After a very successful high school season as a junior, I thought my recruiting would blow up. I was our 3-hole hitter, top pitcher on the staff, led the team to a conference championship, and earned a few post-season awards. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Deciding to sit back and wait for college coaches to call with scholarship offers was a bad choice. It was not until the end of the fall semester of my senior year when I finally decided to get active. And more importantly: realistic.
But it wasn’t too late to get recruited as a senior.
Thankfully, I grew up in a location with many college baseball programs in the area. Within a 75-mile radius, I had programs at all levels of college baseball. This allowed me to target colleges that were still recruiting seniors at my positions. Once I started to target events with these programs (Division II, Division III, and NAIA) in attendance and personally reach out to them, my recruiting took off. My first call from a college coach came in January, my first visit came in February, and I received my first offer in April. And by June, I had decided to attend Aurora University.
I attended a DIII school, even with DI and DII offers on the table.
Actually deciding on where to continue my playing and educational career was extremely tough. I had four legitimate options. One was a walk-on opportunity at a DI program. I received two athletic scholarship offers from two DII programs. And then there was DIII, Aurora University. AU was my first call, first visit, and first offer. They showed me the most “love” in the process, but I still struggled to pull the trigger. I was stuck on the “division level” aspect of the opportunities.
The best piece of advice I received during the decision making process was to remove the division level and college names from the discussion. Focus on the overall opportunity at each college. Once I shifted my focus in this direction, the right decision was clear. Specifically I targeted the baseball opportunity, academic programs offered, distance from home, and the overall cost of attending each college.
Remove the division level and college names from the discussion. Focus on the overall opportunity at each college.
In all four areas, Aurora University was the best option. They had the best baseball tradition of programs recruiting me and recruited me to be a two-way player (very important for me). Academically, it was a good fit and had my initial major (switched majors early on in my freshman year). It was far enough away from home, but still close enough for my family to watch me play (and for me to see my younger brother play in high school). And, surprisingly, AU had the best financial aid package on the table.
Don’t get stuck on the “name brands.”
Unfortunately, too many prospects get caught on the “division level” element of recruiting. The reality is that many quality players continue their careers outside of DI, and have excellent experiences just like I did. Looking back almost 15 years later, I would make the same decision. Only I would have decided much sooner. Go Spartans!
This post is part of our series highlighting the recruiting experiences of former student-athletes who work at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. You can learn about an All-American football player, DI tennis player and more in our archives.
Jason Smith is a head recruiting coach at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. If you have questions about recruiting, we can give you answers for your personal journey.