Monday, August 15, 2011

The end and the beginning

It was bound to happen. Life does not stand still even if we wish really really hard. If my wish came true, the kids would still be 4 years old and I would be 30 something without gray hair or memory loss. Where was I going with this? Oh

So, time did not stand still and Buddy left this morning for school. He was asked by his coaches last week to help to run a showcase for high school kids. As previously mentioned, showcases are the means to "show" off an athlete's talent in the attempt to get a look from a college coach. Buddy attended a number of showcases. Now that he is running one, I would like to discuss the process that took me a few years to figure out (it's a memory and processing down slide that I have been on).

The word "showcase" depicts an opportunity to parade around and demonstrate one's special skills. In many ways, it is like being on stage. One has to prepare physically and mentally for the pressure of a showcase. I know this since we traveled all over to individual college showcases. Up and down the east coast...the dirty utility bag and the pitcher's and first baseman gloves along with the high powered special titanium DeMarini bat....lucky shirts and high school baseball caps were stuffed into the bags along with the cleats, long socks, and baseball pants. Do not, I repeat, do not ever show up to a showcase wearing shorts. You will be put at the back of the line and ignored the entire time. Does a surgeon show up with out a scalpel? I will let you answer that one.

The showcases that Buddy attended were mostly for big name Division I programs. He was a bit of a college snob since he wanted D-I, nothing lower. It was his personal goal. "I only want to play Division I." My question to him was: "What if you get into the college of your dreams, but not on the baseball team, would you go?" His reply was an unabashed "no!" And so you have it....a kid with a dream....a parent helping him to attain it....lots of flying out of the wallet....peanut butter sandwiches....pancakes and omelets for dinner....

Each showcase cost about $300.00 which does not include travel expenses, meals and hotels. The showcase would not only be run by a leading school but other representatives from local colleges would be there too. For example, University of Virginia would sponsor a showcase and William and Mary, Coastal Carolina, and perhaps Mary Washington would be there. Each coach or representative would earn a stipend for attending and the school would be placed on the brochure. Potential college athletes would receive the notification of the showcase either in the mail or through e-mail. The way that the brochure was worded was that the invited athlete was one a few selected by the coaches. Therefore, the kids and parents thought that the athlete was being considered for a scholarship and place on the roster. Was a free ride to college worth the time and expense of a show case? Yes! Absolutely! Did it work out that way? NO!

It was all too good to be true. All he had to do was go to the showcase and he would be selected for a team. Not bad, easy to do....Wrong! When a person arrives at a showcase, there are 300+ kids there at all levels of athleticism. The elite nature of the camp never materialized. An athlete had to really stand out in order to have a coach even speak to him. There were even major league scouts at these camps.

A few times, coaches would walk up to Buddy, chat with him, then promise to watch him throughout the next season. "We'll be in touch..." and the kid would leave the showcase at a high. Did these coaches call him? Maybe one or two...the others from lower division schools wrote letters. Based on NCAA rules, coaches cannot contact the players until July 1, then there is a flood of calls...right? Wrong. Only one coach called on July 1 and he was elated and deflated. He did not leave the house that day waiting for the call. It was sad to watch as he stared at the phone. Did this stop him from attending showcases and working on his stuff? Nope, he became a man possessed with his goal. He was going to make it even if these coaches did not want him. One coach will see him and he will accomplish his goal.

If you have been following the blog, you know that he was discovered in his backyard through the efforts of his mentor, Coach T. The rest is "history."

Back to Buddy staffing the showcase....I hope that he does not lead any kid on as to their talent. I also advise him to offer some mechanics advice and warranted praise. Do not lay it on so thick that the player is overly confident. On the other hand, do not squash any kid's dreams. Be a supportive coach...someone with some pointed advice....then move on. Remember where you were at this point of your life and give back in a way that you needed at that time. Keep in mind that these kids also have the same dreams and goals that you had....encourage them but at the same time do not disillusion them.

As I wrote this entry, I received a call from Buddy who arrived at the showcase early. As he walked to the stadium, he watched the athletes get out of their parents cars. He was taken back to where he was and humbled. In fact, he remembered his showcases and the nerve that it took to do them and the uncertainty of where life was going to take him. I no longer need to offer any BP mom advice..he gets it...from this vantage, the kids will get it too. Kids, have fun out there....

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