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Junior year is a big one when it comes to recruiting. It’s the year college coaches can begin directly contacting players, and also a challenging year for students academically. Most students are taking the SAT or ACT, and further learning how to balance academics and athletics.
Hopefully, at this point, players have begun to identify schools they are interested in and started to reach out to coaches with their videos and schedules. If not, that’s okay and it’s not too late to get the process started. Junior year is the time to focus heavily on the recruiting process, narrowing down a list of potential schools, and if possible attending showcases and prospect camps.
We’ll cover academics, athletics, and research & recruiting in this guide that will help players come up with a plan for their junior year.
1. NCAA Core Course
Student-athletes must complete enough core courses as determined by the NCAA. A guidance counselor can help review a student’s course load and confirm the student is on track to meet all of the requirements. More information on the NCAA Core Courses can be found here.
There are also GPA requirements for students to be eligible to participate in NCAA athletics. They vary between divisions, and more information can be found here. Students are encouraged to review this with their guidance counselor to make sure they are meeting requirements, and if not, have a plan in place to become eligible.
2. SAT/ACT Prep and Test Taking
Strong standardized test scores are going to help in the recruiting process. College coaches prefer to recruit players that excel in both the classroom and on the field. Students should speak with the guidance counselor to determine the most appropriate time to begin prepping and taking these exams.
A strong GPA and SAT/ACT test scores open up a lot of opportunities for players to play in college. Making sure these are all solid will increase a player’s odds of being recruited, as they will be a more marketable prospect.
1. Fall Ball & Summer Ball
If a player hasn’t found a showcase and scout focused fall and summer ball team, they should do some research to find a team. If a player’s goal is to play college baseball, finding competitive fall and summer teams that compete in high-profile tournaments will certainly help.
The competition in high school can vary a lot depending on the division, size of the school, location, etc. Playing on a competitive travel team in the fall and summer will provide a better gauge for players to determine how they stack up to other players with the same goals.
2. Off-Season Training
Staying dialed in on training is important at all stages in high school, especially during junior year. With test preparation, recruiting, school work, etc. there is a lot to balance, and also a lot of distractions. Nothing will help more with recruiting than continually improving as a ball player. Find time for off-season training and workouts to become the best possible athlete.
3. Become a Well-Rounded Prospect
Whether it’s from high school coaches, college coaches, or a self-evaluation, players should learn their strengths and weaknesses as a player. Players are encouraged to seek out this feedback from their coaches and also any college coaches they are in communication with.
Coaches will have a good idea of where a player is possibly lacking as a prospect and can offer suggestions on how to improve. Here are several resources we’ve written that can help a player determine how they stack up as a college prospect, and where they need to improve:
- Exit Velocity: Stand Out To College And Pro Scouts
- 60 Yard Dash: A Ticket To The Next Level
- Infield Arm Strength: What Is Good Velo At Every Level?
- Outfield Arm Strength: What Is Good Velo At Every Level?
- Catcher Pop Time: What Is A Good Time At Every Level?
4. High School Season
The high school season is the time to show off the hard work in the off-season. Players that have put in the work should be confident going into the season. It’s time to perform well for the team, but also begin to impress and become a legitimate college prospect.
Many high school juniors find themselves, for the first time, in the situation of performing with a scout in the stands. This can cause some nerves, but shouldn’t change anything with how players approach the game. Sometimes players become scared of failing in this situation, and it’s natural for negative thoughts to creep in. Players may think their entire future depends on how they do in a specific at-bat or outing when a college coach is watching. We’re here to tell you that is not the case at all.
College coaches are evaluating much more than results. They are evaluating hustle, athleticism, instincts, and projectability which have nothing to do with the results of the game. Players should only be concerned with playing the game hard and being good a teammate. The rest will take care of itself. If anything, it should be a vote of confidence that a college coach is interested enough to come to watch a player play.
Throughout the high school season, players need to continuously re-evaluate themselves as students and athletes. By doing so, they will be able to focus on where their interests and abilities fit in for college. Players don’t need to lock themselves into a specific division or type of college, but having a general idea will help throughout the remainder of the recruiting process.
Along with self-evaluation, players can always ask their coaches for feedback and if they have a recommendation for targeting certain colleges, and where they believe they fit talent-wise.
Research & Recruiting
1. Narrow List of Potential Schools
If players started a list of potential schools in their freshman or sophomore year, now is the time to start narrowing that list down. If not, starting a list during a player’s junior year is great, too. By now, players should have developed a sense of where they may fit in athletically, whether that’s NCAA D1 or perhaps JUCO, or NAIA. However, this list should factor in more than just division. Players should consider their academic interests, size of school preference, and location.
With this list, players should continue to contact the coaches of these schools, providing introductions and period updates.
2. Send out Prospect Videos and Schedules to College Coaches
An up-to-date prospect video is important to have at this stage. It’s recommended to send a video and schedule to college coaches at schools a player is interested in. By doing so, coaches can quickly do an initial evaluation and further determine their next steps. If they are interested, they may come to see a game or invite the player to a prospect camp. This is why regular schedule updates are important as well, which is can be done easily by leveraging social media.
3. Attend Showcases
Junior year is a big year for showcases. For players that want to get in front of as many college coaches as possible, showcases are a great tool to do so. Similar to all aspects of the recruiting process, it is important that players do their research before signing up for showcases. Determine which schools will be in attendance, learn how to prepare, and make sure it is worth the time and money. For more on that, we wrote an article discussing the value of showcases.
4. Attend Prospect Camps
If players have certain schools that they have a particular interest in, attending one of their prospect camps is a great way to receive guaranteed exposure to that school’s coaching staff. It also allows players to get an inside look into the program, school, and facilities to see if they still view the school as a potential fit.
Read more: College Baseball Prospect Camps: What to Expect
5. Take Unofficial Visits to Schools
Visiting schools can further help players narrow down their list of potential schools. It does not necessarily need to be a baseball-related visit, but by just visiting a school and seeing the facilities, players can learn a lot. They might realize they prefer a small school over a big university, or vice-versa. It can be hard to tell these things from websites and pictures, and often stepping foot on campus is the best way to get a feel for what campus life would be like.
6. Preparing for Senior Year without Committing Yet
If a player has not committed to a school during the junior year, there is no need to panic. While we encourage players to focus heavily on maximizing all recruiting opportunities during their junior year so that they are able to find a school, it is not too late if the search needs to continue into their senior year.
>> Next: Steps to Take Senior Year