Co-Authored By Brian Warning
In the first part of our ‘What to Expect When You Get to Campus’ mini-series, we shared insights about non-baseball specific obstacles that first year players are likely to face when they get to campus. Of course, new players are likely to face a number of baseball-specific challenges as well. In Part 2 of our mini-series, we look at on-field obstacles that newcomers can expect to encounter with the increased level of competition and higher expectations of college baseball. Here’s what you’re in for:
1. Talent level: You are no longer the best player
When you get to campus, you will likely find that you are no longer the best player on your team. You are now competing with 21- and 22-year-olds who have been playing college ball and lifting for up to 5 years. The speed of the game is faster. Often times, this is the biggest adjustment for young players. Pitchers throw harder, hitters have more bat speed, and defenders get better jumps. You may not be starting. You may not be playing the same role you did on your high school team. Sometimes it’s difficult to get used to your new position on the team.
Our Suggestion: Watch your team’s leaders and best players carefully. There is a lot to learn from guys who are outworking and outperforming the rest. Don’t be scared to ask if you can tag along when they get some extra work in or just pick their brains about their routines. Being in a different role or even on the bench to start off doesn’t have to be a bad thing if you can learn through observation and keep working to get better. Don’t think of it in terms of not being good enough, think about it as an apprenticeship similar to when Aaron Rodgers was Brett Favre’s backup. You don’t have to like or settle for a diminished role, but you’ll have to beat out an older, more experienced player to get where you want to go. Understand that you’ll have to earn what you get and even great players aren’t the team star right away.
2. Learning to deal with failure: You are going to fail and it’s okay/expected (provided you learn from it)
Your college coaches know that there is a big jump from high school to college ball. They also know there is a learning curve that will accompany the higher level of college play and they will expect you to deal positively with failure and adversity. Most players go in with unrealistic expectations for success. The truth is that it is tough to get playing time immediately as a freshman. If you don’t play early, don’t get discouraged. There may be a variety of reasons for your not seeing the field immediately.
Our Suggestion: We will let a former 3-year Pac-12 starter answer this one for us: “Work hard. Don’t learn how to fail, but be open to failure. I failed a lot at the beginning and then I started getting things. Just don’t beat yourself up too much.”
3. Coaching: You are likely to receive a different style of coaching with more constructive criticism and less praise
You will quickly find that the level and pace of college baseball is much different than you are used to. As a result, coaches will likely ask you to make changes to your game, sometimes right from the start. It may feel like you are receiving less praise and more constructive criticism. It may even seem like your new coach is not as ‘friendly’ as your old coaches. Your new coach will likely point out and make you aware of shortcomings in your game and provide you with suggestions for getting better in those areas.
Our Suggestion: Have an open mind when receiving instruction and don’t take constructive criticism as a personal attack. Coaches are always trying to find ways to make their players better. Coaches are there to push you, teach you, and make you be the best version of yourself, on and off the field. Your relationship with your new coaches may feel different from the relationships you had with your coaches in high school. Even if the relationship is different, showing that you are coachable and eager to learn will help you to learn concepts faster and may even help you get some playing time early in your career. Being coachable doesn’t mean you are a robot. It means you are invested in your growth as a player and are willing to accept and apply instruction. As we explain in this must read article, coachability is a key to maximizing your success in college.
4. Identity crisis: You will need to learn how to make adjustments to the increase in coaching you receive and the higher level of competition
You have been good enough to succeed your entire baseball life but in college, it may seem like everyone is telling you about all the things you need to change. All the instruction and advice may be confusing and may even create an identity crisis if you are no longer sure of your strengths or even your role on the team. You may listen to all the advice and try to change everything at once or maybe you’ll be told that you aren’t changing enough. Either way, you will likely feel a little lost at some point.
Our Suggestion: Be open to making adjustments and pushing your comfort level. Some of the things that have worked well for you in the past will need adjustments to help you be successful at the college level. That doesn’t mean that you need to completely overhaul everything about your game. After all, there are reasons why the coaches wanted you on their team in the first place. You have the ability. A valuable skill will be learning how to pick and choose what works best for you, while still staying focused on what you are being taught. Always be receptive and open to advice from your coaches. Ask for clarification on things that don’t make sense and don’t be afraid to play around with different things you have been taught to find what works best for you.
Now that you have learned about some of the off-field and on-field challenges you will face in college, it’s time to put that knowledge to work. Show up ready to work hard and ready to go. Good luck!