The following is written by Andy Drake, head baseball recruiting coach at NCSA Athletic Recruiting. Andy regularly contributes to the blog to help college baseball players understand the recruiting process.
With the spring college baseball season in full swing, it is also the time of year when many college baseball transfer situations occur. We have fielded literally dozens of calls this spring already with athletes and families who are unhappy with their current situation and want to know their options for finding a new and hopefully better situation.
As a former college coach myself, I know that the transfer process is a very common occurrence. There are probably at least one or two players who enter a college baseball transfer situation, per program, every year. The process is in place to allow players the ability to maintain eligibility and enjoy their four years without wasting them at a school where they are unhappy.
The problem is that in many of the calls I have with families, the reasons behind the transfer end up being things that could have been diagnosed even before the athlete made his commitment to attend the school. My goal in this blog is to help you see ahead of time the things that lead to transfers and how to best avoid putting yourself in that situation.
Know what you are getting yourself into
It is very easy during the recruiting process to get distracted and, quite frankly, blinded by the fact that you are getting attention from a college coach. It is a great feeling to be talking with coaches, to go on visits, and see yourself possibly playing college baseball. The problem comes in when families don’t ask the hard questions to college coaches.
Before making a commitment to a program, there are some questions that you absolutely must know the answer to before you show up in the fall:
- How many other players will there be at your position? You should know how many guys there will be at your position so that you can best assess your chances of having an opportunity.
- Do you have a guaranteed roster spot? If you do not know the answer to this question, you may not be as high on that coaches recruiting list as you think.
- What do you see my role being this year as a freshman? It is very common for freshman baseball players to not be immediate contributors. If he uses phrases like “compete for time” or “it’s a blank slate” or “everyone has to earn their time” but doesn’t give you very clear and direct roles that he sees you having, you may not be as high on the depth chart as you think.
Many of the phone calls that I have about players looking to transfer have to do with the fact that things were not what they expected.
If the coach cannot give you a direct answer for any of these types of questions that should be a big red flag. Any coach that truly wants you there will give straight answers, and rather than going to the place where you are hearing what you want to hear, you need to be wiser to ask the tough questions, even if the answers may not be what you want to hear. Then you will know if this is a coach and program that you can trust and that you can buy into.
Visit the campus and meet the coach (multiple times if possible)
You should never commit to a college baseball program if you have not met the coaches yet in person.
Sometimes you may be considering a school that is very far away from home, but it is extremely important to visit that school and get a sense about whether you can see yourself there for four (or two) years. I have had calls with families looking to transfer, and they told me that they never visited the school or met the coach before committing!
That is a recipe for disaster and a possible transfer.
If you live far away and truly can’t get to the campus, you MUST get that coach on the phone at least. You just have to get the sense of whether this is a coach you can see yourself playing for the next four years.
Many times, the coaches will treat you one way when they are recruiting you and another way when they are coaching you. If you visit the school, watch a practice, watch a game, or stay overnight, you will be around everything more and the real program will start to show itself, good or bad.
Have realistic expectations
It is quite possible that most of you that are reading this blog have had lots of success in high school and summer baseball. Being captains, all-conference, all-state, and playing in all-star games are all you have ever known.
Remember: once you step foot on that campus in the fall, none of that matters any more.
You are now simply a member of a new team, a team with 25 or 30 guys just like you. Just as good as you — and maybe better. You are stepping onto a team with grown 21-, 22-, 23-year-old men, who are far removed from the high school and summer ball fields that you just left.
If you show up expecting to just step on campus and be the man for four years, you are likely to be in for a rude awakening.
You will be asked to do and prove a lot of things before you may get the privilege of being on the field. If you come to school with the attitude that the coach is working for you and not the other way around, you will likely be very humbled, and–*gasp*–the coach might yell at you once in a while.
The more you know these things going in, the less likely it is that you will want to get out the first time things aren’t going your way.
No matter where you go to play college baseball, things may not be easy. You may find yourself dealing with things that you have never dealt with before. This may be your first time away from home, away from mom and dad and dealing with things on your own.
Our hope is that each of you find the perfect fit for your college baseball experience. There are always times when completely unexpected things happen and transferring is an outcome that is unavoidable. But many times, the athletes look to transfer because of reasons that could have been avoided. Ask the hard questions, truly get to know the school and the coaching staff, and have realistic expectations going in, and you should find yourself in a great situation.
Have other questions about the baseball recruiting process? Whether it’s contacting coaches, uploading your video or just chatting about how to become the best baseball player you can be, scouts and recruiting coaches just like Andy are here to help.