Protect Your Kids...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

In defense of high schools with "bad" high school coaches

As a college coach who recruits high school and JuCo athletes, I have a pretty broad net cast in search of those special players that could possibly play for my university. That also gives me a unique view from the "other side" of recruiting kids that I can share with parents.

VUSC is a NAIA DI school - equivalent to mid/high-level NCAA DII. The NAIA allows a maximum of 10 1/2 possible full ride scholarships for a baseball team. Most universities, however, don't allocate every one of those 10 1/2 scholarships. In fact, one school I know allocates only two.  The point is this: Athletic scholarships don't grow on trees, and many schools have less than you think.

So with this in mind, one of the east coast parents I correspond with wanted to know about any non-high school baseball travel program to have his kid.

For the Fall? Summer?...

"Nope. The Spring, as a replacement for our local school's team", he responded. "The coach is an abusive clown who can't judge talent correctly."

Yikes...I see this more and more. Apparently, high school athletic directors are now going out of their way to hire bafoon, abusive clowns as high school baseball coaches.

Now, I have no problem with parents wanting to make sure their athlete gets proper training and the right "experience" in order to get to that "next level". But obviously, many are being conditioned to think that the local high school coach is an idiot.  And, anecdotally, I've noticed that much of it seems comes from fall and summer travel ball or private coaches who parents pay to coach a travel team.

While it's true that some high schools have less experienced coaches, it is the exception, not the rule.  And blatantly abusive coaches might fool people during the job interview, but they typically get weeded out over the long haul.

Which brings me to the painfully tedious point of this post.  While a bit wordy, this is is about how I, as a coach scouting your kid, look at kids who choose not to play for their high school team, then expect to be recruited by guys like me at showcases or travel team events.

I use showcase events/travel teams to *validate* a high school player's career, not replace it. Note: while this is baseball-specific, it also applies to softball and football. I can't speak for the recruiting process for other major sports like basketball, soccer, etc.

If we go to a showcase game or a travel game, usually it's to see a player that we are already interested in. And it's usually a pitcher or catcher, because that's where he will be getting meaningful reps outside of high school games. A position player getting a few at-bats is tougher to judge because of the randomness of the game.

This is an important consideration. I can't afford to go to see the same team more than once or twice because there are so many prospects. We only need three or four freshman per year. Almost NONE of them get a scholarship because only front line difference makers (i.e., top 5-6 pitchers, starting catcher, and top 3 or 4 starting position players) get them. And most of them are already on the team.

The *new* kids that get scholarships are usually JuCo transfers (see this article to see why coaches think like this). This holds true even if the freshman kids are solid players, and even if they could be starters the next season.

That last point is HUGE.

We rarely pursue a high school kid unless he is a huge scholarship prospect. And those guys are usually pitchers and beast catchers. The rest contact us and a jillion other colleges, fishing for a spot.

So as for the rest of the players who get attention, it all comes down to "screens".

We, as coaches, have to filter the several hundreds of high school players that contact us each year and weed it down to maybe 25-30 kids that we'll track in their senior year of high school. And, as stated earlier, we pursue immediate difference makers more zealously that future difference makers. On a team of 25, there's very little room for non-contributing freshman players. And there are always a few kids that magically show up during the summer/fall after another college reduced a scholarship offer (or for a zillion other reasons).

So, in this context, as sad as this sounds, not playing for your high school team definitely raises a red flag with guys like me simply because we don't have time to investigate whether a high school coach is a clown or the parents are simply overzealous.

Guess which way we typically lean?

So follow this scenario: If the high school coach really IS is a clown, and the kid shines anyway, suppose I have a choice to make between him and a travel ball-only kid who didn't play for his high school for the same reason. He thinks the coach is a clown.

So I'm left with two kids:
  • One who shines with a clown coach, or
  • One who skipped that high school team and played travel ball, shining there.  
Assume all other things are exactly equal (perceived skills, grades, outside interests, family dynamics, etc.).
  • Which kid do you think will stick it out at my school when he doesn't get a single at bat his freshman year and there is a sophomore or junior starting ahead of him?
  • Which one will *typically* be mentally tougher when he finds out that getting good grades at a college is way tougher than at high school?
  • Which one of them has the most untapped potential to improve by practicing with my squad and (supposedly) better coaches?  
To a prospective college coach, a potential baseball resume is reviewed very similarly as to how a prospective employer looks at a resume. There are boatloads of prospective players to look at. Thus, part of the screen in gauging an athletic profile without knowing him personally is our perception of potential program loyalty and perceived ability to deal with adversity.

Not being able to play for a coach for whatever reason in high school immediately raises eyebrows as to the motivations of the *parent*. By osmosis, we have to assume that it trickles down to the kid. There are simply too many me-first players out there with the same story.

So, all things being equal, we track the player who plays for the clown coach, then plays travel during the summer or fall. I know it's not fair, and it might not be accurate...but it is what it is. Incidentally, that's another reason why I also rank two sport athletes higher than single sport players if both appear equally gifted on the baseball field.

If you choose to have your athlete forego the high school team, please note that I am *not* saying that you or your son are one of "those" parents or "those" me-first kids. But unless the kid is projectable, playing on an official MLB "scout" team, and slotted for a draft position by an MLB team (i.e., NCAA DI full scholarship caliber), it's an uphill battle for a potential freshman college player to fight.

No comments:

Post a Comment