The college baseball recruiting process forces you to make one decision after next, each building in importance as you get closer to making a college choice. Your college choice, the ultimate recruiting decision, will shape your life for years to come. Your recruitment is also a very emotional process that is likely to have heavy doses of both excitement and disappointment. At times, it can feel like an emotional roller coaster. Like any good salesman, coaches will often try to play off of your emotions to sell you on their schools. In fact, Dan Tudor, a recruiting strategist and consultant who helps college coaches improve their recruiting strategy, argues that most recruits are making their college choices based on emotion. In his article, They Decide With Their Heart, Justify With Their Head, he describes how coaches can look to capitalize on emotional decisions. The use of emotional decision-making may help explain some of the turnover and high transfer rates (over 20%) that we see in college baseball—turnover that you want to avoid.
As a recruit, you need to find a healthy balance between logical, fact based decision-making and emotional or reactionary decision-making. When the emotions wear off and you are left with the facts, you want to make sure you are happy with where you are. Below, we explain why your ability to find a lasting college fit depends on having a plan and striking a balance between your emotional reaction to a program and the facts of the actual situation you will walk into as a first year player.
Why choosing your college on emotion-based decision-making is risky:
Have you ever had someone tell you that you should stay off of social media when you are in an emotional state? This is because emotions can easily cloud your judgment and cause you to make reactionary decisions that you later regret. The recruiting process is the same way. If you make decisions in the moment, purely on emotion, it’s easy to get tricked or manipulated. That’s why it is instrumental that you have an objective plan that judges schools based on well-thought out criteria about what is most important to you in a college experience. You will want to think about how a school reflects your important criteria before making a final decision. Do you want to play right away? Is winning the top priority? What do you want to study? What size school do you want to attend? Does the weather matter? How does the school help you reach your professional/career goals? Use this worksheet to help you figure out what your college baseball fit looks like and prioritize what is most important. By knowing what you are looking for ahead of time, you can take an objective look at how each school meets these priorities. Doing so will also make sure your decision is backed by facts and information that will last over time. When your emotional state and feelings change, you are left with reality, and you want that reality to reflect what is most important to your happiness and growth.
What is the right balance of emotional connection and criteria-driven decision-making?
You will have to find the right balance between emotional connection and informed and rational decision-making for yourself, but this balance starts with a clear recruiting plan. Think about what you truly want out of a college and baseball experience. We suggest you plan out what is most important to you early in the recruiting process and try to find schools that can provide you with that. Emotional connection to a school is important, especially insofar as it fits into this larger recruiting plan and is backed with the criteria that you establish as being most important. Having a clear plan of what you want will provide you with more than direction for where to look, it will also safeguard you against reactionary emotional decision-making. Focus on programs that are a fit for both your plan and interests and give you that emotional connection.
Why you shouldn’t rush to your decision:
Emotional decisions are often rushed or spur of the moment decisions, and that’s the last thing you want to do when making a decision that will impact the rest of your life. In addition to having a plan, you need time to reflect, let your emotions stabilize, and fact check what you have learned about a program. You should also be asking a lot of questions and making sure you have all the information you need to make an educated and informed decision. You know you are ready to make a final decision when you can answer these 9 questions and the following statements are true:
It matches the criteria for what you are looking for in a school and baseball program
You have an emotional connection to the decision that you are comfortable with
You can confirm what the coaches have told you with your own research
With this information in mind, it’s time for you to find your fit. We’ll leave you with an example of the risk in emotional decisions:
Most Important Criteria for Alex:
Within driving distance to home
Small class sizes
Prioritize chance to play right away and develop over program success
Close knit team
Alex is on a visit to a big university that’s had a ton of team success in his home state. The coach is leading Alex through the locker room, showing him trophy after trophy. Alex is getting really excited thinking about how much he would like to be on a championship team. When the coach asks him, ‘Do you think you would like to hoist one of these trophies some day?’ all Alex can do is think about having that opportunity. This university has all the bells and whistles that Alex’s high school doesn’t. He’s very impressed. When the coach sits him and his parents down in the office, Alex is caught off guard by the coach wanting him to commit on the spot. He’s excited and before he and his parents have time to sit and think about all the factors and compare it to other schools, he has said yes and verbally committed.
It may not happen like this exactly, but scenes like this play out when players don’t have a good game plan. What the coach did not tell Alex and what Alex didn’t take time to learn is that the coaches rely heavily on junior college transfers and they red-shirt most of their freshmen. He’s not likely to play until his sophomore year at best. In fact, the school doesn’t match up with many of Alex’s important criteria. Had Alex taken time to do more research on the school and think about things objectively, he may have decided to keep looking for a better fit or attend a school that more closely fit with what he wants in a college baseball experience. He’s put himself at risk for not liking the situation once his emotional excitement has worn off and he realizes what he is up against. You can learn from Alex’s mistakes. Don’t leave your decision to chance; make informed decisions on your college future.