“You can’t lose by an experience[…] I go into an experience and I say, ‘I can’t fail because either one of two things is going to happen. I’m either going to have success or I’m going to have an experience that’s going to teach me something[…]’ I’m so I’m going to learn. You learn more from the mistakes and the pains. I have a saying, ‘pain + reflection= progress’[…] Failure is part of the process to achieve success and when you reprogram yourself to think that way, all of a sudden you are on that path.” -Ray Dalio, Founder of Bridgewater Associates and author of Principles, on #AskGaryVee Podcast
We all face rejection and failure at some point in time and you are likely to be told “no thanks” a time or two throughout the college baseball recruiting process as well. Rejection stinks and we know you don’t need another motivational speech to get you through it. The most successful people in the world have all failed or been rejected, and it has served as a major catalyst for their future success. The above quote from Ray Dalio, the founder of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, is the perfect example of turning these rejections into useful positives. In the recruiting process, you will do the same. As a baseball player, you are well-versed in overcoming failure and adversity. So when a college program tells you that they don’t want you or don’t think you are good enough, here’s what to do about it instead of getting down and feeling helpless.
- Don’t burn any bridges. There are three main points here. First, the baseball world is small and it’s a tight-knit community. If you blow-up or handle the rejection poorly, word can travel fast. Stay in the good graces of everyone, and treat everyone with respect, even in the face of rejection. It will only serve to help you. Second, the recruiting process is always changing. A team may be out on you one month and then you make a big development jump and they are interested again the next. They may be out of scholarship or not need a player at your position and then someone has an injury, quits, or transfers. The point is, if things change for the better and you’ve handled yourself maturely and appropriately, you are much more likely to get a second look. Lastly, the recruiting process is great practice for real life. You will have to deal with difficult off-field disappointments of all kinds. Let this baseball lesson be practice for those other situations. Handling things the right way because it is the right way is an exercise in character-building that will benefit you for years to come. Even when it is difficult, do the right thing. People will notice.
- Use it as motivation. We already know that the best form of motivation is intrinsic and comes from within. You are motivated to play at the highest level in college because that’s what you want and are committed to doing. That doesn’t mean that a little extrinsic or external motivation will hurt. Let the rejection light a fire under you to improve your plan, work a little harder, and focus a little bit more. Prove that coach wrong.
- Rejection often leaves clues. Use them to improve. As Dalio says, “Pain plus reflection equals progress.” Take the information you can use from the rejection (pain) and use it (reflection) to improve moving forward (progress). This will take some maturity, but seeking objective feedback on your abilities is one of the best things you can do throughout the recruiting process. Why didn’t the school want you? Maybe it was circumstantial and they simply aren’t looking for a player at your position. Maybe it was something specific. Whatever the reason, knowing it gives you direction. If you are interested in Big Time U, but the coach there tells you that they don’t view you as a defensive centerfielder at the next level, that is a big clue. Is it your speed? Is it your jumps? You can improve on both those things. Reflect on where they think you are short of the standard (or better yet, ask them to tell you) and get to work improving in that area. Most coaches will be honest and up-front about where you fall short for them, and it’s okay to ask. That’s how you get better. Something like, “Where did I fall short for your program? I’d like to use that to improve my chances with the next program,” will do the trick.
- Each rejection is moving you closer to finding a fit. The college baseball recruiting process is a search, but it’s also a process of elimination. You will only end up in one place and we often advise to seek out the “no” as much if not more than the “yes”. Every time you can eliminate a program that is not interested, the less time you will waste pursuing that program, and the more time you will be able to devote on schools that are interested. Your time is a valuable commodity, so instead of being angry that the coach wasn’t interested, be thankful that they were honest and saved your time.
- Ask yourself if you have time to change their mind? Getting rejected as a freshman in high school is much different than getting rejected senior year. There are never any guarantees and you shouldn’t get your hopes up, but if you got rejected because you sought exposure and evaluation too early, you may still have time to change the coach’s mind. If between that rejection and the present you’ve developed into a much better player, there is nothing wrong with reaching out to a coach again to say, “I know I wasn’t good enough as a sophomore, but I have improved a lot since then and would like to see what you think.” Better yet, have someone who’s trusted in the college baseball community (a coach or scout) reach out on your behalf.
When you are dealt a rejection in the recruiting process, it’s okay to be disappointed. After you get over the initial sting, use that disappointment to get better. Your future college program will be happy you did!