The ultimate goal of athletic recruiting is to make sure your child will find a college that’s the best fit for their education and athletic goals. While I’m talking about baseball specifically here, the same tenets are true for all sports: This decision won’t just affect the next 4 or 5 years of your child’s life; it affects the next 40.
Knowing this as parents, I know you’re wondering if you are doing enough to help your child find the right college to attend. At times you are so concerned that you may feel like you are nagging him about it.
Sound familiar? I have come up with a list of questions that should help you point them in the right direction and not overstep your boundaries.
1. Have you introduced yourself to the high school baseball / travel coach? How are things going with your coaches?
This may seem elementary, but these coaches, position coaches, and personal trainers are very important for your son’s recruiting. This group of references should be listed on your son’s online recruiting profile and be available for college coaches to call.
One of the more important questions that needs to be answered by this group is about your son’s character. Every parent thinks their son is coachable, but your reputation isn’t on the line like these coaches and trainers. College coaches will rely on them for their honest, third-party feedback.
2. Have you thought about playing baseball in college? If you had to choose one position to play in college, which position would you choose?
Many parents just assume that their son wants to keep playing beyond high school because he may be a more advanced player on their team or in the area. It’s an understatement to say that it takes a lot of work in order to contribute at the college level and his natural ability will only get him so far.
Probing about a position obviously provides you an answer of where he really wants to play on the field, but it also gives you a better idea of where he sees himself at a more competitive level.
It also helps him think about actually playing in college which, in turn, gauges how serious he is about that possibility. Most college baseball players end up as a position player or a pitcher so knowing this answer will help with how to market him, and will guide you in the decision-making process down the road.
(College coaches may vary in their opinion about which position may be best for your son so knowing what he wants to do is important when ranking college options.)
3. Have you started looking into colleges? What are you noticing that interests you? Do you want to stay closer to home for college or go further away?
Here are areas that baseball recruits should look into when checking out the website for a college:
- Baseball roster: athlete’s hometown, previous school (transfers student-athletes), size of players at your son’s position, statistics, # of freshman starting, and student athlete’s high school awards.
- Conference affiliation: which teams and potential travel.
- Division of play and level of competition (there is good and bad baseball at each division level).
- Athletic accomplishments.
- School’s average GPA, test scores and class rank required to get in.
- Application deadlines: early admissions, standard admissions deadline.
- University demographic breakdown.
- University scholarship opportunities (financial aid)
When your son takes the time to review this information his goal is to write down at least 2-3 things he likes and finds noteworthy. This information is crucial to use in introduction emails and to determine if he wants to contact the program.
If, after doing the research, he feels it may be a program he would possibly want to attend and he could realistically play for, he should fill out their athletic questionnaire.
4. What have you done for your baseball recruiting the past few weeks?
This is one of the best areas that parents can help in the recruiting process – helping your son balance their time. A phrase I hear too often from parents is “He’s just too busy.”
There are a lot of priorities while your son is in high school. Hey, I’ve been there myself. It’s so easy to look at this process and become overwhelmed, but recruiting is just like anything in life: the more he puts into it the more he will get out of it.
The goal we set out for student-athletes is to spend at least an hour a week on their recruiting. He could break up that hour a week to 15 minutes a night, a few times a week or he could spend a couple of hours on it every two weeks. There are 168 hours in a week and 672 in a month. Hopefully your son can dedicate 1-4 of them toward one of the biggest decisions he will make up until this point in his life.
During that time they could be filling out questionnaires, emailing college coaches, calling college coaches, visiting schools, attending college baseball camps, etc.
5. When can we go shoot a video for your baseball recruiting?
This is another area where parents can really help their son. Shooting a skills video is one of the most important parts of the recruiting process and most people over-think it. We’ve written about shooting video in this blog before.
6. What do you want to do when you graduate from college? What classes have you enjoyed in school so far?
The answers to these questions may help him know what degree to try to earn in college. As much as you try to help here and as much as you are concerned about what he should study, be patient. Your son is not the only one who is indecisive. More than 50% of students in college change their major at least once, but it’s good to help him begin thinking about it. If he goes into college and is still undecided it’s okay, but have him focus on general education credits.
An area that is overlooked at times is if your son needs help academically. Again, this is a pretty simple question, but asking, “Do you need help in any classes?” shows them that you are concerned versus telling him to raise his grades. Some college coaches just need student-athletes to be “qualifiers” so encourage him if he started slow that if he can turn things around he may have a chance to play baseball in college. Another option could be an answer to the next question…
7. How would you feel about attending a two-year college?
Junior or community colleges are a great option for many baseball recruits, but many parents think they are just for student-athletes who haven’t done well in the classroom. While attending a two-year college to start may a good step for student who has struggles academically, there are actually a few more reasons why your son may consider attending a junior college:
- To gain experience. Many college coaches want recruits whom have had success in college already or have proven themselves against good competition.
- To polish his baseball skills. Many student-athletes need help developing and being taught the proper techniques to perform at the college level.
- To mature as a student and athlete. Sometimes students need to start over academically. Others may need to mature physically by becoming bigger, faster, or stronger. Lastly, many student-athletes need to mature by learning to prioritize their academics, athletics, and social life.
- It is cost effective. Most junior colleges are less expensive to attend versus four-year colleges.
- There are over 500 junior colleges that offer baseball as an intercollegiate sport. This is the biggest division level of college baseball so there are a lot of opportunities.
8. Have you heard back from any college coaches?
It is always important for your son to show interest to coaches. Email is a good way for him to begin reaching out to colleges he is interested in. After he has sent his introductory emails, it is smart to have a timeline for following up with each coach. Below is a guideline he can use for if he is an upperclassman (for underclassman he can follow up every 4 weeks):
- 1st e-mail (introduction email)
- 2nd e-mail – 2 weeks later (unless the coach responds – if the coach responds make sure he follows up promptly)
- Phone call to coaching staff – 2 weeks later (if they don’t pick up leave a voicemail)
- Follow up the call with an e-mail the same day as the voicemail (tell the coach on the voicemail that he will follow up with this e-mail)
- Follow up with coaches monthly by phone and e-mail – just once per month
You have to remember that many times it takes persistence with these coaches in order for them to get back to him. If after contacting the staff five times in three different ways (questionnaire, email, and phone calls) and he does not hear anything back, I recommend that he just follow up with them once per month (step 5) if it’s one of his top choices.
Sometimes coaches are very busy so he shouldn’t be discouraged. Other times coaches just may not be interested. Either way, what he is after is a “yes” or “no” in terms of interest, and if he is really interested he should be determined to follow the outline above to receive a response.
9. What have you heard from the coaches so far?
Below is a checklist of beginning stages you can use to help make sure your son is taking the necessary steps with each coach to know where he stands with them. For the majority of these questions and answers he must have talked with the coach at least a couple of times and they have had a chance to evaluate him using video or seeing him play in person. Under each statement there is a question he must ask if he does not know the answer already.
- College coach is recruiting for my position
“Are you recruiting (position(s)) for my recruiting class?”
- I know how many players he is bringing in for that position
i.e. he is recruiting 10 middle infielders and he is only bringing in 2 for his recruiting class
“How many players are you recruiting and bringing in for this position?”
- He is recruiting these attributes for this position and I fit those criteria
“What do you look for, specifically, in a (position(s))?”
- The coach has seen my video or has seen me play in person
“Have you seen my video and Recruiting Profile? Or have you attended any of my games and seen me play?”
- I know where I rank on the list of players for that position
i.e. he is recruiting 10 middle infielders, only bring in 2 and I am number two on his list
“Where do I rank on your recruiting list or list of players for my position?” If you are not on the list, ask the coach, “What do you need from me in order to evaluate and add me to your list?”
- The coach has offered personal visits to me or other student-athletes already
“When do you usually offer personal visits to student-athletes? Do you intend to invite me on a visit?”
There are more steps to this checklist, but hopefully these get you started in the right direction.
10. How can I help you achieve your dreams of playing baseball in college?
I can’t emphasize enough that sometimes a student-athlete just needs someone in their corner who believes in them and could use a helping hand. Most parents are already in their son’s corner, but if you’re unsure if he knows it then let’s take the guessing out of it. Make it clear that you are there to support him in any way possible to fulfill his goal of playing at the next level. Sometimes they just need someone to ask the right questions.
Contributor Brandon Liles is Recruiting Coach Team Lead at NCSA Athletic Recruiting.