Working Together for the Athlete's Sake

April 28, 2019

 

By Rick Spriggs - Head Coach/Ulster Fillies College Showcase 16U/18U

Tournament Director/Ulster Fillies      Clinic Coordinator/Elite Collegiate Skills Camps

 

The vast majority of ( if not all) high school programs have a high percentage players who are participants on travel sports teams as well.

It's inherent in the structure of both, and outside factors beyond their control, that these two levels of youth sports knock heads against one other, but it doesn't have to be that way.  There are many strong reasons why it's potentially beneficial for high school coaches and athletic directors to work together with their local travel sport coaches and teams.

By being active in the travel program tied to their sport—whether it involves coaching or having a supportive role—high school coaches are able to keep an eye on or instruct players who are likely participating at some level of their high school programs (modified, JV or Varsity).

High School coaches often forget an important point: College coaches have conflicting program schedules and/or geographical travel constraints during the high school season for most sports, which doesn't allow them to go out and watch prospective recruits at many high school games.

In addition, recruiting rules. regulations and contact restraints at higher levels of college sports recruiting makes the summer a prime recruiting time for college coaches.  This is why it's advantageous for high school athletes to practice and play on a travel team in the summer and the rest of the year when their HS program is not competing.

Many travel program coaches have a connection to college coaches due to the frequent interaction with these coaches at tournaments, college showcases and clinics. If high school coaches have a relationship with the travel program in their area, it might allow them an opportunity to be better known by college coaches, opening up access for greater coaching knowledge and advancement.

Many travel programs have the financial resources to potentially offer mutually beneficial financial support to their area high school programs in the form of shared (or donated) equipment purchases, year-round field/gym rentals from the school, clinic arrangement and fundraising endeavors.

Most travel coaches do (and should) understand that it is an honor to play for a teenage athlete to play on their high school team. The good travel coaches do not demean high school ball or, more importantly, intrude on the high school season.

Some common college coach's perspectives

Here are some thoughts from Ophir Sadeh, current assistant softball coach at New York University, on why college coaches appreciate situations where high school coaches and travel team coaches work together in a positive capacity.  Coach Sadeh also coached at Adelphi University as well as at the HS and travel ball levels.  He is a frequent lead instructor at several college coaching clinics throughout the Northeast where he interacts and discusses these topics  with dozens of regional and national college coaches.

- There is a definite lack of communication between many high school coaches and the college coaches considering their athletes as potential recruits. Travel coaches have an inherent advantage in the recruitment process because they coach when college coaches can most easily recruit.

- College coaches would welcome more interaction with and opinions, from high school coaches—both in terms of an athlete's athletic ability and sport-specific skills as well as their academic potential and character.  It is also felt by some college coaches that if high school coaches were to become more involved in the recruitment process of their athletes, it might calm the perception of parents and players that travel sports is everything for them and that high school sport participation is not as important.

- It's not that college coaches don't want to go to high school games, but for most of the high school sports season, their team schedules overlap. Many college coaches do, however, go to high school sectional, regional and state playoff games, as that is where they typically see the best athletes and competition during a high school season.  Of course, it is also true that some attend high school regular-season games in support of a particular recruit if their schedule allows.

- When an athlete competes on a travel team, it often enables a college coach to see that athlete perform against a more diverse and regional talent pool (similar to college play) and compete in larger venues. There's an obvious reason for this: Travel teams do tend to pull from a deeper pool of players and have more of a travel component in a geographic area (also similar to college play) than high school programs.

- Playing on a travel team also allows a college coach the ability to see a potential recruit compete over multiple games on a day or over a weekend.  It allows for direct interaction with players in a clinic/camp environment.  

- College coaches often hear from high school coaches that “the travel coach is only coaching to benefit their own child and their friends” or from travel coaches that “the high school coach is just a gym/math/science teacher who isn't really a coach."  Neither is correct in nearly all circumstances—there are a lot of great high school and travel coaches. That's why most college coaches would agree that a synergy and mutual respect between local travel and high school programs would create the best atmosphere for the aspiring college student/athletes to succeed.

College coaches recruit on the word of the “advocates” for a prospective athlete—they rely on the input they receive from those advocates related to the talent, character, work ethic and academic potential of the athlete. As a result, the high school and travel team coaches both have opportunities to play a vital role in the recruitment process of the players they “share.”

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