Archive | College Recruiting

FOMO – Understand the Fear!

There is a new acronym out and about educational and sports circles.  FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out.  Familiar with the feeling?  It is more a parental problem than a player problem.  Nevertheless, the anxieties, doubts, and fears seep into player psyches, as if by genetic code and transmission.  And it can destroy the joy of playing ball and being a kid.  Why? Because the same mindset that has led to the college admission scandal on a national level, not surprisingly, is rife in the world of travel baseball where upper middle class parents extend themselves to pay for the next showcase, clinic, recruiting service, to buy their sons the “edge.”  FOMO… Fear of missing out.  Sorry PBR; Sorry Perfect Game; Sorry Ruffnecks!  None of us has the magic bullet to get your kid where YOU, their parents, want them to go.  Let’s speak about the realities.

Reality #1: Talent

Talent trumps most everything else.  Preemptive talent is… preemptive.  There are several definitions, but let us assume it is the top 5% of all players:  Pitchers, hitters, position players.

Reality #2: Find a way to stand out.

Pitchers command attention.  They are prioritized.  If you are a lefty, work on your arm.  It can distinguish you and separate you from the pack.  Catchers hold a double edged sword:  If a college needs a catcher in your class, you can be in the mix.  If a college is NOT recruiting a catcher in your class, then there is not much you can do.  Move on to other schools to consider.  SPEED: If you have speed, it is a tool to show off whenever you can… especially running hard on a ball you know might be an out!  BAT TALKS: And your bat talks!  It doesn’t talk in a polished video.  It doesn’t talk in a batting average.  It talks through performance… loud, explosive, concussive swings that result in hard hit balls all over the field, regardless of the outcome.

Reality #3:  Good students open more baseball doors.

Baseball is a college sport that, at its highest level (Fully funded Division I programs), have 11.7 scholarships per 35 man roster.  If you are aiming for a scholarship, you may be chasing “fool’s gold.”  Give ANY college recruiter and easy path to present you to the college admission office and you open more doors.  Of course preemptive talent makes a difference (see Reality #1), but being a good ball player and a good student give you more options.  There are so many walk-on opportunities (not tryouts), and merit money options that big time colleges can work into the recruiting journey for good students.

Reality #4: It Doesn’t Apply to Me!

The most difficult reality to address is the human condition.  People will read this article and walk away with the sense that “It doesn’t apply to me.”  “My boy is different.”  Or “We know somebody and can afford to give him an advantage.” Yes, there are those who will justify and rationalize their actions at the outcome.  The problem is what it does to the player along the way.  Not every player will have the intended outcome a parent desires, not withstanding money spent on showcases, college clinics… no matter how much is spent in travel to colleges and on recruiting services and websites.

So Why the Frenzy?

College Baseball - At What Expense?

Parents love their kids.  They want what is best for them.  They also want what THEY think is best for them.  And this is a disservice.  Recently, a very good Ruffneck hitter showed up to a Fall Baseball game and declared to a coach, “My exit velocity was 91 at a PBR Showcase!”  The wrong focus, to be sure.  Really?  Who cares? Other players are heading to Florida for the Showball Head Coach Showcase.  $$$.  And substantively, none of those dollars will influence the outcome.  FOMO.

And the Frenzy is as much evident in the fall as during the baseball season.  Go play soccer or football.  Be an athlete!  Is anything really gained by spending money traveling to Florida in October?  Running into a tropical storm!  Sure the colleges chase the events, but they have to.  It’s a runaway train that has a life of its own.  Sadly.

So where does this all go?  We  do not have the answer.  But we will stay the course.  We play good, team baseball.  We have terrific kids and wonderful parents.  But the FEAR is palpable.  Focusing on “exit velocity,” external factors, too many showcases, all add to the pressure.  We believe in our players.  Our 2019 “Senior” team played incredibly well in Alabama at the Perfect Game Elite Championships in July of 2019.  Why? Because we have solid players who play hard… as a TEAM.  We earned a #8 seed out of 32 teams.  Many of the players on that roster are headed to high academic, NESCAC, Division III schools.  We are pleased for them.  They are good ball players!  We have a Lousiville commit too.  Ivy’s and others.  We love them all.  They can all play!  And we know they will get to their college and contribute with heart, soul, and understanding.  NO FOMO.  Get over it.

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Recruiting Timetable – What to Do

Questions & Answers?

Players and parents often ask “What is the recruiting timetable?”  The answer: There isn’t one!  Ok, perhaps that sounds like a cavalier, unhelpful response.  So how is the question addressed? And what is the truth?  How do players plan, get recruited, and what should they expect?

Play the Game; Make Yourself Better

The first fundamental truth is that good baseball players, players who aspire to play in college, play baseball during the summer.  They play the game, and they play lots of games.  They learn situational hitting, the importance of moving a runner along, taking extra bases.  Players need to compete.  As Boston College coach, Mike Gambino, told Ruffnecks players, the most important thing is to earn their spot in a lineup, confront competition from teammates who may be better than those you play with on your high school team.  Compete in sticky situations where the outcome of a game is in the balance.  Make a play that is special… or simply respond to failure in a manner that attracts the attention of the most scrutinizing of college recruiters.

The late, great Red Sox scout, Bill Enos, often remarked, “I learn as much watching a kid strike out with the bases loaded when he walks back to the dugout, as I do when he hits a grand slam.  It is easy to look good trotting the bases after a big hit.  I want to see how the kid deals with the other side of baseball.”

In the Ruffnecks program, players play a ton of baseball.  With a 17 year history, experience, and reputation, the Ruffnecks schedule delivers opportunity, not promises.  Our schedule puts players in games, tournaments, and in geographic locations where the blanket of exposure is significant.  Our players are seen… unless they are hiding.

And by the way, does anyone believe that when a college recruiter is watching a game, even to see a specific player, that the recruiter’s eyes are closed to everyone else, and everything else that is going on?  Ridiculous.

Here is a concrete recommendation: Run out every pop up as if you intend to get to second base, in case the infielder drops it.  That will catch coaches’ eyes!  So will the casual jog and pouty, slow, arrival at 1B when the ball is dropped.  Everyone notices both.  No one likes the latter guy; coaches love the former.

The Early Commitment

By definition, an early commitment is… early. So why does everyone get worked up about early commitments?  First, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Status. It is cool to get an early commitment, and even early attention.  It validates a player’s self-worth.  Envy. It is human nature to question, “Why him, and not me?”  If a teammate is getting some love from a Division I school, why am I not getting the same?  Anxiety. The entire process makes players and parents anxious.  An early commitment means I am done with the pressure.  I can relax.  My parents’ aspirations are met!

Well, the realities are quite different.  Early commitments are an anomaly, not the ordinary.  Sure, many top Division I schools are caught in the maelstrom of recruiting and committing prior to the summer before a player’s senior year in high school.  But the colleges don’t love it.  And the NCAA exercises cowardice in policing the practice.  Yet even the most successful D-I powerhouses find room for talented players at ALL times in the recruiting cycle.  One example is Ruffnecks alumnus Will Toffey.  Toffey is currently playing professional baseball for the NY Mets.  He played college ball at Vanderbilt.  Yet, he did not receive an offer from Vandy until September of his senior year in high school.  He was not seen by Vandy until June of that summer, when he played with the Ruffnecks in Nashville.  And he ws not the player that the Vanderbilt coaching staff came to see!  They saw him incidentally to their other recruiting priorities.  Will is not the exception… Will was recruited on an ordinary timetable.

And while most Division I schools commit some players “early,” these are contingent deals, predicated on everyone’s best intentions, maintaining academic standing, and performance on the ballfield.  Yes, there are many re-negs in both directions of the process… players who bail on their commitment, and schools that for one reason or another don’t get the recruit admitted. And there is always a reason… sometimes an excuse.

The Division I “Dude” is Easy!

J.P. Olson - Northeastern Commit

Travel programs boast their list of Division I commits.  Some bandy the news on their websites, and tout players over the TEAM.  Many of these programs use disingenuous claims, such as “so-and-so” is a D-I commit, even though the player may have worn that team’s jersey only once, pitched or played in a single tournament, or had a pre-existing commitment elsewhere… but that does not matter.  Furthermore, some programs focus all their efforts ONLY on the Division I prospects.  But there are many good ball players out there who are not Dudes.  Many of these players are perfectly capable of playing at Division I, II, or III schools.

Sure-shot Division I players are rarely missed in the recruiting process.  That does not mean Division I players are not missed… but the top guys are obvious.  Prospective players should be encouraged by the fact that many, many, Division I players find their ways onto college rosters late in the process.  Building a solid Division I program takes work.  College coaches build a TEAM… a group of guys who can play together, travel together, and learn together.  Colleges do not have the luxury of flying in mercenary pitchers for a weekend series, like some travel programs.

There is also texture to the Division I canvas.  Mid-level D-I programs are later in the commitment cycle than ACC or SEC programs.  IVYs and Patriot League are on different timetables as well.  It is a nuanced process that creates its own “domino effect.”  And by the way, playing Division III college baseball is no easy accomplishment.

The Truths: And What to Do

Back to the beginning.  What is the timetable?  Generally, the following is a guide to the timetable that, by definition, is inconsistent at best.

  • Everyone’s timetable is not the same.
  • Finding the match can be difficult.  Schools may, or may not, be looking for players who play your position in your class.  Catcher is an obvious example.
  • Pitching trumps most recruiting decisions.  Left handed pitchers have an advantage.
  • “Eye Candy” matters.  Players who “look the part” attract recruiters’ eyes.  Players are the masters of their physical preparation and conditioning, but players cannot make themselves 6’3” and 200 pounds.
  • The five tools matter. Work to develop at least one or two outstanding tools.
  • Your academic profile really matters, and opens doors.  The more an athlete pays attention to the details of academic performance, the more doors open.

What to Do

  • Get honest, regular, appraisals from your coaches.  We are your advocates, but we have to be honest in two-way conversations: With the athlete and with the college.
  • Again… Build a strong academic profile.  Yes, get good grades.  Get rid of “Cs” and make school a priority. Take challenging courses.
  • Communicate your interests to your coaches.  If you have a high school coach who is well connected with college coaches, be sure to cultivate a relationship.  Encourage your high school coach to connect with us as your summer program.
  • Research college programs realistically.  Go to their websites.  Check the bios of the coaches.  Are there any connections to your region?  Scrutinize the roster.  Where is the school getting most of their players?  Read some bios on players.  Check to see how many are graduating in the cycle of classes that affect you.
  • Summer after-freshman year in HS: Play ball!  Don’t worry about who is watching.  Just play and get better.  As a Ruffneck, you will be seen.  If you did not play REGULARLY, as a high school varsity starter, do not expect too much attention.  Just play and develop.  You will get on some radars.  Ride the coattails of your teammates who may be attracting attention, but don’t be envious.
  • Sophomore season and summer following: If you are not a regular high school starter as a sophomore, do not expect too much.  But you are not behind.  Just earn your time, and make good on opportunities.
  • Begin to consider what kinds of schools you might like to attend during your sophomore year in high school.  Communicate with your coaches about visiting schools and attending prospect camps and showcases.
  • Coaches can serve two purposes: First, we can be advocates, and help get you on a school’s radar. Second, if you have been seen by a school (at a prospect camp or showcase), we can get candid feedback regarding where you sit on their radar.  It may not always be what you want to hear, but it will help you focus on the right places.
  • Junior Year.  Follow up, beginning in August prior to your Junior year in high school with schools that have shown interest.  Plan “unofficial” visits.  Try to meet with coaches, but it is not necessary.  Plan a trip, use the month of August to visit schools.
  • If you have little interest or mild interest prior to September of your junior year, you are still NOT behind.  Just focus on school, play your other sports, get stronger, and prepare for the best possible junior season and summer possible.
  • Play hard junior year, and plan to have a productive, focused summer between junior and senior years.  This is the normal timetable for things to come together.
  • Develop an “A” list, but be sure you have a “Plan B.”  There is a place most Ruffnecks players can play.  It just may not be South Carolina!  If you want to play college baseball, keep an open mind.
  • Remember, not everyone is going to get a baseball scholarship.  In fact, most college baseball players participate without a scholarship.
  • Remember to communicate, and advocate for yourself.  College coaches do not want to hear from your parents about your statistics and your accomplishments.
  • Finally, trust that you will be seen in the context of the Ruffnecks program.  Communicate with your coaches.  Do not just expect to get calls and emails from recruiters, but when you get one, follow up if you sense it is real.

Compete.  Don’t expect to play every day.  Earn your opportunities, and remember, your teammates have the same aspirations you do…To play in college.  Eventually, the playing days end for everyone.  Enjoy playing while you can.  Enjoy!

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The Week Ahead - Notices

(Updated Tuesday, November 12)

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Ruffnecks Banquet
Monday, Nov. 25th
6:00pm to 9:00pm
The Fours
Quincy, MA

Ruffnecks Banquet 2019: Monday, Nov. 25

6:00 to 9:00pm at The Fours in Quincy

 


Click on image above to download 2019 Banquet Form

Ruffnecks FanWear Holiday Store by ScotTees

Order by November 27th for Holiday Delivery!


NEBC Store Open in Northboro & Online!

Sweatshirts, Shorts, Optional Practice Wear

 

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