Snowmageddon coming to New England and the college recruiting process.
With the impending blizzard rumored to be dumping 24 inches of snow on New England this week, thousands of college athletes who play spring sports are soon going to be wondering if they will have a season. And thousands of high school athletes are wondering if they want to stick around here for four more years to play college athletics. Two weeks ago, it was 70 here. People were at the driving range, flowers were coming up and life was good. Now, not so much.
The lure to play college athletics in a warm climate is a powerful one, but often one fraught with challenges. I myself was a victim who went south to Florida from Massachusetts to escape many things when I was younger. My college career in Florida lasted all of two weeks. The players from there were simply better and the recruits who were recruited from out-of-state were also better. While specialization is a controversial topic I have addressed in other articles, when given two equal players of similar athletic ability, the player that specializes in one sport is probably going to be a little better just like the lawyer who studies more law is going to be a better lawyer. In New England, you often have players that play football in the fall and basketball in the winter and maybe baseball in the spring, then they play their dominant sport in the summer! In Florida and other southern states, you have athletes concentrating on one sport more and athletes that can concentrate on one sport more because of the weather! There is simply 4 months in New England and other players where you simply cannot play baseball or softball outside because it’s simply too cold!
The high school baseball player from New England or Michigan (pick a place that is cold) has many disadvantages when trying to play baseball in a state like Texas or Florida. Let’s stick with Florida. It’s a state with thousands of high school baseball players who play their sport year-round. It’s a state with many talented college baseball programs at all levels, even the D3 programs. If you are interested in playing against the best, you don’t have to leave the State for college and you can attend a State School for half the money of a school in another State. On a side note, Florida also guarantees admission to State Schools in a program called the Talented Twenty program for academic qualifiers.
From a college coach’s perspective, you can fill your roster with recruits in your own backyard without having to leave the state. Teams like Saint Leo, Nova Southeastern, or Florida Southern have rosters comprised of virtually all players from the state of Florida. Even big schools like Miami and Florida State recruit almost exclusively in the state. If you are a college coach at a State School, you have the added benefit of being able to stretch your precious scholarship dollars further with in-state recruits who qualify for a lower tuition number. While a star player from Minnesota might want to come to Florida to play baseball, a college coach may have little or no college scholarship money to offer them. Now that player must decide if they want to turn down offers locally to pay full freight at a school in another state just because it’s warmer!
So where does this leave the out-of-state recruit who doesn’t want his arm falling off playing in New England in the “spring” where it’s 39 degrees out for half your games? On the outside, unfortunately!
The biggest challenge for out-of-state recruits is that not only do they have to be as good as their Florida counterparts, they have to be better! Here’s why. When a northern kid comes to Florida, they have different expectations. They were a star on their team and they expect to play. When they don’t play right away, they realize they could be playing at the long list of schools that were recruiting them locally back home. What happens now is they get frustrated and leave. Southern coaches have seen it time and time again, and they are often weary of recruiting kids up north because of this. When the Florida player doesn’t play right away, they don’t flee home, because they are home! Not playing right away is not as much of an issue. They understand the talent in their state and that they must bide their time. They don’t pack their bags and call the coach in Maine to fly 1,500 miles from home to play baseball in an igloo!
So how do you succeed down south?
1 – You have to be extremely talented and confidant in your abilities.
2 – You need to see how your skills match up with local players somehow, possibly through a team that travels down south to play local teams! Simply assuming your skills will translate to a given state or school down south “just because” won’t cut it. This goes for any college really. You can never assume you can play anywhere until you have done your research on what types of players a school recruits!
3 – You have to really connect with college coaches and try to understand what their plans or expectations are for you. This isn’t always easy and some coaches will be more honest with you than others.
4 – You have to be patient. You might now be a small fish in a big pond. You might not play right away. This is hard for every incoming freshman athlete, but can be harder for the elite high school players who haven’t sat on the bench since 5th grade!
5 – You have to be willing to potentially pay more for college. Any state school is probably going to recruit more in-state players simply because their scholarship dollars can be stretch further. They may want you on their team, but they might not have any or very little money to offer you.
Two additional points. Many of the things you need to succeed down south are things you need to succeed at any college. Two, don’t simply try to go down south just because it’s warm. There may be hundreds of great colleges in your area that you can both play at and get a great education that you might dismiss otherwise. We met a player years ago, who was a top golfer getting recruited by many colleges throughout the country. He chose to go to school in Michigan. When we asked why he simply said, “I need to go to a place where it snows so I have time of mentally and physically from golf and I know if I go down south, I won’t have that!”