one else. Figure out what it is you want and be willing to put yourself out there. If a coach doesn’t know you exist, you have to introduce yourself! Don’t be afraid to hear a “no” from a college coach and don’t be scared to take risks.
Know your strengths as an athlete and know what colleges are looking for a player like you. Have an opinion on what you want to major in and what career path interests you, after college and communicate that to coaches.
Most importantly, you have to understand that if you’re just going to wait for something to happen, you will no doubt miss some amazing opportunities. In fact, you might just end up waiting for nothing to happen. If you think your college recruiting process is mom and dad’s job, your coach’s job or anyone else’s job, you are 100 percent wrong. Take control of your own destiny.
Then: What will have meant the most to me about my college career?
Now: The relationships you created and the fact that you can say you were a college athlete on your resume will be gold to you. There’s a good chance that your work career will most likely be a direct result of your college athletic career. So, be good to your coaches, teammates and opponents. The phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is not something you should discount. Because, your fielding percentage won’t get you a job, your ability to treat people the right way will.
Lastly, don’t concern yourself with winning and losing, so much as you concern yourself with the process. Winning and losing are emotional events that you can’t control. While practice and hard work are rational events that you can control.