LeagueApps Director of Partnerships Paul Cusick has experienced the recruiting process from every side: He was Ivy League Pitcher of the Year in 2011 and team captain at The University of Pennsylvania; played professionally for the Phillies; then worked as a scout for the World Champion Houston Astros, guiding hundreds of students through college recruiting and the MLB Amateur Draft.
Here’s Paul’s best advice to young players on the college recruiting process:
Picture What You Want Out of Your College Experience:
The recruiting process can be really daunting and confusing – it’s a lot of information and emotion. My dad did a great job asking me what I wanted out of my college experience. When I blocked out all the noise, the answer was clear. I cared about the value of my degree and I wanted to go somewhere where I could play.
Go Where You’re Going to Be Able to Play:
Don’t go to school to sit the bench, unless you are doing it with your eyes wide open:
If your dream is to play football at Alabama and you want to be on that team so badly that you’re ok not getting much time on the field, then weigh that. But if your goal is to play and to become the best player you can possibly be, look at schools that will give you that opportunity.
Having seen this process from many sides, I always advise players: go where you’re going to be able to play — even where you’ll be able to play early on. It’s going to be a much better experience. Coaches will invest more time in you.
Consider Factors Like Distance and Climate:
I grew up in Delaware, my whole family was in the Philly area. I was used to having that support and realized I really wanted my family to be able to see me play in college too. This is part of the reason I chose UPenn. I had the most fans at every game, which I loved.
It’s also important to think about the climate. It’s tough to pitch in cold climates, so I didn’t want to go further north. If you’re happier or healthier playing in warm weather, you might want to check out schools in more temperate climates.
Safety, Realistic, Stretch:
Be realistic about your athletic and academic abilities. Don’t sell yourself short academically or athletically, but also don’t waste your time and resources on schools you can’t get into or would never let you play. I personally separated my list out into three categories when I was going through the process and always advise doing the same. The three categories I used were Safety/Realistic/Stretch. Put schools into these categories from both an athletic and academic standpoint, with your dream schools typically showing up in the Stretch/Stretch category for athletics/academics.
Stay Healthy, Stay Eligible:
Scouts and coaches can’t see you if you’re not playing. Take care of your body, get plenty of rest, don’t over-do it. Almost as important as staying healthy is staying eligible, if you aren’t playing for your high school team, because you’re not making your grades then scouts can’t see you. I saw this in MLB recruiting too. There were guys who were consensus first round picks for the MLB and would fall to third or fifth round — they’d lose out on millions of dollars because they weren’t able to stay eligible. Maybe they went to a stretch school that was too academically challenging for them – that’s bad for college coaches – it reflects poorly on them if they aren’t able to keep their players eligible.
Get In Front of Schools Early and Often:
Don’t be shy. Send emails, share your recruiting profiles, and set up in-person meetings. These can all be effective ways to get your information in front of coaches, but the best way to get seen or interact with your top targets is to attend their camps. Almost every school in the country hosts several 2-3 day camps throughout the year. They typically have all of their coaches in attendance, as well as coaches from other schools in the area. And don’t feel discouraged if you have an off-week in front of a school you love. Recruiters are so busy, they only remember the stand-outs. Show up again at the school’s next camp and try to make an impression the next time.
Move On If You’re Not Getting Interest:
One of the things that surprised me most about the process was how quickly things moved. Coaches do not waste time when they decide they are interested in a player. They want to lock up their recruiting class and fill roster spots as early in the year as they can. This was something that completely makes sense when you think about it, but it always surprises athletes and parents.
Choose Playtime Over Prestige:
The recruiting process and college selection can be extremely humbling. Everyone wants to play for a D1 program in a major conference, but the vast majority of college athletes compete at a non-D1 level. In baseball alone, the odds of a high school athlete going on to play D1 baseball is around 1 in 50. While the odds of playing in any division (D1, D2, D3, JC) is 1 in 9.
In basketball, it’s even tougher with just 1 in 107 high school basketball athletes going on to play in Division 1 and a 1 in 17 shot to play in any division.
If you want to grow as an athlete and go on to play professionally, going to a place where you can develop on and off the field should be your priority. I saw this from both sides. As a college player, my early struggles helped me excel later on. As a recruiter with the Astros, we would draft many players each year from Junior Colleges, Division 2 schools, NAIA, and other non-D1 schools. Player performance mattered so much more than program prestige.
The recruitment process can be overwhelming, it’s a fast-moving train. Keep your priorities straight, be clear on what you want, take care of yourself and your grades and enjoy the ride.