ECU Baseball Coach Godwin Hits a Home Run with Advice for Student-Athletes

Cliff Godwin, an East Carolina baseball alumni and now Head Coach, has done big things for the Pirates. He is currently entering his sixth year at ECU and previously was an assistant coach for the University of Mississippi baseball. In his five years at East Carolina, he led the team to four NCAA Regional berths, two Super Regionals, 2019 American Athletic Conference regular-season title, and two AAC Tournament wins. He also has a .648 winning record. Along with the team’s success, individual players were also shining under Godwin. Sixteen players were named All-conference, and fifteen out of the sixteen were first-team. Thirteen players were drafted to the MLB as well. Under Godwin, the Pirate’s have earned four straight AAC Team Academic Excellence Award. They also have three consecutive honors (2016-18) from the American Baseball Coaches Association. Godwin was an assistant coach for the USA Collegiate National Team that posted a 12-3 record in 2018.

LRT Sports What is the best way for an athlete to get on your radar during the COVID-19?

Probably to get their coach initially to contact us through personal email or phone call. We have a lot of relationships with travel coaches and high school coaches, especially if a player knows we know their coach. We respond to every email we get from a coach and then get the coach to send videos of the prospect, that would probably be the best way. We have had a lot of direct messages during this time that weren’t specific and said “Coach” not “Coach Godwin,” but you have to get a coach’s attention, and that’s usually through your coaches calling or emailing.

LRT Sports: Sometimes, athletes highlight videos can be a little out of control; how long would you like to see a potential recruit’s highlight video? Can you offer any dos and don’ts to athletes for when they start making them? 

We don’t care for the music and production videos. For us, it’s to get your coach to call and send us videos if you’re a position player: video of you hitting, playing defense, moving around so I can see your athleticism, and then your grades. Please don’t waste your time on getting a production company to make it look great. We want to see the meat and potatoes of what a kid has, not all the glamour shots that a production company has put together.

LRT Sports- Do you look for potential recruits to have club experience, 3–4 years of high-level travel baseball, or 3 to 4 years as a varsity starter? Or both.

Travel baseball is huge, but there are other ways we can see players. If he’s a great high school player but plays three sports and doesn’t play travel, we’re still going to recruit him. We want to see them play against the best competition.

LRT Sports- Do you check student-athletes’ social media during the recruiting process, and if so, what do you look for? Can you offer recruits one do and don’t?

Of course, we look at their social media, and we know we probably don’t see everything that they put out. We’re not friends with them on Snapchat; we don’t have them on Tik Tok, so I am sure they can put something out there we might not know about. The dos are put out things that are positive, but the don’ts are be careful what you say. Especially in a time like this with sensitive issues going on in America, be careful what you say. Once you hit the send button, you may be able to take it off, but it is still out there. I don’t envy the situation student-athletes, and high school students are in now because of social media.

LRT Sports- What can a recruit do for you to stop recruiting them?

They can do a lot of things to make us stop recruiting them. Number one is not being serious about their education. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be a 4.0 student, but they will have to take their education seriously. So, if a coach says they have not been going to class, it’s not going to work at East Carolina. Number two is if we watch someone play and have terrible body language, or are showing up the umpire, or not being a great teammate, then we are going to have a conversation with the kid and watch him play again. If it doesn’t change, he’s out; we don’t care how good they are. It’s important to us that recruits control what they can control. There are a ton of talented athletes across the country, so we can find somebody that wants to work hard, wants to do things the right way, and wants to be a great student. Lastly, social media, we can stop recruiting a kid because our culture is the most important thing in our program.

LRT Sports- What 3 ingredients make a great baseball player? 

You have to have talent, and you have to have some sort of work ethic that goes along with it. If you have a ton of talent, you may not have to be the hardest worker on the team, but if you don’t have the most talent, you will need to be the hardest worker. If you have a ton of talent and you’re a hard worker, that’s the superstar, so to speak, the All American in our program. You also have to be a great teammate, and that’s what’s lost in our society because of social media, it is like “hey look at me” or “hey I did this.” One of the things we do in our program is if someone gets interviewed, we always compliment a teammate and a staff member. 

LRT Sports- What is the number one characteristic that a potential recruit should have?

I don’t know if it is that simple. I’ll go back to you need to have talent. You can’t be a baseball player who helps us win a national championship if you don’t have the talent. That’s just a small piece of the puzzle. You have to have a work ethic. If not, it’s going to be miserable for the student-athlete and for the coaching staff and me. So overall, it comes down to work ethic and talent. 

LRT Sports- What GPA/SAT/ACT should a high school baseball player strive for if they want to play for ECU? 

They should do the best they can, I know that’s a broad answer, but we have guys from all different spectrums. We have some with high SAT, ACT, and GPA, and then high SAT’s and GPA’s are not where they should be because they weren’t as disciplined in their schoolwork as they should have been. Then there’s some who are not as book smart as other guys, and that’s okay. Our job as coaches is to make each player the best version of themselves and get the most out of them. 

LRT Sports- What mental traits are you looking for in prospects? 

Toughness. When we say toughness, it’s more mental toughness than physical toughness. As a student-athlete, there are things thrown at you, and you need to be able to maneuver through that. Your mindset & mental toughness will help you through the obstacles life presents to you! The #1 area we coach in our program is mental toughness!

LRT Sports- What part of the country do you primarily recruit from? 

Coach Godwin- We start in North Carolina, that’s the biggest recruiting area, and we have a great state of baseball players. But we have guys from all over, you look at our roster, and we have North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Missouri, and Maryland. We see what we have in North Carolina and then pick and choose the spots we need to fill out of state. 

LRT Sports- How important is it for student-athletes to attend your camps/clinics?

If you want to come to East Carolina, it can’t hurt. At our camps that we do for prospects, you actually get to spend time with the coaching staff. You might think you like us and what our coaches have to offer. Coming to camp will give you better insight into our program because you hear Coach Palumbo talk about infield play, and Coach Knight talks about outfield play and hears Coach Dietrich talk about pitching. So you get one on one time to learn about our program, and that’s the best thing to me about doing a camp. 

LRT Sports- You played for ECU, and now you coach there, what makes ECU so special to you?

To be able to lead your alma mater is really unique and special. We want to carry on a great tradition that ECU has had in the past and also accomplish things ECU baseball has never accomplished before. Lastly, our #1 goal is to develop young men to be the best version of themselves through hard work, love, and discipline.

Fun Questions:

LRT Sports- If you could coach any other sport, what would it be and why? 

I played football, basketball, and baseball in high school. I’m going to say basketball because there are less guys to manage. I’m going to take the easy way out; I love football but basketball for the reason that there are fewer student-athletes. 

LRT Sports- What is the craziest thing that you saw a fan or parent do during a game?

Oh, we don’t have enough time for that! But the craziest thing is seeing a parent yell at their kid for striking out or giving up a homerun. No kid is trying to strike out or gives up a homerun.  We don’t yell at our guys for making a physical mistake. We do raise our voice if they are not playing hard, or their body language is not up to our standard.

* Originally published on July 20, 2020, by Ally Stanton

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