Written by Ryan Nordquist, Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, Davis and Elkins College.
I spend a lot of time around parents of high school athletes looking to go to the next level. I also had the chance to coach American Legion Baseball for 4 years before getting into coaching at the collegiate level. This experience allows me the chance to see things from the other side of the recruiting process. During my conversations, without fail, I am often asked the big question: "What makes my kid a recruitable athlete?"
This is the first part of a series that I feel will help parents and prospective student athletes gain a better understanding of the recruiting process. The goal here is to also answer some they may have but are sometimes afraid to ask. I also would like to note that the insight provided is from my perspective and is in no way a concrete standard to every college program's recruiting process. My goal is to touch on key points that I have come across in discussions with other coaches, parents, and players.
Parents are always asking and seeking things with the best intentions for their son, however not all parents have a realistic sense of what it takes for their athlete play at the collegiate level. Oftentimes they are not to blame, they simply have not been educated about the recruiting process. Many parents and athletes assume that if they have superior athletic ability, they will get a "full ride" and play college baseball. While having the talent to play in college will certainly put an athlete in a great position to be recruited, there are more qualities coaches are looking for.
Simply stated, you are a student-athlete. This means that while in college, you are pursuing a degree while having the opportunity to play baseball at a high level. Being a student-athlete means understanding the importance of discipline in the classroom and the reciprocal image it creates of you on the field. Below are three key essentials to becoming an academically recruitable athlete.
While this should be obvious, some parents and athletes are blind to the real meaning of a student-athlete. Before being able to take the field as a college athlete, you have to be accepted to the institution as a student. In terms of college acceptance, this varies depending on the institution and many times the primary deciding factor for acceptance is meeting the institution's GPA requirement.
After being accepted, a student-athlete will then be required to submit their high school transcripts to determine if they have met the core course requirements to play an NCAA sport. At this point, many parents and athletes are misinformed or uneducated about the recruiting process. At the Division I and II level, students have to have completed AND carry a certain minimum grade point average in the core courses that are required for NCAA eligibility.
High Schools will submit a list of the classes that qualify under these criteria and can be further discussed with a guidance counselor to see if a student-athlete is taking the right classes. You can also view a compiled database of core courses that are approved on the NCAA Core Course Eligibility Portal.
A student's ACT and/or SAT score is almost equally important as their GPA. When choosing schools to apply to, be sure to research which test scores the institution looks at to determine admission. Some require one or the other, while other colleges may accept both as part of the admission process. But the one thing that remains consistent from school to school is that the higher your scores, the easier the admissions process will be.
Like any test a student would take, preparation is very important. It would be foolish to expect a 31 ACT score after putting in minimal work to prepare for test day. Attached here is a direct link to both the ACT and SAT websites. They serve to provide information regarding upcoming test dates, registration, as well as practice tests/questions.
The most important thing a student-athlete can do is have a strong sense of initiative and discipline to get things done. Studies have shown that more students miss out on playing NCAA sports because they did not take the required courses than those who lack test scores. Any coach would agree that your accountability as a student will create a direct reflection of your dependability as an athlete. If a student-athlete is serious about playing college athletics the best way to prepare is to not only complete required core courses, but to earn grades that make them recruitable.
It is important that parents are proactive in this process as well. Create a positive environment at home where there is a clear understanding of the incentive to good academics. With that incentive being the opportunity to play college athletics. It is not a high school coach or athletic director's sole responsibility to make sure your son gets recruited to play college baseball. It should go without being said that as parents, you should be asking the proper questions and seeking the appropriate resources to help put your child in the best position possible to be recruited.
Below is a "to do" list to help with academic recruiting process:
About Coach Nordquist:
Currently serving as assistant Baseball Coach and recruiting coordinator at Davis & Elkins College. Previously, I spent 6 years at Baldwin Wallace University. Four years as a student-athlete and two as an assistant coach. During my time as an assistant, we were fortunate enough to win the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship in 2014. Prior to becoming a college baseball coach, I coached American Legion Baseball for my alma mater Alliance High School in my hometown of Alliance, Ohio for four seasons.
Looking to receive instruction from college coaches? Go to www.nordquistcamps.com today to get registered for Nordquist Camps event. This is a great opportunity for student-athletes of all ages that are looking to play baseball at the next level.
Upcoming Nordquist Camps Event Schedule:
August 12-15 (Alliance, Ohio)
Youth Camp of Champs and All Star Game
August 16 (Alliance, Ohio)
Northeast Ohio High School Showcase Camp
2016-2019 High School Graduates
For more information regarding baseball or camps (registration, discounts, etc.), follow Ryan on twitter at @CoachNordquist or email NordquistCamps@gmail.com
While this website and blog primarily focuses on pitching, this post by Kurt Davidson is a must read for both pitchers and hitters. Kurt is currently the Hitting Coach at Walsh University. He played at the University of Akron and he finished his career at Akron as the leader in several statistical categories, including home runs (41), RBIs (180), at bats (807) and total bases (430). He is also second in career hits (253), and third in career doubles (52). He remains tied for second on the all-time single season list for home runs with 12, a feat he managed to accomplish twice in his career as both a sophomore and senior.
The question I get asked all the time is,” What does it take to be an Elite Hitter?” While the obvious answer is a great swing and unbelievable hand /eye coordination, there are many other things that go into being an elite hitter. Hitting is the single hardest thing to do in all of sports. An inner drive to succeed in spite of such a low success rate and a work ethic unlike any other is a must to be an elite hitter. It is not something that you can just pick up a bat and be a great hitter. There are several areas that I will discuss below that are very important to contribute to ascending to elite status.
Be a student of the game.
This is an area that separates the good from the elite. Studying the game is something anyone can do if are you willing to invest the time. This is a controllable event that can easily improve performance. This can make the difference of being average to good or good to elite. An elite student of the game will see things that others don’t. An elite hitter will look for every advantage in a battle between the pitcher and himself. There are times where a pitcher has stuff that is downright nasty. What is a hitter to do when they face that pitcher? Give up? NEVER.
The Art of Recognition: Pitchers Tipping Pitches
A great hitter will never give up and chalk his at bats to the pitcher being better than him. This is where an elite hitter will try and find every advantage possible. One of the advantages that can be ascertained from studying the game is the art of recognizing pitchers tipping their pitches. This “art of recognition” is where a good hitter can go to a different level. There are many ways that pitchers tip pitches that they don’t even know or have never even thought about. I will cover the most common ways a pitcher tips their pitches.
1. Index Finger Popping – When a pitcher has their index finger outside of the glove with no index finger sleeve on the glove a hitter drools over this. When glove companies started making the index sleeve hitters started to lose an advantage. When the index finger is exposed on the glove I can almost guarantee the pitcher tips his pitches. How the pitcher does this is very subtle to the average person. What happens is the pitcher will pop his finger on and off the glove. This is normally a fastball when this happens. Many pitchers will leave the index finger flexed or press against the Glove on breaking ball. The pitcher presses harder against the glove to get extra pressure for their breaking ball.
2. Fanning of the Glove – One of the hardest pitches to hit in Baseball is a Good change-up. Josh Collmenter of the Diamondback had the best change-ups I’ve ever seen. Josh was a very smart pitcher and started with a change up grip that way he didn’t fan his glove. Fanning of the glove is widening of the glove to be able to get the grip of the circle or straight change. The glove normally isn’t wide enough to the whole hand in the glove, so when they go to throw a change-up they widen their glove. I can’t tell you how many times this saved me, as a good change up is almost impossible to hit.
3. Hand Position in the Glove -The hand in the glove at times will let a hitter know what is coming. If you look at how the hand is in the glove on the fastball out of the stretch it normally is at a 45 Degree Angle. Every pitcher is different in this, however they all are very similar. On a change-up the palm of the hand will be closest to the glove. On breaking ball the palm will be the furthest from the glove because they will be trying to make sure to get on top of the baseball. Check out how Matt Moore of the Ray’s tipped his pitches by watching this video.
4. Hand Positioning Outside of the Glove – This is one of the tougher ones to pick up. What will happen from time to time is that a pitcher will come set with his glove at a certain height. Then when they change to a different pitch they come set at a different height with the glove. As a hitter we will know what is coming based on where they come set. This isn’t as common but it does happen from time to time. Baseball Tonight had a segment on this the other night with a Carlos Carrasco. Read more about this story here.
While I didn’t go into all the tricks that Hitters have, I hope that the two techniques I did go into (studying the game and the art of tipping pitches) will help you as player continue your development. These little things are some techniques that helped to make me a 3x All MAC Selection and career leader in homeruns and RBI’s at The University of Akron.
Many of you have seen that the University of Akron will no longer have a baseball program. I can only hope that when things with the University of Akron’s financial issues are resolved that they will reinstate the baseball program.
Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.