The Truth About Showcases
In an attempt to better serve the coaches, players and parents involved in youth and high school baseball, the PBSCCS periodically publishes information on factors that can affect conditioning and performance at these levels. Topics are selected from questions submitted by participants, coaches and parents in youth and high school sports.
The question for this posting was from the father of a 15U baseball player who said – “My 15-year-old son, a pitcher / shortstop, has always been one of the best players on his team. He is a high school freshman playing on the JV team. The father of a teammate suggested that he attend a showcase event to give him exposure to college coaches and increase his chances of being recruited in the future. We live in a rural community and the nearest showcase is about 200 miles away and expensive. Should I take him to a showcase or wait until he has a year or two of high school varsity experience under his belt?
For a response, the PBSCCS contacted Keep Playing Baseball (KPB), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide free information and advice for high school baseball players who want to play baseball or softball in college at any level with or without athletic scholarships. KPB referred PBSCCS to the following information on their website.
Every year, parents of college baseball and softball prospects are lured by expensive showcases that promise a 5-tool evaluation and exposure to college coaches. This sounds great to parents who think that an objective evaluation will help give them guidance on what level their son or daughter should pursue and where to start in the recruiting process. And any exposure is great, right? You can’t get recruited if you aren’t seen, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The showcase business has long been profiting off parents who want to do what’s best for their child’s future but don’t have a grasp on how to navigate the recruiting process. Before we get into the reasons why you should do your homework before paying for a showcase, let us be crystal clear that players can, and do, get recruited at showcases. To say otherwise would be a lie. It’s also true that there are trustworthy companies who provide exposure to college coaches at a fair value. But make no mistake about it, there are others that make money by stoking parents’ fears and perpetuating myths including the idea that any exposure is good exposure, rather than providing the services parents think they are paying for.
The two main concepts behind the showcase sales pitch are not inherently wrong. The most successful recruits should seek out objective feedback and use it to target the right level of college baseball or softball for their skillset, training and development. It’s also true that in order to play college baseball or softball, you will have to get exposure to (be seen by) college coaches at some point, likely in person, but at a minimum using video. However, these ideas can be grossly misrepresented by marketing schemes to increase revenue. Here are 3 myths that some unscrupulous organizations hope to use to make profits off parents and players.
MYTH #1: All showcase evaluations will give you important, objective feedback on the right level of college baseball or softball for you. Profiteers who depend on repeat customers and positive press cannot be objectively honest in their evaluations of players who attend their showcases. It would be a death sentence for the business, because the vast majority of attendees at showcases are not ready to be recruited and are used to subsidize the players that are.
Here’s a classic example: John and Sue are sophomore baseball and softball players, respectively, who go to “Big Exposure Showcase West” that costs their parents more than $500. Each clearly doesn’t have the physicality or maturity to be recruited yet, which is what Big Exposure wants. So, the Big Exposure staff tells him and her that in their evaluation. “You have good skills, but need more time to develop and mature. It’s possible that with some gains in the weight room you could be a D1 player. There is plenty of time, so come back next year when you are bigger and stronger!”
This evaluation only states the obvious. Most kids aren’t ready to be recruited as sophomores and many aren’t ready even as juniors, so there is no value to the evaluation, which is meant to lure John and Sue back again the following year. Grasping to the D1 potential, John and Sue want to come back next year. So, their parents have just dropped $500+ for a useless evaluation that is meant to get Big Exposure repeat business. And guess what? John and Sue are likely to get a similar evaluation from Big Exposure as a junior to get them to come back their senior year.
Simply put, Big Exposure needs John, Sue and their families to have a good experience and either want to come back or tell someone else that it was worth it. Knowing that’s the case, why would they tell John and Sue where they fall short? That their arm strength is nowhere near college level? That their bat speed will not allow them to hit college pitching as it stands? That their actions are inefficient, even for their size, strength, and maturity? But this is the information that John and Sue need to hear so they know what to work on.
Unfortunately, there are many showcases where the staff are trained not to provide this kind of feedback because it hurts the organization’s chances of making money. By being brutally honest with John and Sue, which is what they need, Big Exposure staff risks hurting their feelings or discouraging them. Who wants to pay $500+ for a negative experience? Some organizations tell evaluators not to give below a certain grade because it hurts business and gets parents and players upset. Doesn’t sound like the honest, objective feedback that every player needs, does it?
MYTH #2: All exposure is good exposure. The idea that any exposure to college coaches is good exposure is a joke to those who know the way recruiting works. At best, a player who shows poorly will get ignored. But a coach may also cross this player off his list and permanently dismiss them as not good enough so he doesn’t waste time re-evaluating them later. Do you really want to have this happen to your son or daughter as a sophomore or junior when they still have a year or two to develop? Exposure is a two-way street. If your son/daughter has recruitable skills, it’s great to get them in front of college coaches. If they don’t have recruitable skills, early exposure is a recipe for rejection. For the showcase setting to be successful, players must wait to have the skills college coaches are looking for. Otherwise, players risk negative exposure and having their showcase fee used to subsidize the players who are already recruitable.
MYTH #3: Showcases are the best way to get seen. The idea that showcases are the best way or only way to be seen by college coaches is simply false. Any way that your son or daughter can be seen by college coaches when they have a recruitable skillset is a good way to be seen by college coaches. Attending an event or showcase is never going to be the reason your child would be recruited. Recruitment results from a combination of preparedness, having a recruitable skillset, and exposure. Getting recruited doesn’t have to cost money and there are a number of different ways to take advantage of being ready for exposure that are much more cost effective than many showcases (from well written emails and video to having a coach attend your child’s game or even sending your son or daughter to a college camp). By no means is a showcase the best or only way for players (who are ready) to be seen.