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Campus visits are exciting! Last week, we talked about the different kinds of campus visits and why they are important. That article is a great resource and can be read here. In this article, we turn our attention to visits arranged with college coaches, and what you can do to put your best foot forward. Whether or not the coaching staff has seen you play, campus visits are the perfect opportunity to make a lasting impression. You have put in a lot of work, the school is interested, and you could be a few steps away from finding your college fit. Formal campus visits with coaches often serve as either an initial check or final litmus test to ensure a player’s personality and character mesh with the current coaching staff expectations. In other words, it’s a critical hurdle in finding a college fit and coming to an agreement. Think of it as a two-way job interview. You are not the only one who is auditioning for the part. In person visits with coaches on their own turf are great ways to get a feel for whether the coaches and program have what you are looking for. If you show up prepared, you can simultaneously find out if a program is right for you and make a good impression. Here’s the blueprint for how you do it!
Do Your Homework:
Know the School and Program Basics: You need to do your homework on the school and program before you show up. Every school’s website will have tons of information about the college and most baseball websites will give you enough information about the coaches and program to give you a few good questions and allow you to be conversational. For example, “I saw you guys beat [rival’s name] the last three years” or “I noticed you did well in conference last year” is likely to be well received. In the same way that you want to be wanted by the coaches, college coaches are happy when recruits show the coaches that their program is wanted as well. When you take the initiative to be informed, it shows you are serious about the program and possibility of playing there. That will only help you.
Have Questions Ready: In addition to being generally informed about the school and program, you want to make sure you leave campus with all your personal questions answered. We have some great resources to help you think of questions you might want to ask in Questions to Ask Interested Coaches and Asking Questions That Matter for Players and for parents. Don’t be scared to ask difficult or challenging questions, you need to make sure you are completely informed.
Wear a nice, clean set of clothes. You don’t have to dress up fancy, but putting in the effort to clean up a bit and show that the meeting is important to you will be noticed. You don’t want to seem like you just rolled out of bed or don’t care enough to put in the effort to present yourself well.
Some coaches care less than others about some of these suggestions, but it’s always better to play it safe and adjust once you have a better feel for the coach and program. Follow these simple behavior rules:
Hats Off: Take your hat off inside. This can be a big deal in certain parts of the country and a deal-breaker for some coaches. Taking your hat off inside and when you are introducing yourself to a coach is a sign of respect and will not go unnoticed. It allows the coach to look you in the eyes and makes the greeting more personal.
Yes, Sir. Yes, Coach: The way you address a coach is also a big deal and sign of respect. Always address the coach as Coach [Last Name] or ‘Sir’. Coaches will let you know if they prefer to be called something else, but showing them the utmost respect is always the best approach. Many coaches don’t take kindly to being called ‘bro’ or ‘man,’ especially before a relationship is established.
Phones Away: Turn your phone off or put it away. In our survey of college coaches, constantly checking phones during visits was a huge pet peeve of many coaches. Give the coaches your undivided attention for the entire visit. If you want to take a picture, ask the coach if it’s okay, that way the coaches know why you are going to your phone.
Honesty is the Best Policy: Coaches are sure to ask you many questions, some more difficult than others. Answer honestly. Lying may fool coaches in the short term, but it will backfire when it matters most. The baseball community is a small world and tight network and the truth will come out eventually.
Be Yourself: While it’s important to act respectfully and you don’t want preventable behavior to keep you from your dream school, it’s equally important to be yourself. If you put on a front or answer questions dishonestly, it will be impossible for coaches to figure out if the real you is a good fit for their program. That is sure to cause problems once you get to campus. If coaches aren’t interested in you for who you really are, the school is probably not the best fit anyway.
Speak for Yourself and Engage: The old adage “Children are to be seen and not to be heard” gets turned on its head during college visits. Coaches want to hear from you, not your parents. You need to be the one engaging with coaches and answering questions. Your parents can answer questions asked directly to them and be conversational, but they take a back seat. This visit is about you!
The best thing you can do to have a successful campus visit is to be present in the moment. Check everything else that is happening at the campus gates. Realize that coaches want the same thing as you do, to help you find a fit. You will figure out whether that is with their program or another if you engage, engage, engage. Most importantly, enjoy being around people who love baseball and college as much as you do!
Want more resources about visiting schools? We have an entire section of the Recruiting 101 website dedicated to helping with visits. Check it out here.