How can you tell if a college program does a good job developing players?
We always encourage feedback from our families because we like to understand any questions they may have, which is usually means other families are wondering the same thing.
After our last newsletter, we received this reply from one of families -
Hope all is well. I saw your newsletter about JUCO. I appreciate your pros and cons – but it does depend on the JUCO you go to correct? For example, they’re not all equal. A catcher like Matthew who wants to develop as a catcher is not likely to have the resources/catching coaches at all JUCOs. I hear straight from some of the best JUCO coaches' mouths that my 10U club team has better equipment/baseballs than JUCOs (LOL) and that some JUCO programs only have 3 coaches and like 60 guys in the fall program. Is there really position development or, when you say development do you just mean additional time to develop and mature? Matthew would definitely consider JUCO route – but I think probably for the discounted cost of college.
The question becomes - how do you know if you will develop at a college program? 1) Quality of coaches. This one is tough to know after just one school visit. Some of the traits of coaches that should be considered: experience, history of success, specific knowledge in the X's and O's, communication, program culture and leadership. A sit down with the coaches will help get a feel for this, but it also may be helpful to ask current and former players about the staff. On a school visit, the player should definitely ask to see the development plan. If a pitcher goes to sit down with the pitching coach, that coach should be able to show the player an organized action plan to help improvement. A hitting coach should have a list of drills and reasons why he uses them. There are different philosophies and it is important that player and coach are aligned. Many players having private instruction before college and therefore come into college with a much larger knowledge base of mechanics and training. 2) Playing time. Getting on the field definitely matters when it comes to improvement. A player has to understand the expectations of when they can see significant playing time. Coaches may say many things about playing time on the visit to help convince the athlete to come to their program. But, is important to know how many players are being recruited to their position AS WELL AS an outside evaluation if they can play at that level. 3) The number of coaches on staff have a huge impact on player development. The budget in baseball/softball as we know is not very good and therefore these sports usually have one of the worst coaches to player ratios. This is important because the individual attention given to a player will be minimal if the staff is constantly trying to coral their herd of players. Also, the more coaches on staff, the more likely it is that they will have specialty knowledge in certain areas. On most programs there will be a hitting and pitching coach with a good background to coach those areas. But is there an infield or outfield instructor? What about a catching coach? It is important to have a coach who has an intimate knowledge of that area rather than a coach who is just teaching a position out of necessity. 4) One of the more underrated people that will be a factor in a player's development in college is the strength trainer. Is this person sport-specific? Or do they handle a wide range of sports? Do they train positions differently? (they should) Does this person have their degree in this field? Or is it a coach that does this with no background on training athletes. It is agreed by all that it is important to be bigger, faster and stronger to compete well in college. Therefore, it is super important to look at who is training the athlete. 5) Facilities. When coaches are showing players around campus, they realize their field and workout area are being evaluated. Most high-level players want a place they can go get their work in and feel happy about the place they are going to play. Optics do matter. Having enough space, enough practice area and the right workout equipment all matter. Without these items, a player may not feel like he has the tools to improve his game. Having top-line facilities also show that there is an investment in the program. 6) History of development. A college coach should be able to show how past teams have improved and how individuals have progressed. A team's success and individual stats are part of the story, but so is the quality of players that are in a program. And therefore, it needs to separated which programs bring in good players and "roll the ball out" vs programs that really dig their hands into a player and make them different by the time they leave. 7) Use of video and technology. Let's face it, if a coach isn't using technology to some degree, are they really keeping up with the times? Video is so prevalent nowadays that most coaches are using this to show and teach mechanical checkpoints. Most of these new systems combine the video with data and metrics. It is great if the college coach has these new toys, but it is important to make sure they know how to use them effectively and more importantly interpret and teach their new findings to the player effectively. 8) Time. This is where NJCAA and NAIA schools have a definite advantage because of the lack of rules and regulations on practice time. Unfortunately, at the NCAA level, there is a lot more limits on practice time throughout the fall. Weather also plays into this factor. Obviously, the more the team is able to practice outside with good conditions, the easier it will be for them to get the necessary work in for practice. 9) Summer program. Most elite programs will have a summer plan for their athletes. Even though they will not have their hands on them directly, the good coaches still have an idea on how a player could use these 3 months to keep improving. It comes down to either training or playing. Training would require a specific plan of action and what to train and the improvements that need to be made. College summer leagues have a separate strategy. Good coaches have a specific strategy about where to send their players and why (plus have the connections to do so) which can really accelerate the players' progress in the summer months. 10) Extras. - Mental coach, diet and nutrition, growing as a young person..etc. The elite programs will have a culture and have a number of different advantages that their athletes can thrive off of if applied. These are also good to notice because again this shows that there is INVESTMENT in the program. Take these factors into consideration as you look at a program through a development lens. This will give an indication if a player can maximize their skills at a certain program. But, as we constantly preach, the biggest variable is the athlete.
As always, we are here to guide and assist our families to the best of our ability.
For more information about the College Athlete Advantage Recruiting Program please call Mike Orchard @ 407-489-7509 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.