College recruiting: Be forewarned and do your homework first!

If the ultimate payoff for a young, talented, and dedicated athlete is to someday play at the collegiate level, you would think that parents would be better informed. The sad reality is that too many moms and dads sit up and fully expect scholarship offers to roll in during their kid’s senior year.

Or that the parents just assume their kid’s travel team coach or HS coach will let colleges know about their son’s or daughter’s abilities. Or that mailing out a DVD to college coaches is the key. Or that a showcase is the easy answer. Even worse, some parents just assume that a young athlete can simply walk-on and try out once they are on campus as a freshman.

This is precisely why I have Wayne Mazzoni (check out WayneMazzoni.com) come on the show every year. As a current college baseball coach and expert on the recruiting process, Wayne makes it clear that this process is full of detours, disappointments, and dead ends, and that it’s up to the parents to help do their homework before the kid applies to school.

First and foremost, the youngster needs to have solid grades and SAT and ACT scores. Don’t assume that athletic ability is all that matters. Secondly, understand that very, very few kids are good enough to play at any level of college ball – and especially at the Div I level. HS athletes need to understand that it’s always a lot more fun to play in the games than to merely practice all week and never get in. That’s why playing at the D-III or D-II level should be a real consideration.

Think D-III is beneath you? I strongly urge you to go and watch some D-III games and practices, and then see just how “easy” the competition is.

The bottom line is that thousands of talented HS athletes are misled each year when they enroll in college, fully expecting to play. Then, once disappointed, they become disgruntled and want to transfer. Sure, you can always do that. But why go through all of that hassle? Do your homework BEFORE you go to college, and make sure you have found the college program for you.

  • M H Scott

    Another great show Coach Wolff. I would have liked for the coach to explain to the parents the breakdown of the term “Recruit”. When is a student-athlete truly being recruited? Is it when he/she receive their first piece of correspondences or is it more to recruitment? Often many young athletes believe they are being recruited when they receive a press-clipping. We all know the recruiting process is very complex and we as parents need to learn the process. Is there a systematic approach to the recruiting process?

    • Ron James

      Rick, Thanks for having Wayne on. He is the voice of reason when it comes to the realities of college recruiting. My son is a senior and college prospect pitcher and we are in the midst of the recruiting process. Here are some lessons learned:

      – Parents should put their egos aside. The tendency is to think your son or daughter are D1 material just because they are one of their high school or summer team’s best players. You’ll realize quickly where they fit in after attending their first prospect camp.

      – Don’t bother doing any showcases until junior/senior year. Sophomore year is an absolute waste of money. Coaches know players are still developing and coaches can’t do anything with a sophomore.

      – College coaches mostly care about junior year and more importantly, summer ball prior to senior year. Fall prospect camps for seniors is an outstanding opportunity to been seen by D2/D3 coaches. There are far more D3 prospect camps out there. Virtually every college holds their own fall prospect camps.

      – Unless your son or daughter is a clear D1 prospect, don’t expect college coaches (D2/D3) to be contacting them after completing junior year. A few schools will from the Top 96 type events and college camps, but the big key here is developing a relationship with the coaches prior to the events (so your kid is top of mind) and post event! Coaches welcome emails and want to stay on top of a player’s progress throughout their spring and summer seasons. Coaches prefer to hear about individual performance such as “led my team in K’s,” received league honors/”pitcher of the year,” etc. Coaches will do Google searches on you kid but significant article links that mention a stellar individual performance or praise from the coach should be included.

      – Video is an absolute necessity. My son had one done at the Top 96 event he participated in and college coaches agree it’s the best one out there (back, side, split screen views). So your follow-up email should include a video, update on accomplishments, confirmation that you visited campus or plan to visit and a request to meet with the coach. IF the coach is interested he will either invite you to meet with him or participate in his summer, fall or winter prospect camp. DO NOT pass on the opportunity to do these college prospect camps. It shows the coaching staff that you’re very interested in the school.

      – Recommend junior/senior players do one or two summer prospect camps (Top 96 head and shoulders over Perfect Game based on experience and feedback from parents. Head First is good as well). Don’t waste your money taking your kid in their sophomore year.

      – At these camps, pitchers have an advantage over position players. Pitchers are a valued commodity at the college level and your kid will be competing against a smaller pool of players versus the dozens of position position players out there. The evaluation games conducted at these prospect camps are mostly a showcase for pitchers and catchers (young parents out there…think pitching when your kids start playing ball at 9!)

      – For D2/D3 prospects, by the fall of their senior year your son or daughter should have three or four college coaches interested in them. They will invite you to campus for a one-on-one meetings, watch the team practice, do a sleep-over with a player, participate in their fall prospect camp or meet with Admissions.

      – Finally, to Parents, DO NOT put stress on your son or daughter. If they’re really committed to playing at the collegiate level as part of their overall college exprience, then their talent will shine through at the prospect camps. BUT if they don’t establish a relationship/ongoing communications with the college coaches (pre and post event) they will be forgotten and passed over by some excellent schools.

      • Rick Wolff

        Ron – many thanks for this excellent summary! Parents of baseball players should definitely take 5 mins to read about your experiences with the process. I can also attest to Top 96 and Perfect Game as being excellent showcases – lots of legit college coaches and pro scouts always show up. Coach Wolff

    • Rick Wolff

      Every sport in the NCAA has its own rules and regulations regarding student-athletes being recruited. But as a rule of thumb, know this: getting a form letter in the mail about a particular college’s athletic program is nothing more than a form letter. It doesn’t mean much. But once your son or daughter starts to receive direct communications from a coach or asst coach (I’m talking about phone calls, personal letters, email, etc), then you’re heading into recruit territory. At that point, you can ask the coach, “Is my kid an official recruit by your school?”
      If they say yes, then make sure you check the NCAA rulebook on recruiting in that sport (go to NCAA.org). Coach Wolff

  • There is a great deal that goes into the recruiting process and many athletes and also parents don’t get started until its too late. It is a learning experience and the more information you know the better equipped you will be when it is time to market yourself.

  • Mr. Wolff,

    Thank you so much for this post. Our CFO Thomas Duhamel heard your interview with Wayne Mazzoni this past Sunday morning on WFAN. Moments afterward Tom emailed our entire company to let us know about the great information the two of you shared.

    We’ve just launched a social network that is designed to connect the 7.6million high school athletes with college coaches. We stress that less than 2% of those athletes receive full scholarships. Education is key. We hope that we can provide a platform where these young athletes can been seen by the right college coaches, and that they can grow into productive young people – not just scholarship athletes. We’re grounded in our core pillars of character, integrity and philanthropy and offer our athletes the opportunity to give back to their communities and have those activities featured on their profiles. This way, when they peruse our database of 25,000 coaches, they have more to offer than just athletic statistics.

    Please keep up the great programming, and please let us know if there is ever a time when you may have interest in speaking with the CEO Anthony Zarro on the air.

    Warm Regards,
    Chris Dessi

    Co-Founder & CMO
    The Athletes Network, LLC
    Cell: 646-645-4171
    Fax: 501-636-5645
    Our Site: http://www.theathletesnetwork.org

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