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.
If you want to be the best at something, you should ask yourself, “How do the best do it?” For example, if you wanted to know what it takes to become an award-winning actor, you’d ask, “How does Tom Hanks do it?” Or, maybe you want to know what it takes to become one of the richest human beings on the planet. In that case, “How did Warren Buffet do it?” See how this works? Makes total sense!
Well, if you’re a high school baseball player wondering what it’s going to take to get recruited by one of the best programs in the country, you should be asking, “How does Ole Miss do it?” This week, I had the amazing privilege of sitting down with Ole Miss baseball coach Mike Bianco to do just that. Without a doubt, Coach Bianco is among the greatest coaches and recruiters of all time. From what he wants athletes to know about the recruiting process, to what he pays attention to when evaluating players, here is what he had to say.
Q: Physical talent aside, what type of players do you recruit?
A: Obviously, we want “team” guys. We want the guys that believe in the idea of “we” over “me”. The guys that put the team first, regardless of the circumstances, are the ones that want to win. Give me those guys. You know, baseball can be such an individual sport because of the statistics. What’s your ERA? What’s your batting average? And on and on. Then, when you become an elite player, you’re typically at a lot of showcases. You’re playing for those showcase teams where they’re keeping score, but the emphasis is usually centered around the individual performance. That’s something we really have to guard against when we’re out recruiting players. Because unfortunately, that’s just not how you win baseball games. You win games with nine guys, not one guy’s individual performance.
Q: Tell me something you would want every high school athlete to know about the college recruiting process.
A: Quite honestly, we pay attention to how you fail. If we’re recruiting you, it’s a given that you have some physical talent. So, we pay attention to the moments you wouldn’t want us to see, or the moments you don’t think we’re watching you. How do you handle a strikeout? Do you run out fly balls? Do you have that competitive spirit during the pregame in and out? Most guys we recruit haven’t experienced a lot of failure, prior to getting to Ole Miss. And, I would say that’s typical for most college programs, too. If you want to play college baseball, especially for a school in one of the power five conferences, you’ve got to be mentally tough. You have to be able to handle tremendous adversity and there has to be a fire inside you that is undeniable to anyone who watches you play.
Q: What’s an example of a question you might ask a recruit you were really interested in knowing the answer to?
A: “How’d you do last night?” You can learn a lot about a player by the way he answers that question. Does he answer with, “I went 2 for 3, or we won 5-4?” Some kids will tell you how the team did, and some kids will tell you how they did, individually. Listen, if you’re good with going 2 for 3 when your team loses, that’s something that will grab our attention. Recruiting isn’t an exact science. It’s relationship building. And, when we’re getting to know a player through this process, we’re going to find out if you care about your team, or you care about yourself.
Q: What advice do you have for parents of recruits?
A: I think parents put too much pressure on themselves through the recruiting process, and understandably so. We want the best for our kids. We put them on the right teams. We pay for lessons and do whatever we think will give them the best chance to become a college baseball player. The reality of recruiting is this: there’s only so much you can do to get your son to the next level. You don’t control which college coaches like him. You can’t control when he gets an offer. You don’t control the scholarship amount he gets. There are just too many factors out of your control. So, my advice to parents would be to try to relax and let your kid play baseball. Let him play the game for enjoyment, not to get recruited. Help him to love the game. Because, much of the attention he gets will be based on his efforts and how hard he works, anyway. He has to be totally committed to becoming the best player he can be, if this is all going to work out.