I have worked in and around the college recruiting process for over 30 years. As my own children have gone through the college recruiting process, I didn’t pressure them to strive for the “top of the top” or apply to the so-called “best” colleges or strictly seek a Division 1 university. As a matter of fact, none of my children participated in college showcases (where you spend a lot of money to get in front of college coaches), none of my children have felt it important nor cared where they were ranked by Perfect Game or some of those other organizations and none have been anxious about the college recruiting process.
Being around the recruiting process for so long, why didn’t I push them more? Why didn’t I spend money to get them in front of college coaches nationwide? Because I know that of the 2,400 colleges in the country and the 1,500 four-year colleges and universities with a baseball program, there are at least 50 schools that would be great places for my children to attend and have the opportunity to play at. Specifically, schools where they could grow, develop, and engage. Schools where, with the help of caring faculty, coaches and staff, they could find a voice and role that would serve them well in the future while improving as players and human beings. Schools where they could explore and take risks without the fear of losing their scholarship. Places where they would play, have teammates and coaches they enjoy being around while having the chance to see what they wanted with their college experience come to a realization.
These schools did not necessarily coincide with the top 25 as ranked by Baseball America, popular magazines and college guidebooks because that did not matter to them. When it came to their college search my children were more interested in substance rather than in status. And I heartily recommend all students adopt such an attitude as they embark on their college search in this recruiting process. That does not mean my children are not competitive, quite the contrary, they just know what they want within this process. They had time to weed out the things that really were not important to them or as important as the next thing. They each developed their own hierarchy of what was important to them and built their college list off of that.
One of my boys had several college coaches tell him that he was only going to be a pitcher at the college level and that would be his role on their teams. One, was a college who ultimately won a college World Series. When asked what he thought, my son told me that what was most important to him was that he still have the opportunity to hit, play a position and play every day. In the end, this son probably has a future on the mound, maybe professionally, but it is his life and you only get four years to play in college (if you’re lucky) and those four years go so fast. He did not want to lose out on any of that experience which was more important to him. “Look, Dad,” he said, “I don’t think I can fully commit 100% to pitching right now, I still think I can hit” Case closed. He was “walking the walk,” and I was a happy parent. He might still end up on the mound but he will also get four years of college baseball, as a position player – that was HUGE to him – and remember, it’s his life and at some point we all need to take control of it.
With another son, when a class scheduling conflict forced him to make a decision about AP or a regular class. His transcript was strong and even though I knew some highly selective colleges would prefer to see the AP class, I encouraged him to make his choice based on what he wanted to do. Ultimately, he chose to take the class that conflicted with AP calculus. “Dad,” he said, “if a college isn’t going to admit me because I took regular calculus rather than AP, then I don’t want to go to that college!” Again, case closed! He, too, was “walking the walk,” and once again, I was happy.
As my third son goes through the process, he has a very good idea of what type of campus he is looking for, what type of support system he needs, what type of coach, program philosophy and development opportunity he is looking for. He is very specific and detailed in what he wants, so it makes it much easier to find which colleges fit him. Now that he has that in place, he can look at where his ability level truly lies and seek out colleges that fit what he wants, where he has the opportunity to play.
I think many people who go through the recruiting process have it backwards. They seek out the college first and ask them - can I play for you? They look at where they want to play first, rather than getting to understand themselves first, then obtain a real understanding of where their ability lies before seeking out potential options. Today, when I work with high school students and learn about the stress surrounding college recruiting or in most cases the lack of a plan, I ache with an insider’s knowledge of the process at selective schools and very competitive baseball programs. There is absolutely no reason for students (and parents) to be nervous about the college recruiting process—but they are because the student decides to seek colleges for poor reasons. Reasons like “because it’s hard to get in” or “because everyone will be impressed if I go there.” Or because “it’s a Division 1 school” Or because “I need a baseball scholarship”
What a misguided definition of success we have developed! Is it more valuable for the parents to wear a D1 sweatshirt or to have a “wow” college bumper sticker on the back of their car than to make the most out of a college experience that actually fits your personality, ability level, learning style and educational objectives? Is it more important to look impressive than to be impressive?
Those rankings by Perfect Game aren’t the cause of the problem (though they are partially to blame). Rather, our society reinforces an image of success defined by name brands, whether we’re talking about bats, gloves, or colleges.
Don’t let this happen to you in your college search. Follow our advice at Fallon Sports and find out what you truly want and need out of your college of choice. Get to know us all (at Fallon Sports), trust us, we are here for you!
Next, I break down the foundation of our plan that we apply to each of our members – in subsequent emails, I will get more specific within each of these areas and together, we will get very specific with your plan.