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.
Todd Coburn isn’t “some” catching guy. Todd Coburn is “the” catching guy. A former collegiate and professional catcher with a master’s degree in Kinesiology (emphasis on coaching and teaching), this creator of The Catching Lab is literally known as The Catching Guy. And with over 25 years of coaching experiencing to his credit, it’s easy to understand why Todd Coburn is one of the most sought-after catching instructors in the country.
This week I had the opportunity to chat with Coach Coburn and pick his brain on what it takes to be a catcher at the next level. Here is what he had to say.
Q: When recruiting a catcher, what are college baseball/softball coaches specifically looking for?
A: Different coaches have different philosophies, but in my experience, the one quality that they’re all looking for in a catcher is leadership ability. They want a player behind the plate who is going to run the pitching staff, keep the team focused on the “prize,” and always, always leads by example by never giving less than 100 percent. College coaches are looking for catchers who are high energy, positive and vocal leaders. Not necessarily “rah-rah” vocal, but vocal as in always communicating with their team, their pitchers, their coaches and even the umpires. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve got to be able to receive, block and throw to play at the next level. But, those tools only get you so far. You’ve got to be a leader to really catch the attention of college coaches.
My Top 5 Catcher attributes would be:
- Leadership and character
- Athleticism & physical toughness
- Receiving ability
- Throwing ability
- Blocking ability
Q: What intangible qualities does it take be a collegiate or professional catcher?
A: On the top of my intangibles list are game knowledge and game savvy. There’s a reason you see so many former catchers ending up as managers at every level of the game. It’s because catchers know the game inside and out! Catchers need to be baseball junkies. They need to eat, sleep and breathe the game. They need to understand pitchers and pitching. They need to be good at recognizing swing faults and know how to expose them. And finally, catchers need to know how to get the best out of their pitchers and their team. They need to be able to use their knowledge and savvy to help their team win ballgames.
Q: Give high school catchers some tips on getting noticed by the right college programs.
A: The right college program is going to be unique to each catcher. If a catcher is being realistic and honest about his/her abilities, there will be a place for that catcher to play in college. With that said, the difference between those who make it to the next level and those who don’t, typically has to do with work ethic. It’s not going to just happen. It happens when they put in the time in the cage, on the field, in the gym and the in classroom.
Parents and catchers should understand that kids are rarely signed, sight unseen. That means they need to put in the leg work. They need to get in front of the coaches at the schools they’re realistically interested in attending. Videos are great and can be very helpful in the process but actually getting in front of a coach is what really matters. They need to see you throwing to the bases, sticking pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. I would really recommend looking into prospect camps at the schools they’re interested in and commit to attending those camps. Camps can be time-consuming and a somewhat costly, but they are 100 percent worth it when it comes down to earning a scholarship.
Q: How can a catcher stand out when attending a camp?
A: Simply put, be a gamer! Do everything with a purpose. Have the mindset that it’s “go-time” from the minute you walk through that gate.
- Be on time! If you’re 5 minutes early, you’re 10 minutes late.
- Dress to impress and look the part. Look like a ball player. Have baseball or softball pants on with a belt. Keep your shirt/jersey tucked in. When you’re not in your gear, keep your hat on straight. I don’t care if Sponge Bob Square Pants is your favorite show, wear something with your team name on it or some type of athletic apparel.
- Do your best to always be first. Always, always hustle, even if it’s just when the coach says, “bring it up.” When at all possible, be the first one there.
- From the warm up, to getting loose, to drills, exercises and scrimmages, always do your best! Play catch with a purpose. Be vocal during drills and scrimmages. Make sure you’re never just going through the motions because college coaches hate that!
Obviously, you need to have some physical talent to stand out. You’ve got to be able to throw the ball to second on a line, make strikes look like strikes, block balls in the dirt and understand the game. But to make a great impression on a college coach, you’ve got to have more than just tools.
Q: Based on your experiences, do you feel a parent(s) can negatively impact their child’s recruiting experience?
A: Some parents might not like this, but the answer to that question is yes. Parents can most definitely have a negative impact on their kid’s recruiting process. In my opinion, the main responsibility of the parent during the recruiting process is to support their child. Simply put, be the parent. Listen, ask questions and do your best to help your child make the right decision.
College coaches aren’t interested in dealing with “the agent” parent trying to sell their son or daughter as the greatest thing since sliced bread. They don’t want to deal with the over-bearing parent answering every question for their kid. They want to deal a parent, who loves their kid, supports their kid and wants what’s best for their kid.