Rob Zeytoonian is a former player who played for Suffolk University and then went on to Coach at Wooster College in Ohio. He is currently the Assistant General manager and former Director of Player Development for the Lexington Blue Sox of the Intercity Baseball League.
How many States did you actively recruit in?
We had two main states that we recruited in, Ohio & Pennsylvania and two other states that we did light recruiting in when necessary, West Virginia & Indiana
Did you find a lot of high school players who just want to play D1 or think they can play D1?
Absolutely, the majority of them. We were constantly trying to educate families that playing a high level of division I baseball was not for everyone. While we encourage everyone to shoot for the highest level possible, there were too many kids we met that simply were not capable of performing at that level. But they thought they could because they were taking the opinions of people that were not really qualified to help them.
What are some important recruiting concepts that parents and students you meet with didn’t have a grasp of?
Most parents and students don’t do enough investigation about the school and what will be the best fit for them. Financial aid was another concept that families just did not understand as well as outside scholarships that were non-athletic based. There is tons of money available to students for college, but most never try that hard or at all to look for it.
Has the growth of the Internet had any effect on your job?
It’s changed the face of recruiting in some cases and made it a little easier to find & communicate with potential recruits. We had email postcards that we could send to our recruits when we were on the road on our spring trip or at tournaments, which provided updates on the team and were a good reminder that we were interested in them.
There have always been recruiting services, but in the last several years the number of online services has really grown. Did you use any of these services to search for athletes?
Never. We had enough letters, emails & phone calls from players and coaches to keep us busy.
How many high school games did you or your coaching staff get to each year?
We didn’t have much time but we tried to get to at least 20 games in the spring. These were not random games but rather players we were interested in and actively recruiting. And the residual benefits of this were we always got to see other players that we may not have been aware of.
Did you go see players play in summer leagues?
Yes, again to see kids we were interested in and trying to recruit. The summer is important to us because it takes more effort to play in the summer and we felt that the kids playing summer ball were more dedicated and more interested in improving their skills.
Did you think Division III athletic programs often get overlooked because they are not able to offer athletic scholarship aid?
Absolutely, as well as the fact that families perceive D3 as not being a talented level of baseball or athletics in general. While in some cases this is true, its important to evaluate every school individually as well as the competition they face.
How can you get players to commit to your program without being able to offer them scholarships?
Financial aid package was number one and almost all of our players received aid.
Did you run any summer camps?
Yes but they were not run for recruiting purposes, they were for younger kids ages 10-14.
Did you find many parents and students who started the recruiting process too late?
Yes definitely. In our case that worked out better because we had late acceptance and were able to get students that didn’t get the offers they had hoped for from other schools or students that started the process too late to get offers. The D1 schools like to have things wrapped up earlier and their team set so they can start recruiting for next year.
Did you receive a lot of videos from players & what did you like to see on Videos?
Yes. We like to see videos short, sweet, and to the point. Some grounders, catchers throwing to second, different angles, some BP and some game footage. We always got some hilarious video’s of fathers doing commentary and camera’s bouncing back and forth but I wouldn’t recommend either if you are making a video.
Did you have any programs in place to help incoming freshman adjust to the college environment?
Yes we had academic game plans for each athlete at school. It stressed creating good habits and following through on these habits. We also stressed the importance of attending all your classes all the time to build a rapport with your professors. At a small school with small classes, its important to show your professors you are at least trying so when you have to miss a class or a test for a game they understand. If you aren’t showing up for class and then start to miss work, the professors will be very unsupportive.
Did you attend showcases and what are your thoughts on these?
We attended 3 or 4 each year. It was important for us to know who was running them and how. We also chose showcases that we knew had not only good players, but players we could sign at this level.
Did you find a lot of high school coaches willing to assist their players in their recruiting efforts?
Probably a 50/50 split. This is something that is a product of society and location, and the emphasis placed on athletics. In the South and Midwest most high school coaches have higher salaries and are full-time teachers or full-time employees of their school in some way. Schools want their coaches to be as visible as possible at the school and to be role models to the kids. Because the coaches are paid more and are always around the kids, much more is expected of them and the kids receive more assistance on all levels. As you get more rural in location, athletics has much more meaning and much more seasonal involvement and becomes part of peoples daily life because there isn’t that much else to do and it’s also a way out for many kids, who otherwise might not be able to go to college or afford college. There are always exceptions, but there are many more part-time coaches in the northeast who don’t really get involved with their kids too much or have an emotional attachment to them as coaches in the south and Midwest have.
At the peak of your recruiting efforts, how many players might you be evaluating?
We probably started with 700 names and then shortened that list down to between 60-70 kids that we actively tried to recruit.
Did you think parents and players realize that the spring season of their senior year is too late to have an impact on their recruiting efforts?
For families trying to get into a D1 program, they don’t understand how early they need to start the process. Since we had late admittance, it was often a plus for us to find families that in fact started their recruiting process too late.
Some people say a student’s ability to communicate with a coach shows a certain level of maturity, did you think it’s better if the student or the coach/parent makes first contact with you?
Student always. We like kids with initiative and enough maturity to at least pick up the phone.
How many players did you usually have at tryouts in the fall?
What about Walk-on’s?
Maybe 4 or 5 walk-ons
Did you communicate with other coaches when it comes to players you are recruiting?
In some cases yes, as long as it didn’t hurt us, meaning we didn’t talk to other coaches about players we were both recruiting.
How has recruiting changed from when you were involved as a high school student
It’s more sophisticated now and more people get involved at the high school and college level. Guidance counselors are more informed on what to do and recruiting is now a national process where it used to be a state or regional process.
Did you receive any recruiting packages from 3rd party athletic marketing services?
We got a few strange emails and faxes from places like that but not too much of that stuff
How many athletes were you able to recruit without physically seeing them play in person?
Very few but tapes and recommendations from scouts really helped in that department when it did happen as well as campus visits. If a kid puts together a good tape, a good resume and good recommendations from qualified people, you can get a good sense of them athletically. The last step is to get that kid to visit the school so you can meet him personally and show him your program.
Is a basic cover letter, athletic resume and a recommendation enough to get the ball rolling in the recruiting process
Doing anything will help you get started. At the very least you need to be able to pick up the phone and call a coach, any coach. Families always talk about schools they are interested in but for some reason they don’t seem to take the initiative to contacting them.
Having coached in both the Northeast and the Midwest, what recruiting differences are trends have you seen.
The importance of athletics in the Northeast at the college level is not as pronounced as it is in the Midwest and the south. There is more of an emphasis on education here and its no surprise due to the concentration of Ivy League schools in this area. This rubs off on recruiting and there is less overall recruiting done I think in New England. There are not as many phone calls and not as many home visits to athletes. This is partly due to the fact that most assistant coaches at schools in the Northeast are part-time coaches with lower salaries. This doesn’t allow schools to do as much recruiting because they are short-staffed and short on a budget.
You have been more than helpful today, I would like to wrap up the interview by asking you what you think parents and students should did as a first step to get their recruiting efforts underway?
- Talk to your family and try to come up with a clear idea of what you want and what they expect or what they want.
- Take some initiative with high school coaches, college coaches, and guidance counselors.
- Network. If your coach or parents cannot help you, then you need to determine if there is anyone that can in fact help you.
- Have a better idea of where you want to go to school by doing more research on different schools.