Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Synergy Day 4...The Role of the High School Coach

There have been many discussions on various national and regional message boards about the role of the high school coach when it comes to promoting players to the next level. So over the past several years, we have heard just about every argument and opinion, good and bad. Everyone seems to have a personal story, some of them extremely touching and some not, about an experience they had with a high school coach. Therefore, everyone seems to have an opinion about what the HS coaches role should be...so do we.

In our opinion, the role of the high school coach is to coach...period.

Now, let's define the term "coach". High schools coaches see their players nearly every day of the school year...depending on their status at that school. By that, we mean many head coaches are also teachers. So those coaches influence on their players are in many cases, a bit more involved. Despite the restrictions many state High School associations have on off-season practices, a full time teacher/coach will encourage his players to buckle down in school, practice on their own, and open up the facilities for off-season conditioning.

During the season, the role of the coach is dedicated to molding his players into fundamentally sound, disciplined, smart, competitive ball players. His job is to make sure that those players taking the field are the nine best players he has seen in action at that point. Those nine can and probably will change throughout the season because good high school coaches will always create that kind of competitive atmosphere. And, no matter what combination of nine players are on that field, they will be the most competitive nine at that given time.

That's what high school baseball is all about. High School coaches are a huge influence in the development of baseball players and the better coaches take this role very seriously. This is a full time job that is not only emotionally draining, but these decisions often come with the baggage of over-zealous parents and other critics as well.

So with that in mind, we do not think his role should be that of recruiting facilitator on top of all of the aforementioned duties. It doesn't mean he is not a part of the process...he is, but just in a reduced role...more later...This is usually where the critics seem to disagree. If this question was asked 25 years ago, we would have said, sure...the high school coach should be involved. Today however, the rules of the recruiting game have changed.

The high school season is not a time when college recruiters can realistically observe players. Most college recruiters are assistant coaches and are too busy with their own schedules to find the time to go see a high school game. There are exceptions in areas like Houston, the North Carolina Research Triangle area, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose area where their are 6 or more D-1 schools within an hours drive. Even then, unless it's a big time tourney like Southern California's Phil Nevin Classic or Florida's Lincoln National Spring Break Invitational, which features a multitude of potential recruits, it isn't cost effective for a recruiter to take the time away from his own teams duties to go see one or two players.

Therefore, the job of recruiting coordinator falls upon the families themselves, with a boost from their travel/select baseball organizations. Families must remember, if baseball wasn't in the picture, the application process would be 100% on the student. The same should apply WITH baseball in mind.

That doesn't mean that parents shouldn't seek out additional help...For instance, many good showcase or travel teams have great databases of college recruiters e-mails and snail mail addresses available. Players and their parents should also ask the travel team coaches to help assist them with the proper format for a profile sheet. Many of the top travel programs, like the teams we profiled in our "Top 5" list last month, will even send out material for their players prior to a big showcase and while at the tourney, do a little tub-thumping on behalf of their players.

However, student/athletes still need to send out their own letters and e-mails to every school on their wish list. A player must take that initiative...if for no other reason, to show the coaches that he has a vested interest in the recruitment process.

Now, here's where the high school coach comes back into play...and where our article last week needs to be taken seriously by both the HS and travel coaches... If a college recruiter has an interest in a player, there are two references he WILL phone or e-mail. One is the travel coach...the other is the High School Coach. A good travel teams M-O is to get their players placed, so that phone call is a no-brainer.

The unknown in many cases is the reaction of the high school coach. It's not his fault...he didn't see his player play in the summer showcases...But, he should either seek out or be given that information...For instance, a player may not have had a great High School season, but really showed his mettle during the summer against better competition that really impressed a college recruiter.

Depending on the High School League, some top players actually under perform at the plate during the HS season because they are ahead of or are over swinging at the slower and inconsistent pitching. The opposite also occurs, where a player may hit his stride and be MVP of his High School team, but can't come close to catching up with the faster, more controlled pitching of the travel tourneys.

So, in our opinion, the role of the high school coach is to follow-up with the travel team coaches to get assessments of his players progress. A high school coach must know that the high school season is half of that players time on a field. He needs to know about the other half or summer season as well, so when he gets that phone call from a college recruiter about one of his players, he can base that particular players assessments based on all of the facts...or at least give the college recruiter an idea of his players progression.

A High School Coach should never say a player is not ready for the next level based on half of that players season...especially when that recruiter saw him play in the summer and the HS coach did not...and evidently that has happened on occasion, based on e-mails we have received.

Bottom line...A college recruiter wouldn't even waste his time calling a High School Coach if that recruiter didn't see something positive in that particular player. These guys know what to look for and know what they want. At the very least a high school coach should talk about potential or that players projectablity if he doesn't want to talk to travel coaches for whatever reason. But, we feel that it is in the best interest of all parties for all coaches to know all of the facts before they say anything to a recruiter.

And, likewise, we also feel that it is equally the responsibility of the travel organization to help break the ice and call the high school coaches and give them an assessment of their players progress and interest from colleges throughout the summer. And, as our last "Synergy" article suggested, this contact between the two should happen before the summer season starts as well. Once that is done...then hopefully it will become an annual ritual...all for the betterment of the player and baseball in general.

RT Staff

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