We know that college coaches use “the eye test” to quickly evaluate and categorize players. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that “looking like a ballplayer” can help you get recruited. This story about a recruit named Alex helps illustrate how appearance impacts recruitability.
Alex is a good high school baseball player. He found the KPB website early in high school and learned about what he needs to do to play college baseball. Alex studies hard and his grades are good. He makes a video and sends it out to schools. Alex receives several letters of interest from coaches who saw the video. He also goes to a local showcase at the end of his junior year where a lot of college coaches are present. He performs well at the showcase and hears from several more interested colleges. It is now the summer after his junior year and his summer team is going to a big national tournament. On his way to the tournament, he stops for a few unofficial visits and is shown around college campuses by the coaches. Alex doesn’t know that his appearance matters to those coaches.
John is a college recruiting coordinator. He spends his summers recruiting and he attends many showcases and tournaments. Early in the summer, he goes to a showcase where he sees Alex and a number of other prospects. He gets in touch with Alex and 6 other players and he arranges for them to visit his school on their way to the national tournament. John is also going to the national tournament to see 25 potential recruits at the same event.
The event is hectic and takes place at several different high schools and baseball complexes. He tries to see as many of the players on his list as possible, and because of scheduling conflicts and priority players, he is only able to watch 5 innings of Alex’s game before having to leave to see a pitcher who is scheduled to throw. He gets to Alex’s game a little early and has time to watch him warm-up and interact with his teammates. With so little time, John has to make quick decisions and players appearance matters to him.
Without even knowing it, Alex is on John’s shortlist of potential players for his team. Alex isn’t aware, but he and 4 other infielders are being considered for one scholarship. Alex’s chances for the scholarship depend on what he does during the 5 innings that John sees him play. During these 5 innings, Alex can help, hurt, or ruin his chances of earning the scholarship to play college baseball.
So what does Alex do?
When Coach John gets to the field, he locates Alex and watches him warm-up. Alex’s jersey is untucked and he’s being lazy and a little sloppy with his warm up. To John’s surprise, Alex is wearing slides (sandals) while hitting wiffle balls. While playing catch, he’s not focused and misses the occasional throw because he’s distracted. Even though Alex feels like he is preparing like normal, his sloppy appearance and lack of focus makes it seem like he isn’t taking the game seriously. At one point during the warm-up, Alex’s hat, which was slightly askew, falls off his head and to the ground while he is playing catch. He leaves it on the ground while continuing his catch play.
When the game starts, Alex plays well. But, so does one of the other infielders (Rick) that Coach John saw. With players being committed to schools left and right, Coach John thinks that he’s under pressure to decide which player should get the scholarship offer. Alex and Rick both show above average defensive ability and signs that they will be able to hit at the next level. They both have 60-yd dash times of around 6.8. With all else equal on the baseball field, Coach John starts to think about other things. He remembers how Alex looked lazy and unfocused during warm-ups and that he didn’t seem to care about his uniform.
Rick came to the field looking like he was proud of his uniform and was focused and calm during warm-ups. John starts to wonder. Does Alex really care? Will he prepare for games seriously enough so that he will be ready to play his best? As time passes, Coach John needs to make a decision. He decides to offer the scholarship to Rick based on “preparation” concerns he has about Alex.
- Your appearance matters. A clean, complete uniform will never hurt your chances of getting recruited, but a messy or sloppy appearance can. Looking sloppy gives coaches the perception that you might not take things seriously or you don’t care. Yes, this can be unfair at times, but when recruiters are faced with difficult high pressure decisions, anything that sets a player apart matters.
- Show that you are prepared and focused before, during and after the game. You don’t have to be intense or rah-rah during warm ups, but you should have a process for getting prepared. Coaches are looking for players who have a plan and put thought into what they are doing. If you are distracted and lazy before your games, recruiters will question if you are serious enough to play for their teams or if you will care enough about things that matter more, like working hard to improve, getting good grades, and winning games.
- Because recruiters don’t always have time to get to know you on an intimate level, they have to make decisions based on what they see. Make sure you look like a ballplayer so you get an extra-long look. Make sure your shirt is tucked in all the way, you are wearing competitive footwear, and your actions tell coaches that you are focused fully on your preparation and the game. When it comes to your appearance, no coach will think less of you for looking like a ballplayer who put time into getting ready, but some may move on if it looks like you just rolled out of bed or don’t care about details. Again, snap judgments like this may not be fair, but the bottom line is you want to give yourself the best chance to get recruited. Leave no doubt.
Next week, we’ll tell you about more mistakes that Alex makes in front of college recruiters.