Finding the RIGHT School
Just recently on Monday, June 5th, was our annual Chargers Scout Day with the Indiana Nitro. With 27 schools in attendance, 8 being Division I schools and the rest representing other levels of college baseball, I thought it would be a good time to post about the school selection process. One of the biggest decisions in a young adult's life is the path they choose to pursue after high school graduation. The world has endless opportunities to choose from including traveling, entering the workforce, military, college, internships, apprenticeships, etc. Primary education is over and the decision is up to each individual as to what they would like to seek for their future. For the less than 7% of high school baseball players who get a chance to continue their athletic career, selecting the right school and program can prove to be pivotal in the development of a baseball player and person. This decision can also be extremely challenging! Transfering has become a frequent decision made by players who are dissatisfied with the school they have chosen, whether it be from academic issues, behavioral issues, playing time, coaching feuds, homesick, girlfriend, etc. This post is designed to shed some light and provide players with questions and aspects to think about as they go about making this important decision.
Does the school offer the major you're interested in studying? This is the first question you should take into consideration. You're going to school to earn a degree while playing baseball, hint the term "student-athlete." Does the college or university provide a reputable education that will impress an employer? Only about 10% of college baseball players get drafted and a chance to play professional baseball so earning a degree should be of great importance.
2. Size of School
Do you want to have personal relationships with your professors or just be a number? Class size and individualized attention is different at each school. Pay attention to faculty to student ratio. Go to a school that provides a learning style and environment that will give you the best opportunity for a quality education. The school should offer the greatest chance of earning a degree. Another question to consider is do you want to attend a religious or faith based school to continue and grow in your faith if that's important to you?
Is the school in a location of interest? If you are a home body, then going to a school 2,000 miles away is likely not going to be a good fit. Most likely you will not be happy with your decision. Other things to take into consideration is the climate and terrain. You, and likely your family, will be making several trips back and forth over the next 3-5 years. How's the weather? Do you want to practice inside the majority of the year or be outside?
4. Program style
Finally, something where we start talking about baseball! Does the program fit the type of player you are and want to become? Is the program about development or do they simply roll out the baseballs and play approach. Know the reputation and style of the program before making a commitment just because they have cool jerseys and facilities.
What characteristics do you look for in a coach? What coaching style fits you? Understand, there is no thing as a perfect coach! With that said, do you want to play for a coach that will help you develop as a person or player? Do you want a hands-on coach that works with players or a coach that plays more of a general manager position? The higher the "level" of play the more the game becomes a business. Is it a win-at-all costs program? This topic will be discussed more in a later post.
6. Playing time
Are you willing to sit and develop? Are you looking to play right away? At almost all levels there is a waiting period to get your opportunity. The higher the "level" the slimmer your opportunity may become to play right away. Who do you think is going to get the first opportunity to play - an incoming Freshman that weighs 165 lb and hasn't put in any investment in the program vs. a 215 lb senior who is 4-5 years older who the coach has invested a lot of time and effort into along with scholarship money.
At the end of the day, college is expensive! Financially, after academic and athletic scholarships (no athletic scholarships at NCAA Division 3 schools), how much are you willing to pay when it's all said and done? The majority of students are in debt after the completion of college. It is important to understand that student loans are great...until you have to start paying them back! College is a unique and special time in your life, and if you find the right fit it can be the best years of your life. Just make sure you know exactly what you are looking at having to pay back after you complete four or five years.
The LAST thing a player should worry about when picking a school is the "level" of play. College baseball is college baseball! There is good and bad baseball, good and bad programs at all 5 of these levels of college baseball - NAIA, Juco, D3, D2, D1. If you are good enough to play after college, professional baseball scouts will find you. Odds are definately increased if you play on the national level (more exposure) but good talent finds a way to be seen.
One last point I would like to make is this. Ask yourself this question. Would you attend this school even if you didn't play baseball? Often times, how you answer this question can help you decide if it is the right place for you to be.
I hope this post will help those of you who are going through the decision making process. Good luck!