The Truth About Recruiting

By: Al Hudson-July 3, 2008

This column is designed to assist parents and prospective college athletes in their selection process for college. Selecting an institution will be one of the most important decisions a young man or young lady has to make in their entire life.

Most of my reference will be toward college baseball, but the rules can be applied to most college sports.

The biggest misconception is that "Junior" is an elite athlete, and that he can perform at the highest level of competition. As I have stated in previous columns, the truth is evident, the percentage of high school players that advance to professional baseball is infinitesimal. Ability is the determining factor. I may want to coach the Atlanta Braves or the Boston Red Sox, but my ability has only allowed me to ascend to the college ranks as an assistant coach.

That is reality.

The reality for a player is that very few have the ability to play at the NCAA Division I level. However, many opportunities exist at the Division II, Division III, NAIA, and Junior College levels. Players and parents need to understand that, and make their choices accordingly.

Every player should set his goal to play at the highest level possible. But "play" is the operative word. The joy of being on the team is to play. Look for a program that wants you as much as you want them. Find a program that is willing to offer financial assistance. "Walking on", at a major college, and sitting for four years is not as enjoyable as playing for four years at a smaller school.

If you are seriously considering an NCAA Division I or II program, you must register with the NCAA eligibility center. Schedule an interview with your guidance counselor to determine your core course progress. Next register online at: Your counselor will assist you in getting the proper information to the center.

Having a strong indication to whether you will be admitted academically and getting a ballpark figure to what college costs will be, are crucial factors that will affect your decision about a school.

Take "unofficial" visits to as many of your top schools as possible. Call the office of admissions and determine when campus tours and information sessions are offered. Contact the coach at least 3-4 weeks prior to your visit to determine his availability to meet with you.

Participating in summer camps can be an effective evaluation tool for college coaches. If a summer camp visit is not possible, a skills video may peak a coach’s interest. But remember, a coach must see you in person to truly evaluate your skills. No athlete wants to be at a school where he isn’t wanted, and sometimes coaches, just to leave you with a positive feeling or because they don’t want you to go elsewhere, will mention the opportunity to walk on. Make sure you know that the coach truly believes in your athletic ability before picking his school. And when one coach tells you to walk on, and another offers you a scholarship, the coach offering you money obviously believes more in your ability.

Choosing between offers is just one situation when you’ll need to gauge each coach’s interest and commitment to you. Being mailed questionnaires, getting calls from coaches and receiving texts are a few others. Note the various ways a coach contacts you and what each one means. A general rule of thumb: the more a coach personally contacts you, the more serious he is.

If a coach notices you at a game, camp or workout, they will generally send you a questionnaire to fill out and an application for a camp visit.

If a coach is interested in you, he will call your high school coach, come to see you play, send you regular emails, and mail you a media guide and school information.

If a coach is very interested, he will set up a phone conversation with you, and come to see you play more than once.

If that coach is committed, he will set up regular phone calls, invite you for an official visit, and make a scholarship offer.

Without this progression of events, the coach may not believe that you can help his program, and will not be offering a scholarship. 

Even if you have the brainpower to succeed in the classroom and the skills to dominate your sport, finding a college division or association that fits you both academically and athletically can be a tricky task. 

Most players grow up with certain colleges that have garnered their allegiance through childhood. It is not uncommon for players to have a Big Orange Tennessee "T" on their wall, or maybe it is a South Carolina "Gamecock" or a Clemson "Tiger". All fine schools, and it would be an honor to represent them on the field.

Remember however, that "on the field" is the most important part of the equation. For some, an NAIA school may be the answer. These are four-year programs that offer an opportunity to get your degree, and fulfill your goal of playing college baseball.

Another excellent option is the Community College or Junior College option. These are two-year programs that allow a player to sharpen his skills on the field or in the classroom. Two-year schools usually provide more playing time for freshmen and sophomores than four-year schools, but the recruiting process begins again after graduation.

As you delve into the possibilities and prospects that await you, you will find numerous advantages and disadvantages with programs at every level.

Do not choose a school solely on the coach. Coaches leave for many reasons. Sometimes they are fired, sometimes they get a better job, and sometimes the pressure it too great.

You should choose a school based on their academic curriculum, your chances to participate, and cost factors for you and your family.

In conclusion, remember the golden rule of college selection. "You are going to school to get an education, if you get to play baseball, it is a plus."