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 identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
This isn’t something they would ever claim so I will just say it for them… Jamie and Kathy Elliott know a thing or two about the college recruiting process. As parents of two NCAA Division I baseball players, the Elliotts experienced college recruiting not just once, but twice. First with Jake, a right-handed pitcher at The University of Oklahoma and then with Jensen, a right-handed pitcher at Oklahoma State University. In the world of college recruiting, that qualifies as “been there, done that” status!
Recently, I sat down with the Elliotts to gain their valuable insight into how they navigated the sometimes frustrating, but always exciting recruiting journey with both of their boys. If you are a parent to a high school athlete with dreams of playing at the next level, take five minutes and read what they have to say. It would be well-worth your time!
Q: What age were your sons when you realized they were going to play college baseball?
A: Both Jake and Jensen have always possessed an aspiration to play college baseball, and both had a significant role on their high school and club teams, but we don’t recall an exact moment that we felt either of our boys would be playing at the next level. We have continuously instilled the importance of putting in the time not only on the field, but also in the classroom. They have a quote on their bathroom mirror that they see on a daily basis, “Practice as if you are the worst, and perform as if you are the best.” Texas is a mecca for talented baseball players so until college recruiters started reaching out to each of our sons, we tried to keep their focus on getting better in the present with the hope that the future would take care of itself.
Q: How did the recruiting process start for Jake and Jensen?
A: With Jake, our oldest, we moved to a better-known baseball organization the summer between his sophomore and junior year. The coaching staff proved to be well connected with the college programs he was most interested in and Jake received immediate interest. This move proved to be the single most important factor in gaining exposure and opened the door to many opportunities.
With Jensen, the recruiting age had moved up so we were able to initiate the process the summer before his sophomore year. We were traveling to a well-known tournament in Atlanta that attracted a large number of college scouts, so we had Jensen make a list of college programs he wanted to reach out to. He emailed four coaches with a short baseball resume, along with a time and location of the first game he was scheduled to pitch. Three of those coaches were at that first game. Later in the week he emailed the one coach again that was not at his first game with the new time and field location. That coach showed up to his next game, liked what he saw, and the rest is history.
Q: Describe the emotions you felt during the recruiting process with your sons.
A: The emotion that stands out the most during the recruiting process is pride; the pride in seeing both of our sons achieve their dream of playing college baseball. We are so proud of not only the blood, sweat and tears they put in over the years to get to this point, but of the maturity they exhibited in handling the entire recruiting process. With Jake it was very overwhelming to say the least. It was our first time experiencing the process so there was a lot of uncertainty and stress being thrown in our direction in a short amount of time. Jake had gone from being a virtual unknown, to receiving interest from not only colleges, but the MLB as well.
Jensen’s recruiting process was much simpler and quicker. Since Jensen had gone through Jake’s recruiting process with us, he was more prepared when his turn came around. We were excited to see the early interest and since one of the schools showing interest was his number one choice, he didn’t waste anyone else’s time and verbally committed after visiting.
Q: As a parent, what was your role throughout the process with Jake and Jensen?
A: As parents, our role was to guide our sons throughout the decision-making process and offer support when asked, but ultimately having faith in each of them to choose the school they felt was right for them individually. We feel very blessed that both of our boys wanted to attend schools that were close to home so that we are able to experience the journey alongside them. Living in the Dallas area, the Big 12 was a logical choice for each of our sons and we feel very fortunate that it all worked out the way it did. A house divided, we shall see, but a house united, always.
Q: What advice would you have for other parents that are going through or will go through the college recruiting process with their athlete(s)?
A: Be realistic. Know where your child’s athletic ability falls at the time of recruiting. Would your athlete best perform at a D1, D2, D3 or junior college? Know what you can afford with or without a scholarship. Scholarships are only guaranteed year-to-year so you have to know what you can afford if a scholarship no longer exists.
Know the academic strengths of your child. If your athlete isn’t an Ivy League student, don’t push him or her in that direction. We were upfront with our boys in letting them know what we would be able to afford financially and that meant turning down some colleges. During the recruiting process is the time to address these issues, not down the road when your child has to leave a school he or she has become attached to because a scholarship is dropped or grades don’t meet academic standards. Being in touch with reality up front could save a lot of heartache down the road.