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.
This week’s conversation is with former Oklahoma Sooner right-handed pitcher Jake Elliott. This past June, Jake was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 15th round of the MLB Amateur Draft and is entering his second season of professional baseball this spring. During his time at OU, Jake was the epitome of what it means to be a student-athlete, earning both an academic scholarship, as well as an athletic scholarship. He’s been there, done that and he has some valuable insight into what life is like at that level. Here is what he had to say.
Q: When did you realize that you wanted to become a college athlete?
A: I fell in love with baseball at such an early age. It’s just always been a part of who I am and what I do. I really couldn’t tell you the age I was when I had that realization because for as long as I can remember, it was my dream. I think most kids that love playing baseball share the same goal of getting to the highest level possible. We all dream of playing in college and then playing in the big leagues. That’s what makes playing the game so fun. The cool part for me is when I actually started to realize that playing baseball at the division I level, and beyond, might actually be an option for me. I remember having those “I can really do this” thoughts when I was a sophomore in high school and it’s been that way ever since!
Q: What was the most difficult part of being a student-athlete in college?
A: Without a doubt, it was time-management. It was learning how to juggle both school and baseball. In my perspective, being a student comes before being an athlete. So, you’re a student first and foremost, then you’re an athlete. It’s like having two full-time jobs at that level. And to excel in the classroom and on the field, you can’t cut corners. You have to put in the work. You have to figure out how you can be the best student you can possibly be without sacrificing the baseball part of it, and you have to figure out how you can be the best baseball player you can be without sacrificing the student side of it. It definitely takes balance.
Q: What was the coolest part of being a student-athlete in college?
A: Playing baseball at the division I level was such an honor and privilege for me. At OU, we played on the biggest stages, against the best competition. That’s one of the main reasons you play baseball in the first place. You want to be the best and you want to play against the best. Whether it was a non-conference game or the Big 12 conference championship game, it really was such a fun experience.
I can also say that playing in college took me to parts of the country I normally would never see. During my time at OU, we were fortunate enough to travel to places like Hawaii, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Being able to see the different cities and venues was such an amazing opportunity and I am so thankful for it.
Q: How important is it to be a good student in high school?
A: Getting good grades in high school factors huge into your college opportunities and experience. For me personally, I took high school very seriously because I knew that if I worked hard then, I would be in a better situation for college. In fact, I received an academic scholarship to attend OU and it ended up covering the tuition amount that my baseball scholarship didn’t cover. I can literally say that getting good grades pays off.
I also took dual credits in high school, so I was ahead of schedule when I got drafted my junior year of college. As a college athlete, you take 12 credits per semester. The regular graduating schedule for a non-athlete is 15 credits per semester, so you can fall behind after a few semesters. Ultimately, it’s just so important to take pride in being a good student. You’ll never regret putting your best effort into being a student.
Q: For the high school athlete doubting their abilities, what would your advice be?
A: I think doubting really means you’re lacking in preparation. If you are doubting your abilities, have you done your very best to prepare? I think most of us would answer no to that question, if we are genuinely doubting our abilities. If I want to get a good grade on a test, I know that I have to study. I want to go into that test feeling confident that I did everything I could to make sure I get the grade that I want. The same goes for sports. Feeling confident and performing at a high level are a result of how well-prepared you are. The good thing about doubting is that you can overcome it with preparing. It’s something you are in control of.