A Perspective on High School Team Placement

High School baseball tryouts have come and gone and there always seems to be a little bit of unrest this time of year.  Players spend their summers and falls on their respective club teams, often time with positions and playing time guaranteed.  They spend their winter training at their respective facilities, working towards what they hope will be a successful spring season, which for most includes being a member of their school’s varsity team.  The spring season at their high schools brings back this pool of players and puts them under one roof, with only one team that gets their names in the newspaper each week while the rest are somewhat anonymous.  It’s only natural that all of these players wish to be on that big club, fighting for a state championship with their classmates, and THAT IS A GOOD THING!!  Speaking about the guys that play and train with us at Rogue, we encourage them to think and act like not just a varsity caliber player, but a STUD varsity player that will continue his career at the next level.  We train and coach them accordingly. This is really the only way to view yourself if you have aspirations of being successful.  

The reality is this: There are only a certain number of varsity roster spots, and often there are often more than enough quality ballplayers to fill those up, especially in good programs.  This can be tough for players and parents to take, especially after nine months of money spent, hard work put in and skills developed.  Players and parents often feel like all of this was for nothing, and their baseball future is falling apart because of their team placement.  I’m here to tell you that this is false, and that ego acting in the place of perspective is a dangerous thing.  

High school coaches have a tough task, taking 80 plus players and forming four teams.  And while certainly not perfect, coaches have a pretty good idea of what they have talent wise in their program and where those pieces fit in.  It’s very easy for players and parents to get tunnel vision and focused solely on their own path, which is completely justified.  It is right to want to be the best, play on the best teams, hit in the three hole and play shortstop. What players and parents sometimes don’t understand is that coaches have the responsibility to see things more objectively, from a broader and program wide point of view.  Sure Billy may be able to make the varsity team, and Billy has a bright future as player.  But right now there are two older/better guys that play Billy’s position and he’s not going to get much playing time on the big club.  Is Billy’s talent and bright future going to be cultivated sitting on the varsity bench in order for his ego to hold up, or is he going to benefit from playing every inning of every game at a lower level, where he can continue to develop his talent?  

I’ll reiterate this, coaches are not perfect and often have to make decisions on what they saw from a player 9 months ago or in a short three day tryout.  A three day tryout can be a crapshoot and a lot happens as a player over the course of a summer, fall and winter.  This fact often really bothers people to a point of extreme anger and frustration.  Let me be the one to tell you that anger and frustration do nothing to improve your status in your program.  In fact they probably send you the opposite direction if that frustration is communicated poorly.  Now….having a little chip on your shoulder, taking the desire to prove someone wrong, immediately getting back to work and playing your butt off everyday will get you somewhere.  We’ve all heard the Michael Jordan getting cut story…..He didn’t get cut, he made JV!!  Where he played, kept getting better and turned himself into Michael Jordan.  Players that produce consistently, make their way up the ladder, the cream always rises to the top.  Poor attitudes, and a belief that “politics” drives everything will only serve as a built in excuse, an attitude which won’t get you far.

I feel that I have a unique perspective on this subject on two fronts.  First as a coach that is heavily involved in both the high school and club arenas and trains players that have varsity and collegiate aspirations, and secondly as a player who spent multiple years at the lower levels as a high school player, and ended up playing college baseball. On the coaching side, it is extremely rewarding to see guys that play or train with us at Rogue make their varsity team and play well, but it is also important to me that all of those guys spend the spring playing and developing in game situations, and not getting 6 at bats all year.  If that means at a lower level, then so be it! It’s just as, if not more rewarding to see those guys fight their way into varsity roles later on and succeed.  

On the playing side, I was a freshman on the freshman team, and a sophomore on the sophomore team.  As slowly as you can progress in your first two years.  Now I’m sure that there was some ego and some looking at other players and thinking that I belonged where they were, but I’m also sure that it didn’t last for long.  I had great experiences as an underclassman, learned how to be a leader, got to play everyday all over the field and went onto be a varsity starter for two years.  This isn’t a pat on my own back, but rather just one example of how things can shake out over four years.  In addition to my own experiences, I can think of many guys that were JV juniors and went on to have great varsity baseball, college and even pro careers.  A couple that stick out are two of the best pitchers I got to play with.  Both strike throwers, physically late bloomers, smart competitive players that kept at it and just kept getting better and better.  They matured physically, started throwing harder, continued to know to get hitters out and ended up playing high level Division 1 and Independent Professional Baseball respectively.  Again, both JV juniors.

I’ll leave you with this.  Much of what being a high school athlete is about has to do with learning life lessons.  How to handle yourself when you don’t get the job or promotion, how to learn from your mistakes and get back to work to improve them.  How to have perspective on what may be good for you and your future, rather than just focusing on the here and now all the time.  So while you think that your status in your baseball program is the end all be all, try your best to keep that perspective and find positives.  The only thing that matters is that you continue to get better.  If you do that, you can rest easy knowing you’re doing everything within your power to develop to your full potential.  

Ryan Serena
Rogue Baseball Performance

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