Friday, January 8, 2010

Where Do You Want To Go To School?

RT Staff Note: The following is from the Baseball Factory Blog and Ron Naddleman. Naddelman is a former two-time All Ivy League Third Baseman at the University of Pennsylvania, where he competed in a College World Series Regional. He has served as the President of Baseball Factory for the past 13 years, and also is the Executive Director of Baseball Factory's charitable arm The B.A.S.E. - H.I.T. Foundation. Naddelman and Steve Sclafani (CEO) have been featured in Business Week and CNN for their work in building Baseball Factory into the nation's leader in player development and college placement.

Rob Naddelman: Through a Parent’s Eyes

The above question is one that I, or our Exclusive Program Senior Vice President Kelly Kulina, often pose whenever we get a chance to sit down with a Baseball Factory player at one of our Player Development events. By far the most popular answer that we have received over the past 13 years is, “Anywhere I can play baseball.”

That answer sounds good on paper, but usually it is far from the truth. My response when I hear this answer from a player is usually something like this:

Me: OK, let’s say that the head coach from Minot State in South Dakota really wants you to play for him, are you ready to go to South Dakota for your college experience?

When posed with that circumstance, most of our players say something like this:

Player 1: No way, I would never want to go to a school that small. Or…
Player 2: I want to go play down South where it’s warm. Or…
Player 3: I don’t want to have to get on a plane to go to school. I want to be a car ride away from home. Or even…
Player 4: South Dakota is not far away enough for me. I want to get as far away from my parents as possible. (This one tends to sting a bit for mom and dad who are usually sitting next to their son)

I use these examples to illustrate that there are a lot of factors to consider when making a college decision and very rarely does the decision only come down to, “where I can play baseball.”

As a parent, the key is to try and get your son thinking and see what it is that he likes or doesn’t like about a particular college. I understand that when you are dealing with 16-18 year old young men, it can be difficult to muster up more than a one word answer or a grunt when asked about their future. I have had the following conversation many times as well with our players:

Me: “So, do you want to go to a school in a city?”

Player: “I don’t know.” (As player looks down at the ground and bites his nails).

Me: “Do you like a big campus, or a small campus?”

Player: “Uh, whatever.” (As player shifts in his seat and glances at his cell phone for a text message)

Me: “How far away from home do you want to be?”

Player: “Doesn’t matter.”

I have seen on-looking parents cringe when their sons give responses like the ones I outlined above. Most parents feel the urge to want to jump in and start answering the questions to prove that they are good parents and have not raised a Neanderthal.

Parents need to try and fight this urge and instead, use these examples as an opportunity to get proactive in the college search process. Sometimes the best way to find out what a player likes about a college is to first find out what he doesn’t like. The key is to see as many schools as possible and to start to form opinions. Even if your son is convinced that he wants to go as far away from home as possible (as an aside…usually, our kids talk a good game, but when it comes down to making this decision, they prefer to be closer than further to home), you should still start with the schools that are within a two to three hour radius from your house. Chances are there are many NCAA DI, DII, DIII, Junior Colleges or NAIA programs in that geographic area, so you will see a good cross-section of options. This will help him form opinions on schools with 25,000 people vs. 2,500 people; schools in an urban setting vs. a rural setting; schools with on-campus housing vs. off-campus housing, etc.

Moms and Dads should throw as many questions as possible to their sons when they are on these visits. What do you think of this campus? How do you think you would do with these classroom sizes? One parent can ask the questions, and the other can write down the answers so that nobody forgets the first impression, which is usually the strongest and most accurate. As a family, you can then apply what your son does like about a school that is close to home and compare it to schools outside your geographic area. For instance, if you live in Maryland and your son thinks University of MD, College Park is too big; he probably will feel the same way about UCLA, University of Texas, and the University of Michigan. Even though those schools have great baseball programs, they may not be the right fit for him.

And remember, players at any age are allowed to take as many unofficial visits to colleges as they like. An unofficial visit is when the college program covers no player expenses for travel. The sophomore year in high school is a very good time to start taking these unofficial visits.

So get out there, see some schools, and help your son form some real opinions on what is important to his future. It is hard for them to know what they like until they can see it with their own eyes.

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