I just finished a weekend of guest coaching at North Carolina Central University (a D1 program in Durham) and wanted to share some observations I had in regard to the players.
Having been around elite talent from the youth level all the way to the big league level, I am always struck with some of the similarities and differences between the various groups.
Here are three things you should keep in mind if you are a high school baseball player and have aspirations to play at the next level. If these three things apply to you as a high school player, then you are already far ahead of your fellow peers.
College Players Take Their Recovery Seriously
I was impressed by the level of self-care that the players at NCCU practiced. I believe they understand that if they want to play (and practice) at their highest potentials, they need to feel as physically and mentally fresh as possible day in and day out.
I understand that high school can feel chaotic. Lots of young players are still learning who they are and attempting to navigate the various social circles and obligations to which they are bound.
If you have ever heard the phrase “take care of your business,” it definitely applies to making sure you are recovered. Things outside of baseball and the classroom need to be in order, including your stress levels, emotional health, and recovery.
I have met a lot of high school players that pay attention to the details. They take recovery as a priority by adding full body mobility circuits on off days, showing up early to get their own personal focused stretching in, and take advantage of outside opportunities like yoga, massage therapy, and chiropractic resets. These kids, unsurprisingly, also tend to have great grades, and make a seamless transition into a college player.
They take care of business.
College Players Understand They Are Going to Have Bad Days
The ability to have a short term memory in baseball is paramount, but unfortunately younger players oftentimes get caught up in immediate successes and failures.
I have seen too many high school players unable to handle anything even remotely resembling struggle or adversity.
If you are a high school player and find yourself getting emotionally high or low from rep to rep, pitch to pitch, and at bat to at bat, then you need to invest some quality time in your mental game.
Understand that baseball is a game of failure, and there are constructive ways to handle and use the failure associated with practicing and playing. What you need to do is develop a growth mindset, live in the present, and keep perspective.
Don’t be like your high school teammates, freaking out about one bad at bat, letting a blown play destroy your entire day, or constantly stressing about your stats after you go 1 for 4. There are amazing resources available to begin the journey towards a more complete and mature mentality.
I recommend you check out The Mental Game of Baseball by H.A. Dorfman for an excellent and highly practical start to better mental performance.
College Players Take Their Physical Training Extremely Seriously
In college baseball, if you aren’t training, you’re getting left behind.
The sheer physicality of the modern college player is staggering. I’m not saying that most of them are simply genetically gifted – they aren’t. But they have put in some serious work to increase their overall athleticism, durability, and performance.
You have a closing window of opportunity in this game, and making your physical training a high priority will do wonders for your transition into the college game. Remember, everything in the college game happens faster. You need to be able to keep up.
Also, the volume of practice and games is unlike anything you have experienced at the high school level. Having a strong, durable, athletic body will allow you to withstand the grueling months of fall baseball, as well as the long and arduous spring seasons.
Anyone that has ever gone to a college game in the last five years understands how larger than life these players are now. And the ones that aren’t naturally bigger are supremely athletic, well put together, and powerful.
College strength and conditioning is not a luxury reserved for the elite universities anymore. It is a reality present at almost every single level of college baseball. If you are in high school, you need to come prepared. The best way to do that is to start your training IN high school, and not wait until you get to college. By that point, you will already be behind.