A common misstep in the recruiting process happens when players pursue schools where their baseball skillset doesn’t fit. These players either only target schools where the standard of play is too high for their skills, or they ignore interest from schools where their skillset does match up well, thinking they can “do better.” It goes without saying that you should treat all interest as serious interest and make sure you do your research on every program individually. With over 1,600 college baseball programs, there are many schools you will not know about. With so many programs out there, how can you make sure you are targeting the appropriate schools for your skill level? It turns out that this question doesn’t have one simple answer and that’s why so many recruits get it wrong! Luckily, we have done the research for you and we’ve come up with five things you can do to help make sure you are targeting the appropriate level of college baseball for your skill set. Check them out here:
- Constantly seek honest and objective feedback on your playing abilities. We have an entire article devoted to how you can get honest, objective feedback and why it’s important. The short version is this— in order to create a plan to reach the standard of play for the level of college baseball you want to pursue, you have to know where you stand and where you need to improve. An inflated perspective of your abilities may make you feel better about yourself, but it’s a recruiting trap that can set you up for failure. Seek the truth and embrace it as motivation to keep improving in areas where you may fall short.
- Exercise patience in the recruiting process. Most players need to be patient in the recruiting process to allow themselves time to mature, add strength, and improve on-field skills. In short, you want to wait until you can put your best foot forward before reaching out to coaches and seeking exposure. Waiting until you have what the coaches are looking for is key to recruiting success. For most, this means waiting until junior or often senior year to start reaching out to coaches and maximizing exposure opportunities. If you start receiving interest from college coaches, that is also a good indication that you are ready to seek exposure from schools with similar levels of play. We have an entire article devoted to understanding when to contact college coaches, how to better understand the recruiting timeline that is right for you, and when to seek exposure in the recruiting process. You will notice some overlap in those resources, but they are all very helpful in making sure you don’t get crossed off a coach’s list before your skills are ready to be evaluated.
- Educate yourself on the various levels of college baseball. To do this properly, you are going to have to do a good job of researching more than just D1, D2, D3, NAIA and JUCO baseball. Each of these divisions or organizations have a mix of different levels of play. For example, teams in the Division I Power-5 Conferences have a much different standard of play than mid-majors or under-funded Division I programs. Similarly, there are programs in every level of college baseball (JUCO and D3 included) that could compete with some or all of D1 programs on a regular basis. Because each division is such a diverse blend of talent, it makes doing your homework on schools and conferences of interest even more important. It may be that you can and should target D1 schools, but maybe not the D1 schools you are used to seeing on ESPN or College Game Day. We talk at length about the importance of researching schools and coaches here, but the same research should be done on conferences as well. The bottom line is you never want to assume anything and you should always make informed decisions in the recruiting process.
- Do well in school. We harp on this often, and you may be wondering how this has anything to do with targeting schools that fit your ability. Getting admitted into school on your own is one way you can give yourself a better chance to end up at a school that may be a bit of a reach for your skill set. It also gives you something to use as leverage when trying to contact coaches late in the game. Contacting a school that you haven’t been able to impress and letting them know you are already admitted and would like to explore options for trying out is a great way to improve your chances of being able to walk-on or at least speak with the coach about how realistic those opportunities are.
- Start wide and finish narrow. At the beginning of the recruiting process when you start building your list of schools of interest, cast a wide net and explore ALL available options. As you move through the recruiting process and get a better understanding for what you want out of a college baseball experience and understand which types of schools will be a fit for your skills and abilities, narrow your list. Many make the mistake of taking too narrow a view early and trying to expand it late. It’s okay to have dream schools and big goals, keep those programs at the top of your list. But early, cast a wide net and consider a broad range of programs and work to narrow your focus late. You won’t regret exploring all the options college baseball has to offer.
If you are familiar with KPB, it’s likely none of these 5 steps is completely new to you. The key is that you always want to be making informed decisions throughout the recruiting process. If you do your homework on schools, let the standard of play for each program be your guide, have a realistic view of your skill set, keep an open mind, and are willing to work your tail off to improve, you are well on your way to finding a college baseball fit!