In two recent blog posts for parents, we shared some of the realities about baseball scholarships and ways to tell if the time is right for players to show college coaches they are ready to be recruited. This week, we want to encourage you to take the time you need to make the best decision about where you’ll play college ball. Even as making a college roster becomes more competitive and the transfer portal fills up with quality players, your college decision should not be rushed or made without all the information you need to make a quality, informed decision. We’re not advocating you sit on a bunch of great offers until programs lose interest or move on, but as we’ve discussed before, it pays to be patient as you pursue a great fit.
Once schools start reciprocating interest, things can happen fast. Each year, the recruiting process for schools gets earlier. Many of the top soon-to-be sophomores and juniors are already committing and many top baseball programs already have a small army of these rising sophomore- and junior-commits. All this is happening despite NCAA reports and evidence that suggest recruits who commit in their underclassmen years are less likely to attend the school where they first commit, more likely to have the coach who recruited them leave before they get to campus, and less likely to have positive feelings about their recruiting process than those who commit as upperclassmen. The hoopla and excitement surrounding early commitments may help to create an environment that can trick other players into committing to schools before they are ready. We understand that no one wants to feel left behind, but believe us, you don’t want to rush to commit and end up regretting it!
If you forget every other thing from this article, remember this one thing: choosing a college is a major life-decision. Do not commit until you are 100% ready! Here are some reasons why you don’t want to be rushed into making the wrong decision.
1. Teams at every level are still looking for players as late as the summer after graduation.
There are a lot of reasons why teams of every level are looking for players late—losing guys to the draft, players transferring, injuries, freed-up scholarship money, and the list goes on. Rest assured, even late into the summer after graduation, teams of all divisions and talent levels are looking to add players who can contribute for the following year. You don’t want to bank on a last minute opportunity, but if it’s getting late in your senior year, it’s still not time to panic.
2. Commitments are non-binding until you sign an NLI.
We discuss the truth about verbal commitments at length in this article on the topic, but here are the basics… Verbal commitments are only as good as the word of the coaches who make them. They can be misleading for recruits and families who assume that everything is set in stone once they “commit”. In reality, a lot can change and every coach has a different way for handling commitments. Verbal commitments can fall through for a variety of reasons and it happens more than you might expect. This point is not meant to create unnecessary fear or paranoia, because many commitments go smoothly. You do, however, want to be sure to ask for clarification on exactly what the commitment means for that specific coach and find out what can lead to a decommitment or the coach pulling your offer. The last thing you want is to feel like you are set and then have an offer or a commitment pulled out from under you. All college coaches continue to monitor the progress and development of their recruits, but some will pull their offers or renege on the commitment if they don’t like your progress, you get injured, their scholarship budget isn’t what they expected, they move to another school, or many other reasons. Be sure you know whether these scenarios are a possibility and what expectations the coach has for you. Also be sure to ask what will happen if you get injured before getting to campus and what you need to do academically to remain in good standing with admissions.
3. Priorities change.
What you thought was great as a freshman or sophomore might not be your top priority as a junior or a senior. All that gear and swag that looked so cool when you were young may not be as important as having a chance to play right away or some other preference as you get older. As you get closer to graduation, you might find there are many other changing priorities. A benefit of waiting to make a commitment is that you give yourself more time to figure out what your ideal college fit looks like.
4. Coaches change/leave schools often.
If you commit in your underclassmen (freshman and sophomore) years, there is almost a 1 in 4 chance that the head coach who recruited you will be gone and an even greater possibility that at least some of the coaching staff that recruited you will no longer be there. In the worst case scenario, if an entire coaching staff goes before you have signed your NLI, your commitment might be gone too. In other situations, the assistant who you really liked and did the most in recruiting you could now be somewhere else. While the coaching staff can and should be extremely important to your decision, make sure the school you commit to is a place you can be happy even if some or all of the coaches are no longer there. Get a feel for the commitment the coaching staff has to the university by asking about their long term plans for the program and where they see the program being by the time you will be a senior there.
Choosing the college you’ll attend for 4 years is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. It’s important that you take the time you need to make sure your decision is the right one, for you and for your family.