College Recruitment – Role of the Parent
Author: Joey Johnston – Remember the old days, the T-ball leagues, the times when your day-dreaming son was pulling up daisies in the outfield, when it was easy and carefree to be Baseball Dad and Baseball Mom?
Baseball Dad showed his son how to put on a glove, how to swing the bat. Sometimes, he even gave directions to first base when contact was made.
Baseball Mom brought the snacks and washed the clay-stained uniforms, cheering and laughing through the moments of triumph and mistakes without a hint of nerves.
It’s a bit different. It might even seem pressure-packed.
Maybe your son is taking baseball a lot more seriously. Maybe he’s trying to make the high-school team. Maybe he has designs on a college scholarship.
Baseball University’s acclaimed development program can prepare your son for all those steps. But the heightened interest probably means additional hitting and pitching lessons. It probably means more of a time commitment. It definitely means more of a financial investment.
What exactly does it mean for a parent?
How do you cope? How do you keep up?
There isn’t a secret formula or a special code to crack. There isn’t a handbook. But there are some common-sense principles, which should make a smoother path for the often bumpy road of baseball parenting.
Positive Support — Whether your son was 4-for-4 or 0-for-4, it’s important to not obsess on the details of one game. It’s supposed to be fun. There will be another game. And another. And another.
“Be there for your kid,’’ said Tommy Slater, a former D1 college head coach who has served as hitting coach for three professional baseball organizations. “When you get in the car after the game, regardless of what happened, you need to say, ‘Hey, I loved watching you play.’
“Just that little statement is one of the best ways you can help. If your kid made a mistake in the game, he knows it. The coach will work on it with him. But no matter what happened in the game, kids always need to feel the support of their parents.’’
Realistic Expectations — Some high-school coaches are very hands-off and don’t encourage regular conversations with parents. Others have a very liberal open-door policy.
But either way, the communication should be based on honesty. Veteran coaches are accustomed to dealing with college recruiters. To maintain credibility, the coaches are obligated to give an accurate evaluation of your son’s ability.
“Realistic expectations are so important and sometimes it’s difficult for parents to wrap their heads around the reality,’’ Berkeley Prep coach Richie Warren said. “Everybody wants to play at the big Division I school, but not everybody has that talent.
“Sometimes, there are hard conversations between coaches and players about expectations, where we coaches evaluate a kid for the next level. As a parent, sometimes you’re sitting in that room and hearing an open and honest conversation about your son and where he can go.’’
Sometimes, the expectations can change. Players can grow physically. Or maybe they adopt a work ethic that improves their stock.
“I don’t think you can always have a be-all, end-all evaluation of a kid who is 14 or 15 years old,’’ Baseball University director of operations Addison Maruszak said. “Many times, I tell parents, ‘Your son is not a Division I-level prospect … yet. Yet. Important word. Things can change. Sometimes, you can work and grow to the point where they do change.’’
Rely on the Experts — When Slater coached at Auburn, he received a call from the mother of a pitcher from La Porte, Ind.
“I had never heard of him,’’ Slater said.
But this wasn’t just a mother bragging on her son. She knew of other Indiana-area coaches and scouts who could vouch for her son.
“I called a scout who had seen Chris play and I asked, ‘Is it worth the plane ticket?’ And he said, ‘Yep.’ End of story,’’ Slater said.
Bootcheck signed with Auburn. He became a first-round draft pick.
“We hear of lots of moms and dads who think their kid can play,’’ Slater said. “But this call — out of the blue — was proactive. She had credible people who backed her up.
“It all happened because of a mom who made a phone call. Don’t be bashful. Make the call. Send the e-mail. But be sure to have a credible reference, somebody who has seen him play who can be called.’’
Get Educated — If your son has college baseball aspirations, it’s best to learn the landscape — and the realities.
NCAA Division I baseball programs are permitted just 11.7 scholarships per season, which is another article within itself. So it’s foolish to expect a full scholarship offer. It’s smart to learn about other means of financial aid to reduce costs.
It’s also worth a deep dive into the realities of the recruiting process by talking to coaches and former players about their experiences.
For example, if your son attends a large showcase event, that doesn’t mean his games and workouts will be teeming with coaches. College programs already have their targeted players. Coaches come to watch specific players.
If your son is looking to be “discovered,’’ the on-campus summer baseball camp might be a better possibility. He can receive more focused attention at that venue.
Also, don’t be distracted by verbal commitments given by players in their freshman or sophomore years of high school. Yes, there are physical freaks and phenoms who receive that type of attention. They are the exception.
“Know the timeline,’’ said Matt Bomeisl, founder of Prospect Wire, one of the leading baseball scouting and evaluation firms. “The bigger the school, the earlier in your high-school career they’re out recruiting. They’re already done with their junior and senior classes.
“The junior colleges, the Division II schools, they’re waiting until the senior year hits. If the early verbal (commitment) doesn’t happen, you’re still on a normal path of growth. When you’re a senior, a whole new crop of schools opens up.’’
Make Family Decisions — Sometimes, baseball becomes a game of follow the leader. Kids follow other kids. Parents follow other parents. Sometimes, that’s not the basis for a good decision.
Should my son play baseball at his zoned public school or is he better off at a private school?
Is it better to play at an in-state school? Are better options available in another region of the country? Is junior college the best option?
“These are all individual decisions,’’ Maruszak said. “What’s good for one might not be good for another. You have to determine the best fit for your son.
“High school can be a lifelong commitment. The friends you have in high school and your baseball teammates could set the tone for your life. And college is much more than a four-year decision. It could determine your career, who you marry, a whole array of factors. These are decisions that can’t be taken lightly. Parents can set the tone by helping find the right fit.’’
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