It’s been a few years since KPB made a road trip to observe practice and spend time at 5 different D1 programs. The stops included SEC, BIG 12, PAC 12, Conference USA, and WCC schools. While each program had different qualities and circumstances (location, resources, size, conference, and other factors), there are shared attributes that stand out at all of them. These characteristics help to explain the winning traditions of each program and provide great learning points for current and future college baseball players who are interested in playing at the Division I level. Here are 7 important lessons from the D1 programs, and important tips for prospective college baseball players.
Observation #1: We heard zero complaining.
Lesson: College baseball is something you choose to do. You are there by choice because it is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. It is also difficult and you will surely be pushed to your limits and beyond. If you have been reading our blog, you know this already. Start now. Embrace both the joy and adversity that comes with being a baseball player. Do yourself, your current teammates and coaches a favor by committing to a positive outlook and positive talk. Embrace the challenge and eliminate all complaining. Everyone around you will benefit!
Observation #2: Even during the ‘off-season’, college baseball takes a lot of time.
Lesson: Time management and planning ahead are key to success as a student-athlete. Start learning these skills in high school! Between strength and conditioning, practice, team volunteer projects, study hall, and whatever else is going on outside of class, you can expect a jam-packed schedule for the entire school year.
Observation #3: The focus is on the process.
Lesson: In a new college environment, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself. Many young players want immediate results. All five programs were very process-oriented, meaning they are focusing on doing things in a way that will produce the best outcomes the majority of the time. Having played baseball, you know that baseball is full of failure. By focusing on doing things that will give you the best chance for success, you no longer have to worry about the outcome because success is doing things the right way. For example, coaches praised the technique used by a fielder at one school, despite the fact that he didn’t make the catch. They did this because the technique will produce positive results more often than any other technique. Find a way to love and live by the process!
Observation #4: Details make the difference.
Lesson: Another lesson from the D1 programs is that everyone is looking for an edge! Every team is bound by the same NCAA rules and practice hours. These programs are not spending this time trying to reinvent the wheel. The edge is won and lost in the attention to details, and that’s what these teams are focused on. The MLB playoffs are a great example of how games between two evenly matched teams are decided by the slimmest of margins. No detail is too small, because it can be the difference maker. If you are annoyed when a coach harps on seemingly insignificant details, you may want to change your outlook. Attention to detail wins at every level!
Observation #5: Strength and conditioning are no joke.
Lesson: College baseball players are busting their tails in the weight room and with conditioning. At multiple schools we visited, this meant 30 minutes of sprint work followed by weight lifting. Conditioning and/or weights are either before or after a long day of classes and practice. No matter how a school is doing it, strength and physicality matters! Make sure you set the foundation for this type of workload before you show up to campus. Showing up ready to go makes a big difference. You can tell which freshmen have physically prepared for the extra work in college. Talk to your coach about a strength and conditioning program that can help you get ready for college baseball!
Observation #6: Nutrition and hydration are a priority everywhere.
Lesson: Being a good college baseball player is an all-encompassing endeavor. At the highest level, DI players are monitoring their bodies and what they put into them. When you are practicing and lifting weights with the intensity needed to compete at the college level, nutrition and hydration are a big difference maker. They impact everyday performance, muscle growth, and recovery. Figure out what your body needs to perform on all cylinders and always hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Observation #7: Prepared and hungry players stood out.
Lesson: This last lesson from D1 programs was one of the most important. The best players brought energy and made it clear they were exactly where they wanted to be. It was obvious that they were prepared and hungry for success. I struck up a conversation with a sophomore who caught my attention by really getting after it and bringing positive energy. I later found out he was the reigning conference batting champion! The prepared and hungry players stand out at every level. Regardless of your talent, start by showing up everyday and making it clear that the ball field is where you want to be. This is a great first step to having fun and improving!