(Part 2) – Tired of traveling to every tournament known to man? Here’s a strategy to save your wallet and your weekends — and get better results

Parents are convinced that to earn a scholarship, players must travel to as many showcases and tournaments as possible, rely on coaches for exposure, and let stats speak for themselves.

This line of thinking has led armies of parents to spend tens of thousands of dollars while seeing no discernible progress toward a scholarship, or even a roster spot.

My parents believed this, too.

We traveled to every showcase and tournament imaginable. We picked travel teams because of specific coaches that we thought would connect me with schools. My dad estimates that we spent $10,000+ on my recruiting process in high school.

And that number is now considered cheap…one softball coach estimates that a “14u-18u player doing nationwide tourneys at the highest level of play, weekly lessons, attending camps, and a skills video…” is spending $22,000-$25,000 a year.

Even a “12u player doing local tourneys in surrounding counties with no additional lessons” is spending on average $2,500-$3,000 a year.

But you know what may be even worse than the cost of money?

The cost of time.

Think about how many lessons you’ve driven to, how many practices you’ve watched , how many weekends you’ve lost watching games in some god-forsaken city in the middle of nowhere in the sweltering heat…

…while you’ve wondered if it’s ever going to pay off.

This is the chase for exposure…the desire to “get noticed.”

The biggest myth in the recruiting process is that traveling to tournaments guarantees you exposure.

Exposure

The exposure hunt has led parents to sling money out of their pockets on tournaments that will give their kid “attention” — and surrender weekends for showcases that will “put their kid on the map.”

Parents think — “Texas A&M is going to be at that tournament. If we go to that tournament, the coach will see Johnny play”

…not realizing that the odds of this happening — without prior contact — are basically zilch. (I’ll explain why in a few lines)

The culture of “getting noticed” has conditioned us to spend money, travel to tournaments, rely on coaches — and assume that’s just the way things are done.

Sure…that’s how things have traditionally been done. But this is not the most effective way to earn a scholarship — or even a roster spot.

A player’s development is important. Practices and lessons are good things, and can be helpful in the recruiting process. And tournaments are necessary to some degree…coaches have to see you play somewhere.

But, the idea that you can gain exposure by simply throwing your kid out on a field in front of coaches after some polishing up at lessons and practices is — though well-intended — misguided.

Exposure is more complicated than that. If this is your strategy, you’re playing a game of luck.

If you want to see a high ROI in your recruiting process, you have to play a game of value.

I don’t like the phrase “get noticed” because it implies that college coaches are looking down on players from an ivory tower, watching them beg for their attention, approval, and validation.

You can try and play this game if you want, but you’re going to be competing against hundreds of thousands of other players for attention…

…and that’s going to be expensive and time-consuming — and most of all, ineffective.

Here’s what I propose instead…

How coaches *actually* recruit players

First, start by acknowledging that college coaches need your kid as much as your kid needs them.

Coaches need to fill holes in their roster all the time. They’re in need of good players. And in order to find them, they have to sift through hundreds of thousands of players begging for their attention — to find the few that are actually going to be of value to them.

Notice how the attitude shifted. Coaches are no longer in an ivory tower with all the power…they’re in the slums, with a ton of work ahead of them, pleading for good players.

Here’s the cliff notes version of how coaches find/recruit players —

  1. Figure out what they need (positions/classes)
  2. Look through emails from players and PG/PBR profiles
  3. Watch videos of players and select ones they like
  4. Find out which tournaments are going to give them the greatest return on investment (i.e. which tournaments are going to have the most players they’re interested in so they don’t have to attend different tournaments for each player)
  5. Go to those tournaments to watch those players — choose the ones they like.

Important takeaways from this:

  • Coaches recruit for what they need, not simply for the best players.
  • Video (or live scouting) is their preferred evidence as proof a player is worth recruiting (not stats).
  • When coaches go to tournaments, they watch the players they’ve already communicated with, or the players at a specific position that they need (so if they don’t know about you before the tournament, it’s unlikely that you’ll get their attention).

Coaches are looking for any help they can get in separating the players of value from the players of noise.

Your New Strategy

In part one of this article, we talked about 3 ways you can turn your recruiting process around.

  • Target schools that need your son’s/daughter’s position
  • Make video the centerpiece of your recruiting campaign
  • Think about your recruiting process like your own personal business

All three of these methods help you cut to the heart of the matter — they show you how to give coaches exactly what they want, and in return, give you what you’ve been working so hard for.


But I’m going to change up the order of these three strategies…because order matters.

Step One: View the recruiting process like your own personal business

Your kid is the product, and college coaches are your market. In order to serve yourself, you have to serve others.

If a company wants to make money, they have to first learn how they can help their customers…because without their customers, they wouldn’t have buyers. And without buyers, they can’t make money.

In your personal recruiting business, you must find what coaches need, package your kid’s value neatly, and put that product right in front of coaches who need it.

Rather than trying to “get noticed,” you want to provide value to those who need it.

This is a step in itself because it will change the way you approach every aspect of the recruiting process. It will change the way you send emails, answer phone calls, talk to coaches, attend tournaments, choose showcases, etc. You have to change out the previous lens you viewed the recruiting process through.

Step Two: Find coaches that need your kid (and how to do that)

The goal is to find the holes that coaches need to fill. What positions are they probably recruiting for your class? This will help you identify schools that are more likely to respond to your emails.

You can go about this in the exact way that coaches go about this…you’ll just have to do a little more leg work than them since you’re not on the inside (since you don’t know their rosters as well as they do).

Here’s how they determine their need (i.e. what you should do).

{For explanation purposes, let’s say your kid is a junior in high school}

Tactic one: Look at the team’s roster and count the underclassmen at your position.

If the school you’re emailing has a large number of underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) at your kid’s position, they probably won’t respond to your email — they don’t need to recruit your position.

A “large” number is relative to the position. For catchers, large would be 2 or more. For pitchers, large may be 5 or more…depending on the sport.

So if you’re a junior outfielder and the school has 3 underclass outfielders, they probably don’t need you. You can email still email them, but don’t rely on this opportunity.

Instead, look for schools that have “large” numbers of upperclassmen. If a school has a healthy number of upperclass players at your position (and lacks underclass players), the school is probably looking to bring in some young players at that position. These are schools that are more likely to respond to your email.

Tactic two: See what players have already committed to the school.

If the roster shows they are in need, but they’ve already signed a player to come in and fill that role, then the school is no longer in need. You can find this by simply googling “(school) (class) (sport) commits.”

If the school has already signed someone at your position in your class, it’s unlikely that they’re going to respond to your email.

Tactic three: Investigate how the current players at your position are performing.

If the current players at your position are not performing well, the coach may be looking to bring in someone else to clean up the mess.

Check the stats of the current players and see if a team may be in need (if you want to get really intense, you can follow the box scores and update an excel spreadsheet like my dad and I did).

Your search doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not looking for perfect. You’re looking for “more likely to respond.”

The more factors you can point in this direction, the more success you’re going to have in email. And make no mistake, email is your prized tool in your tool belt. Not tournaments, not showcases — email.

Let’s say you’ve found a number of schools that look like they may be in need of your position…now what?

Step Three: Prove (and provide) your value to them — through video.

Video is KING in the recruiting process.

It’s more important than stats — it’s more important than a good 60-time.

Stats are the credible forward to your novel — but your video is the book…it’s where the real value is.

Video tends to be a better indicator of how a high school player will perform in college. Players who dominated high school ball under-perform in college all the time. Coaches like video because they can see the raw product they’ll have to work with, and then can estimate how much they’ll be able to develop the player.

Video is game simulation. It’s not as good as a live game, but it’s close. And that slight reduction in quality is worth the convenience — a coach can evaluate your kid from the comfort of his own home. And, it’s cheaper for the school. Traveling cross-country can be risky for coaches because they may spend a heap of money flying out to see a player only to be disappointed with the performance.

Instead, they can virtually watch you play and determine if it’s worth the money and time to verify your skill in person. At that point, flying out to see you is almost a formality.

The more video you send, the more credibility you gain. There’s a huge difference between a coach seeing 2 videos of your kid and 20 videos of your kid.

2 videos say, “are you interested?” — 20 videos say, “here’s my value, over and over again.”

Now you’re playing a game of value…not a game of luck.

Use these three methods to reduce your reliance on luck in the recruiting process.

If you’re mad that a coach is looking at his phone while your daughter is up to bat, that’s not the coach’s fault…it’s yours.

If he knew about your daughter beforehand, and knew that she might be valuable to him, he would not be looking at his phone. He would be laser-focused on her.

If you’re hoping a coach happens to walk by your son’s field at the same time he comes up to bat and hits a double at a tournament with 12 fields and 500 players, you’ve already lost the recruiting game.

What are the odds that this happens? Good enough to throw some money down in Vegas?

Instead, you have to establish a direct connection with college coaches so that when those coaches show up to your tournaments, you know they’re there to watch YOUR kid. When your kid comes up to bat, the coach isn’t watching little, random Johnny in left field…he’s watching your son.

Why?

Because you’ve already established a direct connection with him, and showed him you’re valuable. You’re worth the effort, time, and money to recruit, even if you’re buried in a sea of hundreds of players.

I’ll end with a cutesy phrase that’s anything but cute: you want your emails to be an oasis of value in a desert of hype.

While other players are pedaling as hard as they can trying to gain the attention of college coaches, I want you to calmly flip the recruiting process over — and look at it from a completely different angle.

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