In the recruiting process, the adage “knowledge is power” takes on an especially important meaning. An uninformed or hasty recruiting process greatly increases the risk of ending up with a poor college fit. Think about it this way. Would you make a $100K investment without knowing every little detail? Probably not. So why would you do the same with your future? Four years of college at most schools costs well over $100K. One of the biggest and most common mistakes made in the recruiting process is taking information for granted or not finding out everything you should before picking a school. To prevent you from making this mistake, we’ve come up with 9 questions you should be able to answer about a program before deciding to commit. Here they are and why they are important:
1 How much will I pay out of pocket per year?
Why ask: Not all scholarships are created equal. An 80% offer at one school may force you to pay more than a 60% offer at another. To compare offers and opportunities, find out how much you will be paying out of pocket to attend after athletic and academic scholarships and financial aid. You can find much more on how to compare multiple offers here. We also have an article to help you do a basic budget analysis and better understand student loan debt here.
2. What are the coaches’ plans for my athletic development?
Why ask: Central to your decision should be how a program will help you grow on and off the field. You need to make sure you understand how the program develops players and what their specific plans are for you. Will you be doing things you believe in? Will you be allowed to do things that have worked well for you in the past? You’ll want to hash this all out in advance. Here are some questions you may want to consider regarding your development and coaching philosophies.
3. How is strength and conditioning incorporated into the baseball program?
Why ask: This may seem like a silly question to have at number 3, but if you care about your continued development as a player, the strength and conditioning program in college will be a huge component of that. Does a strength coach run the workouts, or do the baseball coaches? Are the team trainers and doctors actively involved with the health and strength protocols, or do they just step in when someone is hurt? The programs that separate themselves often do it in the weight room. Especially if you have professional aspirations, a program with a quality strength and conditioning plan is instrumental.
4. What are the main teaching or coaching philosophies?
Why ask: Do they play small ball? Do they cookie-cutter all their hitters or pitchers? Will the program have a tight-knit family feeling or a more business style approach? How does this fit with what you are looking for? The last thing you want to do is end up at a program where you can’t buy in to the philosophies and teaching that take place. This will never work. Similar to #2, understanding what is taught and how it is taught, in addition to insight into the team culture is incredibly important.
5. Does baseball restrict the area of study or majors for baseball players?
Why ask: Unless you are one of the very few who make an entire career out of baseball, you’ll want to make sure your college experience prepares you well for life when your playing days are over. You can see why it would be important for someone who wants to be a doctor to be allowed to take science courses. Unfortunately, some class schedules at some schools don’t mix well with baseball, and players aren’t able to choose that major. These are things you will want to know before you are on campus. Preparing for life outside of the lines is why colleges exist in the first place!
6. What type of academic support will you receive?
Why ask: College baseball often presents a rigorous schedule, and your time will be limited. You’ll want all the academic support you can get. In college, the successful students get help before they get behind. You will want to be informed on what type of academic assistance you will have, especially if you need special accommodations for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
7. What is the program’s track record with transfers/graduation rates?
Why ask: Not everyone’s college baseball plans pan out as they hope, but a great indicator of a desirable program is one where players stay. If players are staying, that means two things. 1) The coaches aren’t pushing them out and 2) It’s a place people are happy. Graduation rates are also an indicator of how much stress is placed on academics. You will want to ask more generally if most players end up graduating, because the 4-year graduation rates used in the APR can be misleading.
8. Do you feel comfortable with the head coach?
Why ask: There is no guarantee that any coach will be coaching at the school when you show up, much less your entire time in the program. At many schools, coaches, especially assistants, tend to come and go. If you have only been talking with and getting to know the assistant coaches, what will you do if they leave? Will that change your mind on going to that school? This is a good test to see whether the whole school and program package are a good fit.
9. Can you describe in detail the reason why the school and baseball program are a good fit for you and what you want in a college experience?
Why ask: Superficial things like a nice locker room or playing surface are great, but a college decision based around these things are a recipe for disaster. You should be able to describe in detail why the school and program fit the things that are most important for you in a college experience. If you can’t answer this, keep doing research and asking questions.
Asking questions is a hugely important part of the recruiting process. If you don’t know your future program inside and out, you are leaving the door open for problems when you get to campus. There are no sure bets, but by doing your research and getting to know the coaches on an intimate level you will certainly increase your chances of finding a college baseball fit!