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.
For baseball players everywhere, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! Why? Because the NCAA Division I College World Series starts Saturday. For the next week and a half, Nebraska will be the center of the baseball universe. Simply put, there’s nothing like Omaha in the middle of June!
To all you baseball recruits working hard to get to the next level, this article is for you. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from our baseball coach interviews over the past year. From how a scholarship impacts your playing time, to what it takes to get noticed, you won’t find better recruiting advice than right here!
Mike Fox, North Carolina
Q: Does the scholarship amount you offer a player predict his playing time?
When we meet with a young man and his family, there are always two big elephants that walk in the room. And those are, “How much are we going to offer you and how soon can you play?” It’s a conversation about dollar amount and playing time. As important as both of those things are, you should understand that the two of those things don’t go together. Scholarship dollars and playing time don’t correlate. The reality of college recruiting is that you don’t control how much you get offered, but you do control the playing time you get.
I learned very early on at UNC that families equated scholarship amount to a player’s worth. That’s just not the case. Listen, I’m not that good to be able to tell a high school player how much I think they’re “worth” to our program before they get on campus. In a perfect world, we’d be giving the scholarship amount when they’re leaving UNC after their career was over. At that point, we’d definitely know how much they meant to our program. A scholarship offer is not a predictor for playing time. I think I’m most like other coaches when I say, we will put the best nine out on the field. End of story.
Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt
Q: What advice do you have for a high school player not getting much attention from college coaches?
A: It’s all about building relationships and understanding your conditions. Don’t be afraid to knock on some doors and make an introduction. As a coach, my goal when I’m recruiting a player is to ensure that what we’re doing at Vanderbilt, aligns with what he’s wanting and needing as a student, and as an athlete. Just because we like you, doesn’t mean you need to like us. The main objective is to find a place that fits your goals and we want to help you do that, regardless if it’s here or not. You can figure out where you belong through the relationships you develop and nurture. The ability to communicate your intentions will take you a long way in this process.
Paul Mainieri, LSU
Q: Talk to me about your recruiting philosophy.
The culture that we’ve created here is truly about the players. I tell all our guys all the time that this isn’t about me or our other coaches, this is all about you, the players. But as coaches, we have the responsibility to establish an environment and a philosophy about how we’re going to play the game. And that starts with recruiting.
I think we have a much different philosophy on recruiting than many other programs in that we tell recruits how difficult it’s going to be to play at LSU. It’s not going to be easy and we won’t lie to you saying it will be. We’re recruiting the best of the best and it’s going to be difficult for you to succeed here. Just to get playing time or get innings, you’re going to have to compete internally against some of the best players in the country. It’s going to be hard for you to win a starting job. And when you finally do win that playing time, you’re going be competing against the best players in the country, particularly in the SEC, that didn’t come to LSU, and against the best teams in the country that aren’t named LSU.
My message to the young man wanting to play here is that you can’t be afraid of challenges. In fact, you’ve got to be able to embrace challenges. The idea of being an LSU baseball player is a great idea. The tradition, the stage, playing in Alex Box Stadium in front of the biggest crowds in college baseball. It’s all such a great idea. But, the reality of being a baseball player at LSU is that it’s very challenging. It’s difficult. This is not a comfortable environment for a player not willing to challenge himself. You shouldn’t come to LSU unless you want to see how good you really are.
Nate Thompson, Arkansas
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.