Diamonds in the Rough

Any gemologist will tell you that diamonds are not easy to come by. Not too many go out of their way, though, to reveal and correct the popular misconception that diamonds are formed from coal. It’s safe to say then that if Justin Cronk were a gemologist he’d be in select company.

Like a gemologist who tells the truth about the formation of diamonds, Coach Justin Cronk speaks the truth about player development as it relates to the baseball diamond. As a former Assistant Director of Headfirst Honor Roll Camps, Coach Cronk refined the belief he always held that college recruiting should focus on two factors: the player, and the player’s overall development. As Founder and Executive Director of the Diamond College Advisory Team (DCAT), he has remained true to that belief.    

Justin Cronk: No Sugar Coating

Justin Cronk: No Sugar Coating

Cronk modeled DCAT after the total-player-development philosophy that he practiced at Headfirst at their Honor Roll Camps and through the Headfirst College Advisory Team he directed. Following coaching stops at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and Shenandoah College, Coach Cronk opened DCAT in Greenville, South Carolina on Jan. 1, 2011. He knew that he had a knack for relating to and coaching young people, so he thought that “helping kids navigate their way through the recruiting process could be something I do someday.”  It’s what DCAT does best, and few do it as well as Justin Cronk.

What most concerns him is the number of scholastic ball players who are, to use his word, misguided. When it comes to their realistic prospects, kids are, in Coach’s estimation, “woefully lacking in their critical thinking skills, because parents and coaches are enabling, telling kids what they want to hear versus what they need to hear.” In this respect, he sees kids being given too many false impressions about their actual ability levels.

As the youth travel team industry has grown, businesses have grown along with it. Training academies, tournaments, recruiting services, showcases, and video services have sprung up like so many youth baseball mushrooms in the night. Although many have the best interest of kids at heart, we see more and more that fall into a category of what Coach Cronk calls “predatory businesses.” LIB Magazine could not agree more. 

Developing the Student-Athlete

Along with the business of developing young ball players, too many of these predatory businesses “feed parents a bill of goods to get sales,” as Coach explains. “The baseball factories are the ones that tend to market themselves as recruiting services and scouting services.  They tend to believe in the “we’ll do everything for you” approach to working with kids, while DCAT’s philosophy is completely opposite—teaching kids how to proactively attack the process themselves to achieve the results they desire. “Many of these factions represent the dark side of the industry because they don’t necessarily put the student-athlete first; they are more concerned with making as much money as possible, regardless of the quality of product they deliver.” The most difficult part for families is separating the youth development businesses that are in it for the money versus the ones that address the well-rounded development of student-athletes.

Among the programs that help parents and players separate the good from the bad, in addition to DCAT and Headfirst, are the ProSwing Baseball Centers in Mt. Kisco and Portchester, NY. 

In the final analysis, the future of youth player development will come down to how businesses focus on the entire student-athlete, not just the dollars-and-cents profits to be had. LIB Magazine joins ranks with DCAT, Headfirst Honor Roll Camps, and ProSwing Baseball Centers in promoting a higher class of training and development in the emerging, youth travel team industry.

The Complete Student Athlete

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