My Child is a Talented Athlete, Now What?
by Kevin A. Pollock
When spring arrives and it is time for another season of our national pastime to begin, professional baseball players get geared up to play and get in shape, so do high school and college students.
If you have a child who is a gifted baseball player, it can be both a blessing and a curse. Your child will likely be the recipient of a lot of attention from the school, local reporters, and possibly even college or professional scouts. This can be a major source of distraction for anyone, let alone someone who has not even completed high school. Also, it is not uncommon for both the children and parents to obsess over unrealistic success and income.
For some parents of gifted athletes, there may also be a curse of inattention. There are only a limited number of college and professional scouts, and they cannot be everywhere at once. So for some, the question then becomes what can you do to ensure that your child gets noticed to make him or her eligible for a scholarship or minor league contract.
New Jersey is fortunate in that it has many resources to provide future athletes to help train both body and mind. There are numerous baseball academies from Jack Cust’s sparkling new facility in Flemington to Joe Barth’s Hit Doctor Clinic in Cherry Hill to Professional Baseball Instruction and the Garett Teel Academies in north Jersey, to name a few. Additionally, there are also many semi-retired coaches and baseball players who teach and coach local children. The baseball community is generally a close community, and the good word of an unbiased and fair coach can carry a lot of weight with scouts and college recruiters.
If you have not been to a baseball clinic or seen a personal coach, you will be amazed by the technology that is being used to help these young athletes. Gone are the days when a little metal arm throws out an oversized golf ball. Nowadays, the children receive batting practice from video screens that simulate a pitcher’s motion. In addition, a player’s movements are taped, played back and analyzed to help improve his or her performance. Some facilities have specially equipped study rooms and gymnasiums.
Many of the area coaches work together to schedule major events that showcase the children’s talent, including the very popular NJ Super 17 Baseball Program. During these events, some of the best local players gather to show their skills before numerous college and professional scouts.
For those who may not be at the highest level, but still dream of getting a scholarship to college because of their baseball skills, these clinics and coaches can help film recruiting tapes. Now, coaches who never would have been able to make the trip to see your child play can easily evaluate the ability of many athletes online.
Players who are serious about competing professionally (and often collegially) must now face psychological exams as well as physical and educational tests. As the great Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.” Well, the good coaches will also teach your children discipline and how to deal with the mental and emotional stresses that they will inevitably face.
Baseball and softball coaches are not only for athletes who dream of becoming professionals. Many players simply want to perform better for their own self esteem. Indeed, some coaches prefer to teach players (especially young players), who simply want to play for the love of the game.
The experts may vary in how they train future baseball and softball players, but they all agree that the child’s hard work, dedication and love of the game are imperative if he or she truly wants to move on to the next level – whether that is college or professional.
Next issue: My child is being scouted, now what?
NJB Note: The author gives special thanks to Jack Cust, Sr., Keith Dilgard, Joe Barth, and George (Curvy) Ramos for providing valuable time and resources in the preparation of this article.