Last week I provided a “Thursday Thoughts” video that talked about one of the most important factors for high school athletes who are going through the college recruiting process, development. High School recruits need to make sure that they find out what development plan a college’s coaching staff has for them specifically to grow and raise their ceiling. For those of you that missed the video here it is:
— Baseball Rebellion (@BRrebellion) November 2, 2017
Like I explained in the video, I have seen countless players going through the process overlook what, in my opinion, needs to be one of the most important deciding factors in picking a school/program. Since that video was posted I have been asked several questions as to what exactly they need to be asking and looking for when it comes to finding out what that school’s development plan actually is and I want to use this article to help clear up any questions you may have. As I stated in the video, I am talking more to the players whose dream is to play on at the next level after college, but the information is also very beneficial to the player who just simply wants to have a great playing experience in college and get better while doing it.
Here are three main development criteria that I believe should be looked at when it comes to how well a school is at developing their athletes that play for them:
- Strength and Conditioning. One of the most important factors in development is getting into the weight room, getting stronger, putting on good mass and becoming more flexible. In my time in college baseball, rarely did I ever see a player come in and be put on a weight-loss program. Most high school athletes who are going to college for the first time aren’t knowledgeable on the most effective ways to gain weight/muscle by lifting weights.
When visiting a school make sure that you are shown the weight room and if possible, meet and talk with the strength and conditioning coach for that specific sport. Find out what they are going to do for you specifically to help get you bigger, faster and stronger. Have the coach and strength coach talk you through what the plan will be from the very first day you arrive on campus and moving forward. A really good strength coach will have the workouts/plans already printed out to walk you through their plan for you.
This part is so crucial but I often feel so overlooked. At the next level, scouts and teams are looking at players who throw the ball harder (the first things scouts do when seeing a pitcher for the first time is throw up that stalker radar gun), hit the ball harder/farther, and run faster. It’s nearly impossible to do any of those things without first getting in the weight room and getting stronger and faster.
- Tracking Progress. Another important thing you want to see is what plan that coaching staff has in order to track your progress throughout your career. There is so much technology available nowadays to not at least use something in order to track data/progress. If a coach is telling you that they are going to do whatever they can to develop you as a player, then they need to have a way to show you your progress.
There are many different ways this can be accomplished when I was a coaching high school baseball we set up video cameras and filmed pitchers and hitters in practices and games. We would then have “classroom” sessions with the different positions and go over individuals film in private and in group settings. This sounds very simple, and it was, especially for a high school program with a budget that doesn’t compete with any college-level program. This was our way of tracking development and finding out things that each player needed to work on and get better at, and it is one of the reasons it will always be a successful program.
For schools and programs with a bigger budget, there are many technological advances in recent years that can far and away help with tracking progress and player development. With machines such as HitTrax, swing sensors like Blast Motion and Rapsodo for tracking numbers and video analysis systems such as Right View Pro and BATS, there is no excuse for bigger programs to not be able to use something from the list above to help with tracking the development of their players. When communicating with schools make sure you ask them what they use for player development, and if you hear a coach tell you that they don’t need any of that stuff to tell what you need to do to get better, then I suggest you kindly cross that school off your list.
There are many colleges out there who are finally putting an effort into player development and investing in these technological advances to help track progress and you will soon see that these schools will distance themselves from the rest of the pack. I had a reply to my video from one of my favorite twitter accounts to follow, JT Maguire, who is the Recruiting Coordinator at Lander University. Here is what he said:
Don’t just ask…make them show it to you!
— JT Maguire (@JT_Maguire35) November 2, 2017
I absolutely love this, just like getting the strength coach to show you how they will track your progress, get the coaching staff to show how they plan on tracking your playing development progress.
One other extremely important thing to remember is if you have a chance to visit the school, make sure you talk to the players on the team about what kind of development is being done. Often times the recruiting visit is “fluffed” a bit to give off the best possible appearance and to give the kid a great experience, but talking to the players who are currently on the team will give you a complete, real answer on what is actually being done with player development.
- Next Level Success. Like I said in the video, shouldn’t the most important thing as a coaching staff is getting your players ready to succeed at the next level if that is what their dream is? I understand that some players have “maxed out” by the time they get to college and that their room for development is small but I believe if programs spent more time on developing their players by using all means possible to do so and less time focusing on bunt defenses and first and third plays then maybe more of their players would have more successful college and pro careers. Find out what schools are really devoting their time and effort to finding the most efficient, effective and informative ways to help their players succeed at college and onto the next level. The best way to do this is to look at what schools have a lot of players not only at the next level but succeeding at that level as well.
Here is a great article from the NCAA on the number of players from each school on 2017 postseason rosters. (Shout out Jim Penders, Head Coach at UConn, who is one of the best people in college baseball and has FIVE players on postseason rosters)
This can also be applied to junior colleges who do a really good job of getting “fringe” players out of high school and turning them into high-level college prospects after developing at the junior college level.
Lately, I have seen more and more programs adding a “director of player development” position to their staff and I think this is awesome. If they use this position to find better ways for what their title is, “player development”, then I am very excited to see what the future of this position can become at the college level.
I hope this article clears up the questions you had about what exactly my video was talking about. I have been a part of many different levels of the game of baseball and have learned that my absolute passion is getting players better. The information that I wrote about in this article comes from first-hand experience and I want all players and parents reading this article to use the information provided and help make their recruiting process and experience very enjoyable!