Blog

Recruiting Impacts & Updates Part 2: NCAA Dead Period Tips & Tactics for Baseball Recruiting

March 22, 2020

 

Welcome back for Part 2! Different topic, but same idea of giving ballplayers what they need to adjust to this time in their recruiting. Today we’ll address what you can do over the next few months to continue to stay on top of your recruiting, even during this new NCAA Dead Period, including coach communication, building your list of target college programs, updating your video, and then academic and baseball-specific preparation over the coming months.

The first and most important bullet point here (and one which is beyond my pay grade, and for which we look to other experts for guidance): stay healthy. Do all the things that you’re hearing about – wash your hands a lot, practice social distancing, etc. to protect yourself and those around you.

Now, to what is much more our area of expertise – what you can do as a student-athlete to advance your recruiting. The key phrases that frame up the bulk of these takeaways are “effective communication” and “be proactive”. With the disruption around coronavirus – cancelled spring sports seasons, remote classroom learning for many schools, capacities on events and gatherings – it can be very tempting and easy to fall into a waiting period. It feels like this is a pause on your normal, day-to-day life because it is an interruption – but it is critical that you don’t just put your recruiting on pause during this time! There is still a lot that you can and should do right now to keep making strides and to stay ahead of your recruiting process.

 

Build Your College List

School research and building your target list is a crucial early step as you set the sights in your recruiting, and right now is a great time to do some research and build out your list of target schools and baseball programs.

When we talk about building a school list, a natural first place for student-athletes to start is by listing the name of schools – but we actually advise that you start one step further up the ladder, and begin with the individual qualities that you’re looking for in a school. Focusing on the names of schools tends to draw student-athletes that we’ve worked with towards labels – like Division 1, Ivy League, etc. – rather than towards the schools that can prove to be the best overall and holistic fit.

The college selection and recruiting process has been driven by this kind of thinking for years, built around powerfully-branded labels. Especially in athletics, there’s a tendency to think of groups of schools by the division, league or conference they’re in – Division 1, ACC, SEC, Ivy League, etc. – which often downplays the spread of these schools geographically, academically and in the college experience they offer. Saying that you like “Ivy League schools” says that you are equally considering a small, rural school with 4000 students on the rural border between New Hampshire and Vermont (Dartmouth), a half-public university of 15,000 undergrads in upstate New York (Cornell) and mid-size schools of around 6000 undergrads in the heart of Manhattan and Cambridge (Columbia and Harvard, respectively).

The name of the conference or the name on the plaque at the front of campus doesn’t impact your experience in college like the qualities do: the size, location, academic focus, if it’s in versus outside a city, and more. We encourage prospective student-athletes to start building the list of qualities that they’re looking for in a college, and then use this as a filter for specific schools.

Use this time during the Dead Period to think critically about what the qualities are that would best set you up for success in your college experience, and then with an open mind, search for schools that fit this overall profile.

 

Build Your Online Profile & Email Coaches

Even though it’s an NCAA Dead Period, as we discussed in Part 1, coaches are still able to correspond with student-athletes – and it is crucial during this time to do so. Once you’ve outlined in broad strokes some of the best-fit schools for you, start on proactive communication with these coaching staffs.

Update your online profile – and if you don’t have one, make one! Head over to SportsRecruits to create your free profile so that you can host all your information in one place to make your communication with college coaches more efficient and streamlined. Input your contact info, upload your transcript and test scores and upload video that you have of yourself so that it can all live right there in one place for coaches to use. More about video and how to use it below.

When you have your profile built out, start sending some emails to the programs and coaching staffs on your list. Since they’re used to being in-season and very busy during this time of year, coaches are going to have time on their hands for the types of communications and office work that during a typical season just wouldn’t be at the top of their list. Use this to your advantage when possible: fill out their recruiting questionnaires and start your email communication with them.

Head to the baseball website for your target programs, and most of them will have some kind of recruiting form or questionnaire for prospective student-athletes – fill this out so that your information makes it into their system for communication about their prospect camps and recruiting events.

Once you’ve done that, you can email some of those schools that you’re interested in, as well. A few tips on your emails to coaches:

  1. Create a dedicated recruiting inbox to house all of this in one place – and have the email address be appropriate and include your name as much as possible. While that old account you’ve been using since 6th grade “redsoxRULE6789@yahoo.com” will work for personal use, for this, stick to something like “maxmckenna2022” for your username. Also in this vein: this can and should be an account that you as a student-athlete are in charge of, and all these emails come from you (can’t emphasize that point enough – student-athletes should write these emails!), but where parents can help support here is by also having shared access to this account. In 2020, though adults are used to checking email on a regular basis, some kids are not – so having access to this account can help parents support their ballplayers in their coach communication.
  2. Personalize. Include the right coach’s name! The emails that start out “Dear Coach,” have a much greater chance of finding their way immediately into the Trash folder. Do some research on the school and program and include some unique and personalized points about the school. If you think that Babson’s focus on entrepreneurship is what makes the school the perfect fit for you, say that – and show that you’ve done some research on the school and that academic program, as well.
    Demonstrating interest through these emails is absolutely crucial, and comes down to two key points: research and curiosity. With your note to coaches, show that you’ve researched and educated yourself about what you can find directly and easily on the school’s website, but also that you’re curious about some of the stuff that you can’t simply find online. For example: you’re interested in Middlebury’s foreign language program, and have researched the coursework necessary to complete the major – but are there any unique challenges for completing this major while I’m in-season with the baseball team, given that it requires studying abroad?
  3. Consolidate for efficiency. This is where that online SportsRecruits profile can really pay off. Rather than sending a coach an email with four different attachments (with transcripts, test scores), two different YouTube links to your video, etc. use an online landing page to consolidate all your information in one place. Then you can include some basic information in the email and link directly to all the most up-to-date information – including transcript, contact info, video, travel coach information – all in one place for coaches to easily find. They have access to it all in one place, and you only have to update any changes in a single location.
  4. PROOFREAD! You’re going to be sending personalized emails to at least a handful of the schools you’re interested in, so make sure that you’re sending the right email to the right coach! This seems basic, but we hear it from coaches every year that they get emails addressed to the wrong coach or about the wrong school. As I said, student-athletes should be writing these emails themselves, but parents can be hugely helpful in being a second set of eyes for spelling, grammar, and in making sure the right emails go to the right coaches! Editing is important – but keep in mind that coaches are going to be able to pretty quickly tell the difference between an email written by a 16 year-old prospective student-athlete and one written by a practicing lawyer (ahem – mom and dad).

 

Update Your Recruiting Video

Even if your high school season is cancelled, this can still be a great time to capture updated video for your online profile, all while still following the proper precautions for public health and safety.

Below this post, we’ve included a cheat sheet for what to include on this video – please take a look if you have questions about what to include and how to tailor your video. For example, if you’re a speed demon, there are ways that you can personalize and tailor what’s on your video to highlight your unique tools, and same if you’re a monster power hitter. Use this video to highlight yourself as a player – and while most of the video can be pretty formulaic, you can use parts of it to highlight your play specifically.

 

Stay On Top of Your Academics!

With a lot of schools moving to remote learning, I’m sure that student-athletes are tempted to view this as an extended spring break. But you’re still going to get grades this spring, and they’re still going to matter on the transcript that you submit to admissions offices, so it’s not the time to take your foot off the gas in the (now virtual) classroom!

Adults who are suddenly working remotely nationwide have issues with transitioning to working from home and are struggling to adapt – and so will student-athletes. Setting up a routine for yourself to follow can help you establish good remote-learning habits.

Also, because so many companies right now are moving to telework whenever possible, there are some new and incredible resources on how to manage this new paradigm effectively. Though these are written specifically for working professionals, they can also be useful to students. We’ve included a short list of some of these articles and resources at the bottom of this post – feel free to check those out if you’re struggling with this. (For most of these, just substitute “boss”, “manager” and “colleague” for “teacher” and “classmates”)

We know that recent rounds of standardized testing have also been cancelled – reschedule if your SAT/ACT date was cancelled and use the extra time to prepare. It’s proven that access to studying and prep-test resources help you when the actual test comes around, so use this time and these resources to your advantage.

Our friends (and former Honor Roll alumni parent!) over at Compass Test Prep are a great resource for those looking for support, and offer both in-person and remote tutoring.

 

Keep Working, Practicing & Getting Better

Even though your season may be cancelled, this is not time to take a few weeks or months off from baseball! Use this time to work on your game – strength and physical development, fundamentals, lessons, etc. If you’re a hitter, focus on your tee and soft-toss work, and if you safely have access to an open hitting tunnel, front toss and BP. Get to an available field to take some fungoes – if you don’t have access to a field or need to better self-isolate for health reasons, find a wall and a tennis ball to work backhand technique, or study and refine your outfield footwork in your living room.

The tough part about this time is that you won’t have the same opportunity for competition that you usually would have during this period. To stay in baseball shape, you have to replace this and continue to develop by challenging yourself in drillwork as best you can, and by trying to make your reps as gamelike as possible, which is a challenge. If you can “gamify” your reps to add pressure, do so. When you’re doing front toss, don’t just work for the “showcase” reps where you’re pummeling the back of the tunnel, but have your partner spin some unexpected simulated offspeed pitches.

 

Key Takeaway: Remember – the key words for student-athletes right now are “communication” and “proactivity”. We want to make sure that you have the tools and information that you need to continue to advance your recruiting and a key piece of that is making sure that you’re continuing to make strides. Don’t pause, keep moving.

On Part 3, we’ll discuss some of the potential recruiting impacts of NCAA decisions regarding eligibility, and what they can mean for you in your college selection and recruiting process.

As always, if you have any questions about today’s tips and tactics, please feel free to reach out to us directly via email (showcase@headfirst.com) or phone at (202) 715-6654.

 

Resources on remote work habits:

LinkedIn Learning: New to Working Remotely? These Resources Can Help

The Next Web: 7 Habits of Exceptionally Successful Remote Employees (you can skip to the bottom for the tactics and strategies)

Doist: So You’ve Been Told to Work From Home. Now What?

Remote Work Summit: Ultimate List of Resources for Remote Work

 

Recruiting Video Outline:

Create a two-minute video of isolated practice reps – this is the “showcase” portion of your video and upload it to your online profile. This video should not be longer than 3-4 minutes.

  • Say your name, age and school in front of the camera. Speak clearly and look the camera in the eye.
  • Hitter: 15 swings in the cage (10 from open camera angle – i.e. from the left handed batters box if you’re a righty, 3 from behind hitter and two from behind the screen).
  • Infielder: 12 groundballs – 4 at you, 3 backhand, 3 forehand and 2 slow rollers. Combination of throwing to 1B and “turning two.” For first basemen, combination of throwing to 2B, throwing home and one or two throws across the diamond to 3B.
  • Outfielder: 5 fly balls (get behind the ball, throw to 3B and home) and 4 groundballs (2 at you, 1 forehand/spin into a reverse pivot, 1 backhand) with throws.
  • Catcher: Have someone video you from the front while receiving 5 balls from a bullpen session. Make 5 throws to 2B (two with camera right behind catcher, 3 with camera zoomed in on catcher and behind 2B so viewer can time the throw). Block 3 balls in the dirt and make 2 throws to 2B and 1 to 3B. This should all be done on regulation bases.
  • Pitchers: Capture 20 pitch bullpen. Throw 5 of each of your pitches, indicating before each one which pitch is coming. Camera should be behind pitcher, offset to arm side for 15. Five filmed from behind catcher/backstop.
  • Include your email, graduation year and name on-screen at the end of the video.

You also should customize your video to uniquely highlight your particular strengths as a player. For example, if your speed is one of your best tools, then your video should demonstrate that, while if you’re a power hitter, how you film your video should show that.

To highlight your specific strengths, follow one (or more) of the additional outlines below.

The Speed Tool –

  • List your 60-yd. dash time in your email
  • Film and send footage of you running a 60 on a football field – goal line to opposite 40-yard line is easiest for coaches to see and track
  • Include in-game video of your home-to-first

The Power Tool –

  • List your batted ball exit velocity in your email
  • Include video of batted ball exit velocity recording with radar in the video
  • Include video of 6-8 BP swings from behind home plate to show ball flight (up from the usual 3)
  • Include 4-5 game swings in your video

The Arm Tool –

  • List your overhand throwing velocity in your email
  • Outfielders – do your defensive skills video from right field, featuring throws to both third base and home plate. For these throws, film them from a few different angles, including behind the base (e.g. in the third base coach box) and behind your position (e.g. from behind you in right field, capturing the entire arc of the throw to either 3B or the plate)
  • Infielders – in your skills video from your infield position, capture your throws from a number of different angles, including behind the first base bag