One of your goals for the recruiting journey should be to make a fully informed decision on where you end up. In order to do that, there’s lots of information you’ll need to get from each program you are considering. A lot of information can be found online or will be given up by coaches voluntarily, but getting some important and necessary information from coaches can be more challenging. This means that sometimes you’ll have to ask some difficult questions. Asking questions that might force a coach into uncomfortable answers can be difficult, but the bottom line is you need to know the truth about the program to make the best decision for you. Even when it is difficult, coaches need to be honest and forthcoming with you, just like you should be with them.
With this in mind, here are 7 questions that are difficult but good to ask of college coaches when choosing a program. Word each question thoughtfully, but don’t shy away from getting the information you need.
Question 1: Where do I stand among your current recruits and what do you need to see from me to move up on your list?
When to ask it: This is not a question you need to push unless: 1) you feel a program is really dragging their feet; 2) a program that was previously actively recruiting and communicating with you has gone quiet; 3) you need to know because it will impact discussions with other programs; or 4) you are ready to speed your timeline up and make a decision.
Why it’s important: It’s always nice to know where you sit with a program, although sometimes there is not much for a program to tell you as they evaluate you and weigh their options. If you want to know exactly where you sit with a program, it’s okay to ask. However, it’s not something you want to ask right when a program starts recruiting you. Give the recruiting process time to take shape and ask this at a time when it fits naturally in the conversation or you absolutely need to know.
Question 2: How do you see me fitting into your program’s future plans? How do you plan to help develop me into a better player?
When to ask it: When a school has made you an offer or expressed strong interest in having you play for them and you are trying to determine if they are a fit.
Why it’s important: These can be an important questions when determining fit and how serious a program is. If a coach fumbles his way through this question, it’s telling. You want your college coaches to have a clear vision for how you will help and fit in with the team. Conversely, they should have a clear vision of how they will help you develop as a player and reach your potential. If a coach can give personalized examples specific to your skill set, that’s a great sign that they’ve put a lot of thought into recruiting you. If they speak in generalities or do the same thing with all their players, you’ll want to know that as well.
Question 3: What changes or adjustments would you like to see me make to my game to have success at your level?
When to ask it: At any point during recruiting discussions.
Why it’s important: This is a great question for two reasons. First, it gives you a look into coaching style and preferences. Are they planning to overhaul what you do or are the changes individualized? Answers can be telling. The other great part is that you can evaluate their suggestions and use them to work on weaknesses in your game, improve as a player, and become a more desirable recruit.
Question(s) 4: How would you describe your hitting/pitching philosophy? How do you train that on a daily basis?
When to ask it: At any point during recruiting discussions.
Why it’s important: We’ve covered this question in-depth before here. You want to know how you’ll be asked to play and train before showing up on campus. Far too often, recruits fail to ask about the baseball system that they will be a part of until they are in it and it’s too late to change. For example, if you want to play in a program that values extra-base hits you’ll want to make sure the coach doesn’t base his offense around the sacrifice bunt and hitting the ball on the ground.
Question 5: How would you describe the relationship you have with the current players on the team?
When to ask it: At any point during more serious recruiting discussions
Why it’s important: This is an important question for understanding the way a coach views his relationship with his players. Is it fatherly? Family oriented? Teacher to student? More authoritarian? You will spend more time with this coach over 2-4 years than you will spend with your parents. It can be very helpful to understand what that relationship might be like ahead of time.
Question 6: What do I have to do academically (grades and test scores) to make sure that I get admitted to school?
When to ask it: After an offer has been made and you are ready to make a commitment.
Why it’s important: It’s important to spell out exactly what you will have to do academically to be admitted so there is absolutely not confusion. Knowing exactly what you have to do (keep your overall GPA above a 3.5 and get a 1200 on the SAT, for example), holds you accountable and assures that if you meet expectations, you have nothing to worry about. Too often, players don’t understand academic expectations and this can result in an unexpected and unfortunate rejection or decommitment late in the process, especially at high end academic schools.
Question 7: I’ve heard that decommitments happen and I want to make sure that we are on the same page about what this commitment means. I will obviously stop pursuing other schools, but what does this commitment assure me of from your end and under what circumstances would you pull the offer or commitment?
When to ask it: When you are ready to commit.
Why it’s important: It’s important to word this question carefully so it does not come across in a threatening or accusatory manner. No one wants to think about a decommitment or put a negative vibe on a happy moment, but there needs to be complete understanding about what your commitment means. Coaches may spell that out or you may have to ask. Since a commitment is only guaranteed when you sign an NLI or written financial agreement during a signing period, asking this question is very important for verbal commitments. Decommitments do happen and you’ll want expectations to be crystal clear and know how things can go wrong. If the commitment is dependent upon your continued on-field performance, you need to know that. If the commitment will fall through if you get injured, you need to know that. If the commitment means that unless your grades slip or you get into off-field trouble they will uphold their end of the deal, you need to know that as well. When the parameters of a verbal commitment aren’t clearly defined, it leaves it in the coach’s hands.
If a coach is upset by you asking thoughtful questions about his program or you don’t feel like you can have an honest and open discussion with them, that’s good to know before arriving as a player on campus. Your college decision will impact the rest of your life. You need to be comfortable getting all the information you need. Don’t shy away from asking difficult questions when they allow you to make a fully informed decision. Good luck!