The Campus Visit
By Tim Montez
Pitching Coach & Recruiting Coordinator,
University of Arkansas
Many questions some trivial, others not will occur to you before, during or after your campus visits. Will your son or daughter have anything in common with the student athlete they meet? Will they be able to handle the snowy winters at the school, or would they rather play in the South with its longer playing seasons? Does the coach have a vision for your teenager...in terms of playing time, position and potential?
Your kid's high school coach may send the first letters expressing your son or daughter's general interest in certain baseball/softball programs during sophomore year. Then the coach may call a few college coaches. Next, you or your student-athlete will call those coaches to arrange visits. After all, even top college coaches may spend an hour with you talking about their sports philosophy, the university and their recruiting strategy.
If your teenager's an ace, they'll probably be able to command time from a college coach most anytime. However, for players who may not be impressive on paper yet, an informal trip to a college sometime other than during the spring season or fall workouts might assure a better chance for an audience with the coach.
Prepare your questions in advance. Does the school have mandatory study hall off-season? Do tutors travel with with the teams to games? If a player misses a class, will the coach let them play the next game anyway? Do players have to be in by midnight? Even in the off-season?
Talk to your kid about the questions they should ask. For example, if they grew up in the South, will they be happy in the Snow Belt? How far is the average walk to class? Coach them on how to present themselves to the point of reminders like "sit up straight during the interview."
After visits, recruits may regret not having talked to players away from coaches. That's often the best way to get a feel for what their future teammates are like, to gauge their views of the program, to find out what practices are like, or to discover how much running the team does in practice. Players can make visits and like the program, yet have little in common with the players they meet.
College coaches and pro scouts talk to each other about players. Prospective players never know whom a coach might know. For this reason, keep as many doors open as you can by taking all calls from college coaches and responding promptly to all questionnaires, even though there may be no possibility your student-athlete will attend that school.
THE UNOFFICIAL VISIT. It's never too early in your teen's high school career to begin visiting colleges and assessing their baseball programs. The more information gathered about various universities, the more informed you'll each be when it comes time to for them to decide what school to attend. For example, at one school, your son or daughter might be eligible for academic aid, while at another they might struggle just to meet the academic standards. You may learn that a coach can submit a list of preferred players to the academic office as early as September, whether or not the coach is allotted any "exemptions" for lower-than-normal SAT scores, and what positions he's now recruiting.
Some coaches may suggest you meet at the baseball field rather than at their office. By doing so, they can give you a five-minute briefing, while also giving you the once-over to determine whether the meeting should be continued or whether to end the conversation after a short, polite visit. If you're asked back to his or her office, among the many things you may hear about are the first-rate players the school has received commitments from for the next season, who their backups are, and who the backup's backups are. But keep in mind that such plans can change. Some prospects get drafted, others decide at the last minute to attend a different school.
The coach may say he will keep an eye on your student-athlete, he may say he'll try to see your kid play, or he may say a lot will depend on the kind of season your kid has during senior year.