Development vs. Exposure. Wait…..What??

There is a war being waged within the ranks of high school baseball.  This war is at the center of every decision that players, parents and coaches make.  Every single season, the battle wages on. The war is Development vs. Exposure, and it is a myth. 

In the minds of everybody involved, how has it become that development and exposure are exclusive?  How can it be that constantly working to become a better player and playing at the next level don’t go hand in hand?  How is it that guys who have not yet made a significant impact at the high school varsity level, can skip that step and start focusing on college baseball??  THIS MAKES NO SENSE!!!

Please don’t get me wrong here, I think that having the goal of playing college and/or pro baseball is extremely important at any age, and I would never discourage anybody from having a dream and working towards that dream.  However, the reality is that playing baseball at the next level first requires you to be proficient at the level you are currently at, right?  Is it just me or is this basic common sense?  And how do you continue to better perform at your current level, well boy you gotta work on your game of course.  You have to get bigger, faster, stronger.  You have to hit consistently, be a great defender, throw the ball hard, hit the ball harder, be smart, look like a ballplayer etc.

I like to talk about players fitting the TAG description, possessing Tools, Actions and Game-ability.  If you haven’t yet mastered these things at the high school level, how is it that your game will translate at the college level?  It won’t.  And how is it that these coaches that you are exposing yourself to are going to watch a player who doesn’t have the ability to play in their program and come to the conclusion that they are going to recruit them to play in their program? Ummmm………???  You’re damn right you’re exposing yourself, they are crossing you off their list buddy.  Exposed.

So wait Ryan, you’re saying that I can’t do anything to get in front of college coaches until I’m an All-State player?  Not saying that at all!  It is important to get in front of coaches if your goal is to play at their level.  But you can’t just focus on that and forget about the fact that you need to continue to improve every single day.  It is just that simple.  You need to reach out to these coaches, you need to send them video of your skills and let them know that you are interested in their program.  But you really want to send video of a bad swing, funky arm action, and poor footwork??  Good luck!

The war really picks up in intensity for players and families as they decide what teams/programs they should be a part of.  Here is my point of view and you can take it for what it’s worth.  Number ONE: You must choose a program that does an excellent job of developing your skills in a training and practice setting, while (Number 1A) also putting you in a good position to show the skills you’ve developed.  The reality is this: If you are a good enough player and you do a good enough job of working to connect with schools you may be interested in, you can get recruited from anywhere.  There are guys who don’t even play on teams that are getting drafted because they are throwing 95 in an indoor facility and the scouts come running, while the kid barely throwing 80 on the 6th best team in their club organization is invisible at Perfect Game events.  As a high school player, if you attend realistic showcases and camps that suit the goals that you have in mind, you can be seen, period.  The kicker….YOU HAVE TO BE A GOOD ENOUGH PLAYER!!  

On the flip side, not every team/program offers development that makes players better in that training/practice setting.  Many lure in guys with promises of “the E word,” and roll the balls out there on the weekend, while offering little to no practice and training time during the week.  Now, there are many of these players that eventually find a place to play college baseball.  And good for them!  But don’t you want to train at an elite level in order to perform like an elite player?  Or do you want to train at an average level and leave something on the table when you get between the lines and in front of these coaches?  This development doesn’t just stop once you find a school either.  Ever heard the expression “I wish I knew then what I know now?”  You naturally mature as you get older both mentally and physically, don’t you want to have the strength and skills already in place as that happens?

We must also understand that every player’s process is going to be a little different.  If you were a varsity starter as a freshman and are far and away one of the best players around, it makes total sense to play with other players of the same ability level and compete in national tournaments in front of LSU and Vanderbilt.  But if you’re an incoming junior and haven’t touched a varsity field yet, better focus on getting to that level first.  That being said, even the big stud fella should be focused on continuing to improve, and playing on one of those teams isn’t a requirement for him to play college baseball.  

As somebody running a program for high school guys, the number one priority is to do what is best for the players.  First and foremost this means creating a practice/training environment where player development is done at the absolute highest level possible.  Coaches can control what they know and how well they can instill these skills in their players.  Having good coaches in place that can teach the game at a high level and have the time and energy to do so is key!  Supplementing that training is creating a schedule that gives players opportunities to perform in front of coaches and scouts. These tournaments must match the ability level of the team as a whole.  Players that wish to seek out additional individual opportunities that suit their goals, are encouraged to do so!  After looking at the structure of our program and talking with others about theirs, the ratio of “Development Activities” (Lifting, hitting, team practice) to “Exposure Activities” (Games, Showcases, Camps) for the average high school player should be in the neighborhood of 3:1.  In my experience, the ratio is almost always flipped the other way, and often much higher.  In my opinion this should be a yuuuuge red flag.

Public Service Announcement to Players and Parents!  Development and Exposure aren’t competing!!!  They need each other!!! If you’re developing, you need to show it off at some point, and if you’re looking to show it off, you’d better have developed some skills!! The solution to this mythical war is this:  Find the place where you can best develop your tools, actions and game-ability, while being put in solid competitive situations that compliment your ability level. Simultaneously do a great job of promoting yourself as a player individually to the schools you wish to attend.  Trust the process, keep working. You do this and there’s no reason to panic.  You’re going to be fine.  

Ryan Serena
Rogue Baseball

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