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.
Woo Pig Sooie! If you’re a college baseball fan, you know that the Arkansas Razorbacks are the real deal. Since head coach Dave Van Horn’s inaugural season at Arkansas in 2003, the Diamond Hogs have been to the NCAA postseason 14 times, in 15 seasons. They’ve been to the Super Regionals 5 times. They’ve been to Omaha (College World Series) 4 times, hence their nickname “OmaHogs.” And currently, there are 32 former Razorbacks playing professional baseball—10 of which are playing in the big leagues. When it comes to college baseball, it doesn’t get much better than this.
This week, I sat down with Arkansas’ new recruiting coordinator, Nate Thompson. Widely regarded as one of the best, up-and-coming assistants in all of college baseball, Coach Thompson’s recruiting philosophy is simple: keep the train moving down the track! From the advice he has for lightly-recruited athletes, to the importance of clubhouse chemistry, here is what Coach Thompson had to say.
Q: Talk to me about Arkansas’ recruiting philosophy.
A: To put it simply, we’re going after the cream of the crop! This is a baseball program that’s recruited at a high level for years and years. Arkansas baseball brings in some of the best talent in the country, on a regular basis. So, when it comes to philosophy, we’re out there trying to get the best; the guys that we feel can play in the big leagues, someday. We want the great athletes that have the versatility to help us in more than one way.
To play at this level, you’ve got to be able to do something pretty exceptional. And to move past this level, you’ve got to be able to do more. That’s what we’re looking for. We obviously love recruiting home here in Arkansas, but our coaching staff is committed to going here, there and everywhere to find those kinds of guys!
Q: Physical talent aside, what does it take to play at a school like Arkansas?
A: The “clubhouse” is such a huge part of a team’s success. I know that’s probably overstated and overused at times, but it really is the truth. The makeup of your clubhouse will ultimately determine the amount of success you have. So, when you’re recruiting young men to be a part of your program, the character piece is going to be equally as important as the baseball piece. For us to be as good as we want to be, we’ve got to make sure we’re recruiting players that aren’t going to disrupt our focus. I’m not saying that everyone needs to be best friends, but there must be a consistent level of honesty and respect.
There’s something to be said about a player that will do the right thing, not just for himself, but more importantly, for his team. I genuinely believe that if you want to play at the highest levels, you’ve got to have the character component in place, before anything else.
Q: What would you like high school athletes to know about the recruiting process?
A: The first thing every high school athlete should know is this: the grades you get as a freshman are going to be on your transcripts. From the very first grade you get as a freshman, it matters, and it matters now. I’ve seen plenty of athletes screw up opportunities for themselves because they didn’t care about school until it was too late. Any and every program in the country is going to take a better student, over a lesser student, if everything else is comparable. Don’t limit yourself to the few opportunities you’ll have because of average grades. Take care of business in the classroom, from day one.
The other thing I would tell a high school athlete is this: focus on becoming a better player, and not so much on promoting yourself. It boggles my mind to see the number of emails we get from kids, on a regular basis, trying to market themselves to our program. It makes me think that you’re spending more time in front of the computer, than you are on a baseball field. I’m not opposed to a young man making an introduction and working to get in front of us, but what are your true priorities?
Because here’s the thing about becoming the best player you can be: the cream always rises to the top. Eventually, the talent gets found. I would advise any high school athlete to focus on becoming the best player, not the most popular recruit.
Q: What advice do you have for a high school player not getting much attention from college coaches?
A: Get to a camp at the schools you’re interested in. I think most college programs would tell you that going to a camp is the best way to get discovered, if you haven’t been noticed yet. I know we’ve had some great success stories resulting from guys that attended one of our camps. We’ve seen guys flying under the radar, only to show up and really catch the attention of our coaching staff. We’re able to see them with our own eyes!
It really is the ideal situation, in terms of recruiting a player. They’re at our camp, they show a genuine interest in our baseball program, they get to see our facilities and they get to work with our coaches. It makes the recruiting process much easier for the player, and the coaches, alike.
Q: What advice do you have for parents of high school recruits?
A: Certainly, we want parents involved in the recruiting process. It’s their child and they’ve been a part of this whole thing from the get-go. But, here’s the deal: coaches want to deal with players, not parents. We’re recruiting your son to be a part of our program and we want to communicate with him. What does he want? What does he think? Those are the opinions that matter the most to us. If we’re dealing more with a parent, than we are with a recruit, that’s not a good thing.
Ideally, parents would play a supportive role and let their son do the talking. Sure, help him gather info, provide objective feedback and get your son to a place where he’s seeing every angle. But, to play at a school like Arkansas, your son has got to be able to put himself out there and be bold. If he can’t do that during the recruiting process, he’s probably not going to have a lot of success, once he’s on campus.