Want to play college baseball?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with sport, especially baseball, as being a way to help a young athlete get to and through college. Many players who play baseball want to play college baseball. This has happened for years, and will continue to happen. And, there are several ways that kids can get to and through college (academics, service, sport, and more). In fact, many more students will get a chance to get to college through their academic performance or other accomplishments rather than sport.
What seems to be happening today, especially in baseball is a change in WHY the game is being played. In some cases, NOT ALL, there seems to be using the game as an opportunity to showcase skills rather than focusing on the team's success. I realize this is not always the case, but it does seem to be gaining more traction.
When coaches make in game decisions not based on what is best for the team, but rather to show a skill set, then I think a line has been crossed. An example of this would be allowing a pitcher to pitch over 70 pitches in one inning, after walking 7 players and giving up 6 first inning runs because he is being "watched". Another example would be not insisting on players knowing how to bunt, or hit behind runners because it does not show well.
My point is simple, don't compromise the integrity of the game, or the competition of a game to show the skill sets of your players. At some point players will be judged on how well they play the game, not how high they can move the gun. In, other words, pitchers who just try to throw hard, and not learn what pitching really is, will one day pay the price. When they can't get hitters out, the coach/manager will find someone who can.
Why is this an important topic? When we play the game for showing skills, players become selfish. They don't want to learn how to do their craft better. They think it is more important to show well, then help the team win. Parents expect playing time for their son/daughter because the focus is to be seen. However, this is not the reason we play the game.
We should play the game to win the game, and to do so as a team. Players need to develop feel for pitching, not move the gun. Players need to learn how to bunt and hit behind runners to put the team in a better position to score and win. Coaches need to make decisions that are team oriented not player oriented. Life skills, character development are learned through the successes and failures of competition on the field. When we change the focus to showcasing skills, we loose the opportunity to teach those life lessons.
In our Coach Baseball Right Podcast, we have interviewed several top-tier head coaches. From University of Tennessee Men's Head Coach Tony Vitello, Mizzou Men's Head Coach Steve Bieser, Missouri State's Men's Head Coach Keith Guttin, University of Arizona longtime Women's Head Coach Mike Candrea or UCLA's legendary Women's Head Coach Sue Enquist... everyone of them talked about this type of personal and athletic development and mindset. Listen to what they have to say about what they look for in kids who want to play college baseball and softball.
With that being said, what are my suggestions if you want to play college baseball? How can a player play the game the right way, be part of a team, help his team win, AND allow himself to be seen as a way to play.
Here is a simple plan we suggest at Coach Baseball Right. This is a simple 4 prong plan that can be used across the board for any sport. It does take some work, but that is your only cost.
- Identify schools that have your academic interests, you feel you can play at, and meets other specific needs(social, geographic, school size, college experience).
- Identify schools that have your academic interests, a step above where you can play at, and meets other specific needs.
- Identify schools that have your academic interests, and meets other specific needs (no sport is involved). This is important in case you get hurt or decide NOT to play in college. So, now you have identified a list of schools that are of interest to you.
- By middle of your sophomore year in high school (if not earlier), send out an introductory letter to these schools. Introduce yourself, your academic interests and your athletic interest in their program. This should go to both the particular sport and admissions office. This should be a simple letter of introduction.
- Follow this up with a "Profile Packet" that has the following:
- Academic Transcripts (last 3 years)
- Sport letter of rec. from 3 different coaches or instructors.
- Sport statistics for teams you have played on the past 2 years.
- Sport video (5 minute video that shows your ability to demonstrate proper practice techniques. This video should include, throwing, base running, batting practice situations, limited game footage). In the video you want the coach to know that you are coachable, open to learning, and know how to practice.
- This should go out by Spring of sophomore year.
- Follow this up with a phone call to the coach asking to visit the schools that you have decided really interest you. When you are visiting the school, you will set up a meeting with the coach and ASK him questions about his program and his philosophy. This is your chance to see if YOU want to play for him. Be aware that most parents use this as an opportunity to guage the coach's interest in their son/daughter. That is certainly one of the things you can get from this visit. However, this is YOUR chance to see if this is the type of person you want your child being around for 4 years!
Showcases and Camps
As far as showcases go, I am not a big showcase guy. Though, some people will tell you they are wonderful, I don't think they are worth the money or time in many situations. If you want to go to a showcase, go to the ones that have coaches there from schools that you feel you can play at. Check this out before hand. Call the schools you are interested in and make sure somebody from that school will be there.
For academic student/athletes I would highly recommend you look into the Head First showcases. Student/athletes are seen by schools that have higher academic standards and these are real good opportunities. Head First Showcases are outstanding opportunities for academically gifted students/athletes.