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If you are reading this article, you probably already know we spend a lot of time talking about what you should be doing to stay on track for college baseball. Our website is devoted to providing you with all the information and guidance you need to make it to the next level, free of charge. Recently, a parent suggested that it would be helpful if we discussed some of the things parents and recruits should avoid in the recruiting process. The ability to recognize potential pitfalls has become increasingly important as the monetization of youth baseball leads to more people trying to profit from vulnerable players and parents who are hoping to give themselves the best chance at the next level. If you haven’t read out article about who you can trust in the recruiting process, we suggest starting there. In the remainder of this article, we will look at 5 red flags that can come up in the recruiting process. For the purpose of this article, we consider a red flag to be an event or interaction that should set off alarm bells so that you take some extra time to make sure that things are the way they appear to be. Not all red flags will turn into real issues, but they do merit closer attention before proceeding.
- Hidden Costs:
When unexpected hidden costs or fees start popping up, the best case scenario is that they are indicative of poor planning. Worst case, it is a tell-tale sign that someone is trying to take advantage of you financially. Let’s use club baseball fees as an example. At the beginning of the season, the coach should have all the information he needs to give you an accurate picture of the costs to play for the team and any additional costs that may come up. Doing this accurately takes basic planning and consideration. You should also know if the season fees include travel and accommodations for tournaments, or whether you will have to pay for those later. If you are given a price at the beginning of the season and continue to have “surprise” fees or costs that pop-up, it’s time to ask some questions and find out more about them.
- Bait-and-Switch Models:
A bait-and-switch scheme is similar to hidden costs above, except it is intentionally set up to string you along and bait you into paying more money. A typical bait-and-switch model promises you a certain good or service, provides you with an inferior or watered down version of that good or service, and suggests you pay more for a better version. For example, Company XYZ promises a free recruiting profile that can be seen by hundreds of college coaches and encourages you to sign up. You sign up for the free account and spend time creating your profile carefully. Once you have done all that it asks, you get a message telling you if you want to have your entire profile and contact information available to the hundreds of college coaches, you will have to pay a fee. They promise you something, provide only part of what they promised, and then try to get you to pay more for what you expected to get in the first place. The lack of transparency in these set-ups is a major cause for concern. Beware!
In the recruiting process, there are very few guarantees. The only person who can promise you a place on a college roster is the college coach, and even then, it’s only binding once you sign an NLI or written financial agreement. That’s right, even a verbal commitment to a college program can’t be guaranteed! Even seemingly innocent promises or guarantees from college coaches (about jersey numbers or playing time as a freshman) should be received with caution. Everything at the college level must be earned once you get to campus, regardless of what anyone says. If one of your current coaches or a college coach is throwing around any sort of guarantee, make sure you proceed with caution and do your homework!
- When Coaches and Players at the Same Program Contradict Each Other:
Few things look worse than when a coach at a school tells you one thing about his program and his players tell you something completely different. Current players are one of your best sources of information in the recruiting process, as we explain here. Sure, there are going to be differences of opinion and it’s possible that coaches and players can see things differently, but if you ask a variety of players the same question, the truth will come out. Be very cautious if the reality reported by the players strays too far from what recruiters are telling you about a program!
- Rushed Offer Deadlines:
As we discuss at length in a separate article about understanding offer deadlines, even though deadlines are a regular and necessary part of scholarship and roster spot discussions, there are times when getting deadlined should be a cause for concern. Two major deadline red flags are:
- When a program gives you a short deadline when you are an underclassmen and have no reason to rush to a decision.
- When a program asks you to give them an answer before providing you with all the information you need to make an informed decision (chance to visit campus, financial or academic information, etc.).
- Anytime the deadline makes you uncomfortable and the program is unwilling to discuss it with you.
As more people enter youth baseball with profits rather than players in mind, you will have to pay close attention to any warning signs. The 5 red flags listed above don’t always mean trouble, but if any of them come up, you should pause to ask questions, get clarification, and make sure you understand the situation completely before moving forward.
Related Articles: Who Can You Trust in the Recruiting Process