Monday, May 24, 2010

College Preparatory Should Extend to Sports Too!

Part of the quest for a high school to become a College Preparatory School does not stop with the academic curriculum. Sports can also be College Prep. For instance, many of the top high school baseball programs model their work-outs the way that a Major League club would run their practices. That may seem like an obvious strategy, but believe me, the majority of public and some private school baseball programs are a complete joke. Many coaches just don't understand the bigger picture like some of the top baseball schools do.

There are programs like Brophy Prep(AZ), Bishop Gorman (NV), Owasso(OK) and Moody High School (TX) that are True College Preparatory Baseball Programs. It's that way, because many of these schools have coaches that are former major league scouts and players that understand what it takes to become a player at the next level. They have a focus to help players achieve their dreams to play at the next level. The players that participate in these programs take baseball seriously and have aspirations to play at the next level. But, none of this will come to fruition if the coaching acumen, alumni and administration support is not there.

In a College Prep (CP) atmosphere, the intention is to prepare a student in all aspects of the collegiate experience. A great CP applies the most advanced learning theories and technology that in turn provides a strong learning environment. Good CP's form partnerships with art and cultural organizations, universities, businesses and community groups to give students a breadth of experiences. The mission should be to help students build knowledge, appreciation and understanding of the community and the larger world. Sports is a huge part of that larger world and partnerships with universities, off-season college development programs, trainers, instructors, etc. is all part of the total breadth of the sports experience.

A few years back, my son was invited to an Arizona State Top 50 baseball camp. The guest speaker was Scott Boras. Mr. Boras is considered the worlds best Sports agent and his story is a big part of why I feel this affinity towards the importance of being a student athlete.

Scott Boras, Scott Boras Corp, is a former second baseman and center fielder who played in the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals organizations. After four years in the minor leagues, during which he never made it above Class AA, he retired due to three knee surgeries. The Cubs paid for him to attend law school at the University of the Pacific. He also holds a doctorate in industrial pharmacology, and during his law career, he specialized in medical litigation.

He graduated with honors and was recruited by many of the top law firms in the country. Each interview, he would walk into, he was focused on touting his multiple degrees and honors...and in each interview, the first half of the conversation was ALWAYS about his experience with the Cubs and Cardinals.

His speech at Arizona State University was focused on the advantages that Student Athletes have and that doors open wider for those that excel in both. As proud as he was of his Law degree and his firms from New York, DC and Chicago were more interested in his days playing baseball. While he practiced at a Chicago law firm for a few years, he never forgot how it was the discipline of baseball that helped him get a degree, achieve his dreams and open doors for him that he never thought possible.

Today, Scott Boras runs the Scott Boras Corporation, where he employs former major leaguers as scouts in Asia and Latin America. He has continued to negotiate deals for many of Major League Baseball's high-profile players in recent years, including Barry Zito and Alex Rodriguez; Rodriguez's deal, for $252 million over 10 years, is still the most expensive contract in U.S. professional sports.

I say all of this, because it is so important that high schools maintain that College Prep approach to baseball and in a high schools sports program in general. Being a student athlete is an advantage in many cases. Yet, with budget cuts and states running out of money, school districts are unwisely thinking about cutting sports programs and that is wrong. Sports can and has provided a stepping stone to a college eductation and this needs to be nurtured in schools, not diminished.

There are specific steps and strategies that must be taken to achieve the consistency and greatness needed to play at the next level. And that strategy goes beyond the high school season. For instance, after the collegiate season is over, college baseball players are assigned to summer collegiate leagues from Alaska to the Cape Cod League.

The same should be the standard for high school sports. For the true, talented student athlete, the sport doesn't end with the high school season. Each coach should be tuned into to the many elite travel teams and leagues to further develop that athlete and compete against a stronger and more competitive schedule. Many of these off-season leagues are intended to help that athlete gain exposure to college scouts and recruiters as well.

Many recruiters can't see athletes during the prospects high school season because the high school and college season coincide with each other. They are drawn to off-season showcases to view the plethora of talent available to them at one big event. It's an economy of scale that is the norm in collegiate sports today due to tighter budget restraints. Gone are the days when the coach would show up at the door of a recruit and have a talk with the family at the dining room table.

A coach at any sport in high school should be an expert at the recruiting game. They should understand the talents and the level that each of his athletes is capable of. Not every student athlete is qualified to play at the next level, just as every student is not qualified to get accepted into an Ivy League school...but the benefits of running a program that is designed to mirror a collegiate program benefits everyone.

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