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.
Jad Prachniak has been the head baseball coach at West Chester University (Pa.) for the last six seasons. In his time at WCU, Coach Prachniak’s led his Golden Rams baseball program to two NCAA Division II National Championships, winning it all in his first season of 2012, and most recently, this past spring, 2017. He has an overall record of 204-92-1 and has, twice, been tabbed the ABCA Division II Coach of the Year. Oh, and just for good measure, four of his Golden Rams have been selected in the MLB Amateur draft. What does all this mean? Well, to put it in simple terms; Coach Prachniak can flat out coach!
From his recruiting advice to high school athletes, to his insight into the differentiation between Division I baseball versus Division II baseball, here is what Coach Prachniak had to say.
Q: Talk to me about West Chester’s recruiting philosophy.
A: It’s simple for us, in terms of philosophy. We ultimately want to work backwards from what our ultimate goal is, and that’s to win a national championship, year-in-and-year-out. So, to achieve that goal, our number one priority with recruiting is to find the players that can help us do that. From a talent perspective, we have to identify the guys that can physically perform at this level; that’s the first piece. Then, once we have the talent piece in perspective, we go through a natural progression of further qualifying those players. We need to make sure that we’re identifying the guys that can not only get into West Chester, but can also be successful at a school like this.
Once the baseball and academic components line up, then it’s just a matter of finding the guys that want to be a part of our program. Recruiting is never just about baseball and school for us. It’s about finding the guys that want to be a part of what we’re doing. Coaching at a school like West Chester forces us to recruit a very well-rounded student-athlete. I think that is a big factor when you put our ability to win games into perspective.
Q: Discuss the lure of playing Division I versus Division II.
A: It’s something that I guess I don’t fully understand! It seems that student-athletes are so fixated on the idea of playing for a Division I school, only to lose out on so many other great opportunities. Regardless of the school, regardless of the program, if it’s Division I, then it must be a better opportunity. That’s simply not the case.
Let me put that into context: If you were to show up to our field, on any given conference weekend, and you were to watch two teams with blank uniforms play, you wouldn’t be able to differentiate between Division I and Division II. Listen, we’re not the SEC or the ACC, and we certainly don’t pretend to be. That’s another level of play. But if you look at the quality baseball being played at the top of the Division II ranks and compare it to that of the mid-major/lower level Division I schools, there’s not much separation. My point in saying that is this; if you’re making the level of the school more important than the actual school, you probably don’t have the right priorities through the recruiting process. Your priorities should be the fit of the school, not the division.
Q: What would you like high school athletes to know about the recruiting process?
A: If you can play at a high level, coaches are going to notice you. It’s never been so easy to identify players, than it is in today’s environment. With social media, videos and all this technology, you’re going to go get noticed by somebody if you can play. So, I don’t think the focus should be so much on what you need to do to become recruited. The focus should be on becoming the best player and student you can possibly be. Invest in yourself from a developmental standpoint. Invest the time it takes to become the student that can get into every school in the country. Invest the time it takes to become the type of player that every program in the country wants on their team.
I also think you can be smart with the dollars you invest in the developmental process. Don’t just spend money to spend it. Identify areas that need the most amount of attention and invest into those things. Maybe that’s strength training, maybe that’s getting a tutor for math. Maybe that’s identifying a few events at some schools you have a good amount of interest it and investing the money it takes to attend one of those events. Be smart with how you spend your time, energy and money because if you invest wisely, you’re going to have some great options.
Q: What advice do you have for a high school player not getting much attention from college coaches?
A: I think it’s important for athletes to target schools and have a plan during this whole process. Because, once you know what schools you’re interested in, then it’s just a matter of communicating and coordinating schedules. Your goal with having a list of schools is so you can be focused on getting a yes or a no, from each program. Give yourself the best chance at getting the answers you’re looking for. Keep it simple and make your list manageable. Then, send your schedule to the coaches letting them know when you’re playing. Get to a camp at those schools. Make it very clear that you’re interested in them and you’d like to figure out if they might be interested in you, too.
Whatever it takes to get on those radars, that’s what you need to do. Every program in the country is going to give you feedback, if you make it easy for them to do so. Keep coaches updated on what you’re doing, where you’re going to be and what you’d like to accomplish with this process.