I shall start by stating something quite obvious; there are a lot of good players out there. I never really stopped to think much about this though during my early days of high school. Why would I? I was crushing home runs and making headlines in all the local newspapers. Life was good for me as a sophomore.
It wasn’t until a showcase I attended that summer that reality struck; there were a lot more good players than available scholarships. Getting into a top college with top athletics for a “top” (value) price might not be so easy after all.
Having goals is important. But these must be aligned with fair expectations. As I was cruising around my high school baseball league, I was very sheltered. I was talented and in my small high school league in Connecticut, arguably the best hitter. I had good grades and assumed that I was headed for bright, sunny skies down south where a full scholarship would await me. I was wrong.
There is one way to find out where you stand and what opportunities are out there. Learn the market. This is both from an academic standpoint as well as an athletic. Having honest expectations does not mean settling. It means being practical however so one can best spend his/her time and resources.
When I went down to that showcase in Florida after my sophomore year I dreamed of coming back with a verbal commitment from a University. This is sadly not a joke. I just didn’t know what the competition was like. I came back to the northeast three days later humbled. I was average at best at the showcase and realized I had to pivot my expectations quickly.
Over the next year and a half I began to focus in on certain schools I thought I had a chance to play at. Goodbye to the University of Florida. Instead, this meant lower-tiered Division I schools, but it also meant top D2 and D3 schools. I had strong grades so this helped narrow down the list somewhat. Every time I got new feedback I entered the info into a spreadsheet and focused on what the “market” was looking like. Where did my slower 60-yard dash time fit in? What schools needed outfielders? Which schools had Business Programs? Which schools had seen me play already?
Finding my place and adjusting my expectations was difficult. (For some they get to raise their expectations. Perhaps a player only finds out once in the market that they can play at an even higher level than imagined for instance). That being said, college is not free (well for 99% of us who don’t receive full financial aid packages) so this must be considered as well. This is the last part of the equation. I assumed I was getting a full ride, but as a non-revenue sport athlete in the world of Title IX, this dream was quickly dashed.
After many setbacks and rejections, I was eventually offered a (partial) scholarship to play baseball at Binghamton University (NY). I took this as a vote of confidence by the coaching staff of my ability. Although I was not an in-state student of New York, the tuition was still cheaper than most private schools. The stars had aligned. A good school, a good D1 program, and it was affordable. My point is that it is not one thing that should determine where you go. It is the quality of the school, the quality of the athletic program, the quality of the student body, and the quality of the value (cost). I would encourage those looking to play college sports to not discount any of these components… they all matter!