Saturday, May 29, 2010

On summer coaches, shady dealings, and how to evaluate your son

There is a disturbing trend out there where summer travel ball coaches are trying to convince their players that they, the summer coach, is the doorway to a prosperous collegiate career.  Now, I'm not talking about the guy who works his ass off calling college coaches for tryouts and does everything he can do to expose his players while giving informed and accurate references to the places they want to play.

I'm talking about the used car salesman who claims that HE will get you a scholarship because all he has to do is make a phone call and so and so at Awesome U. or CC will sign you based purely off their sparkling recommendation.  I'm talking about the guy who pressures kids into playing for them by telling them he can affect their scholarship opportunities in a negative way if they don't.  I'm talking about the guy who tells his kids that they don't need their lousy high school team because summer ball is where the thunder is.

The truly sad part is that kids and especially parents tend to actually buy what these guys are selling.  Before I go any further, I do want to make it clear that there are some very reputable summer organizations out there that I would recommend to anyone looking for exposure.  Feel free to email me for references of places that I DO think run quality programs, and I'll be happy to try to point you in the right direction.  You can also take a look at our rosters and see where alot of our guys come from.  Chances are if there are more than 1 or 2 guys from a given summer club on our roster, there is a good reason for it.

So what should you be looking out for?  Well, anyone who promises anything greater than exposure, effort, and a commitment to making your player better is selling something you don't want to buy.  Guys that look you right in the eye and tell you that there are 5 places they can call to get your son signed tomorrow are full of shit.  As with most things, if it sound too good to be true, it probably is. 

The good ones will tell you that they get their players into quality tournaments and showcases against quality teams in front of quality scouts.  They tell you that they will strive to meet your son's needs as an instructor and that they will do everything in their power to get your son in front of the coaches they want to play for.  They should also be telling you that your son is responsible for sealing the deal!  If he doesn't play well or perform when people are watching, there's really not alot anyone can do to help place him.

Here are just a few other things to keep in mind on this subject:
  • No college coach in the country worth his salt is EVER going to take a player just because a summer coach tells him to.  His recommendation may help inform the coach, but without corroboration from multiple sources or a good audition, I won't touch a guy on word alone.
  • Summer programs that give "scholarships" also have another category of player:  "Fund-Raiser"  Trust me, you don't want to be in the latter group, and whether anyone will ever admit it, this group does exist.  Sometimes the B squad pays and the A squad plays.
  • Programs that ask their teams to fix results "for the good of the organization" are not programs you want to be involved with.  If the "Red" team is told to allow the "Blue" team to win to set a bracket, arrange a championship match up or any other reason, you don't want to play there.  What does that tell the kids on the team that sacrifices for the organization?  That's right, they don't mean a damned thing, and the A squad is where its at.
  • Once your son signs a scholarship it CANNOT be taken away by a phone call from a summer coach.  Listen, people want to scare you with their influence, but two things are at work here, 1. Once you sign that scholarship, you're locked in unless you get cut.  2. Reread the first point in these bullets.  No coach in the world is gonna go "Oh, is that right, Billy Greatcoach? You think Sammy is a terd and I should rescind his offer...  Right away sir, and while we're at it, why don't you head on down to the ballpark and make out my lineup!!"

Now for the most important piece of information you need to know about summer ball:  If your son is an outstanding ballplayer, he doesn't need summer ball to get signed.  Unless you live in the middle of nowhere and your son plays for an absolutely terrible team, if he's good, someone is going to like him.  That's if he's good, now.  That doesn't mean that mom and dad think he's an all star so it must be true....  That means that the kid puts up numbers and has athletic ability that everyone can see.  Here's a tip for parents to help evaluate where their son is at, and I promise, I don't mean to be insulting or snarky, but these are the things we hear every day is this is what they almost always mean...  Here are some translations:

"Well, he ain't real big and he ain't gonna hit it out of the park, but he's the hardest worker on the team and he's got lots of heart."

Translation:  He's the little guy that plays real hard and everyone loves, but when its all said and done, he's just not very good.

"He's not gonna blow it by anybody, but if he hits his spots he can get some folks out."

Translation:  He throws about 74-78 MPH, and he gets average high school hitters out often enough to be effective.  Hell, he may even win alot of ballgames in high school, but he's the 3rd or 4th guy down the line and unless he has pinpoint control, he's not gonna get good hitters out.

"He's got a GREAT arm, but he's a little raw.  If he had someone to work with him......."

Translation:  This guy has no idea where the ball is going after it leaves his hand....  Someone is gonna sign him though, and fortunately, some of these guys work out in the end. 

"He can hit it a mile, but if he had a little more discipline he'd be the best hitter on the team."

Translation:  He probably hits 6th in high school and he launches 3-5 homers in a season, but he's only gonna hit .275 because he swings at every pitch. 

So what am I getting at?  If the primary ways your son is described are "he hustles", "he's got heart", "he's a hard worker", or if it starts with something like "Well, he's not....  BUT", the odds are, he's a solid high school player, but he's just an average player.

Most good players are described a little more directly:  "Man, this kid can play...  He runs a 6.7, bumps 87 off the mound, plays a damned good 3rd base, and he can really hit." or "He the best kid on the team, he's got power, speed, and he's wearing out region pitchers." or possibly "If we didn't have , he'd be the best player out here."

THEN after they tell you that, they follow it up with the "AND he always hustles, works his tail off and he knows how to win."

I hope I've gotten the idea I've meant to convey across, and if not, comment and tell me about it, I'd love to continue the discussion!

Oh yeah, stay tuned either tomorrow or Monday when I'll be finishing up my "Shoes to be filled..." series, and check out our team website at!

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