Which showcase team do I choose to play on?…more importantly, how do I choose? If you have an older son who has gone through it you probably learned the hard way what teams to stay away from, or you got lucky and picked correctly the first time. What if you have no experience with this and are totally novice to the process? Here are some questions you should be asking when evaluating showcase teams.
Understanding the types of showcase teams:
First and foremost, you must decide what your son needs to get out of the team. That takes an understanding on the types of teams out there, and what your son’s needs are. These teams can be broken down into three categories; Exposure, Development, Exposure-Development Hybrid.
- Exposure teams make little to no effort to practice, work out, or do anything to improve the skill set of the players. Typically, you will meet for 5-6 weekend tournaments per summer, play your games and go home. Between tournaments, there is not much to do but gossip about who is being recruited by which school. You are on your own to work on improving your skills.
- Development teams are usually more local and focus on practicing, working out, and improving the skill set. The exposure piece is secondary. They play in some local tournaments and maybe attend one big national event per summer.
- Hybrid Exposure-Development teams are often advertised and rarely deliver. It’s difficult to find a team that practices consistently and plays in showcase tournaments on the weekend. If you find this, then you’ve struck gold.
How to determine what your son needs:
I suggest reading over our previous blog College Recruiting: Demystifying the Process and Understanding the Timeline. This will give you a sense of the type of player who needs early exposure versus the type of player who can use a year or two of development before being ready for exposure.
If your son has a skillset that will attract college coaches, you might want to consider the Exposure team. This might be the sophomore who is showing some serious high caliber performance. If your son knows he wants to play in college, but does not quite have the skill set yet to attract college coaches, then the Hybrid or Development team is best for him. This might be the sophomore who has good skills, but needs a year to mature physically.
Evaluating Different Programs:
Now that we have decided what type of team is best, you should do your homework on each program you’re considering. Here are the “interview” questions you should have answers to. We are going to look at these questions from the approach that you are looking for exposure from your showcase team.
- What team in the organization would my son be on? In the showcase world, there isn’t one team at each age group. There could be 3-4 teams in the showcase group. You could have the “Super All-Star Team ‘fill in the blank’” – Black, Gold, Silver, Showcase, Prospect, Academic, etc These teams might have different schedules than the advertised top team, and might have different reputations. College coaches understand the Super All-Star Team Black team is the best players going to the best tournaments, and the Super All-Star Team Silver team is all the guys who are just “paying the fee” with no chance to play in college.
- It’s important to note that showcase teams are broken down by graduation year, not age group. For example, this summer a team might have 2017 graduates (rising seniors) and another team might have 2018 graduates (rising Juniors).
- What tournaments does the team attend? This is important for two reasons. First, there is a high cost associated with this. Second, are these tournaments going to have the coaches from schools that my son is capable of being recruited by? So, if I’m going to invest in this tournament schedule, am I getting the most bang for my buck as far as exposure?
- Who are the coaches? You want to make sure the coaches your son is around all the time have the right type of character. You also want to clarify who in the organization is coaching which team, because that can often be misleading. Again, with the various teams in each level, things can be misconstrued.
- How does playing time work? This is very different than demanding to know when your son is playing. Playing time on showcase teams is usually distributed as evenly as possible. Pitchers will all throw a set number of innings, catchers will split a double header, etc. The worst thing you can do is get on a showcase team and sit the bench.
- What is their track record of sending players to college? Do not let them tell you about the kids going to the Power 5 conferences. Those kids would get recruited no matter the team they are on. Ask them about the kids who weren’t scholarship players. Where did they end up?
Entering the world of showcase baseball means you are entering a world of big business. Anytime there is an opportunity to make money, people will jump on it. So, how do you spot some red flags in these organizations?
- Multiple tryouts with no feedback. These showcase teams usually charge a fee to try out. If you are being asked to return to additional tryouts without any explanation of where your son fits on the team, that is a red flag.
- Not knowing the coaches. Good organizations have coaches in place long before the summer season kicks in. If an organization can’t tell you who your coach is, that’s a red flag.
- Poor communication early. If there is poor communication around the tryout process, there will most likely be poor communication over the summer. An organized team can make up for a lot of other negatives associated with showcase baseball. If the schedule is still TBD in May, that’s a red flag.
- Only communicating when they need payment. If you only hear from the program when they want to collect the tryout fee, or push to pay the team fee, that’s a red flag.
- Not being able to answer the questions above. If the head of the organization can’t answer the questions above with qualified explanations, that’s a red flag.
This might seem like a long checklist to go through when evaluating showcase teams. Understand that you are making a big investment in your son’s future. You are also making a big investment financially. Remember, you can always supplement your team schedule with individual college camps and showcases. If you choose the wrong team, there are ways to make up for it. For that reason, we always suggest that the top three things someone looks for in a team are:
- A schedule that fits your target school list.
- Knowing you are going to be on the field, not on the bench.
- Being around a group of players you’ll enjoy.