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The huddle

October 24, 2019

University of Iowa Head Baseball Coach Discusses Highlight Tapes & Playing Hard

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Photo by D1baseball.com

Rick Heller is the head coach of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Coach Heller lead the Hawkeyes to 204 victories which gives him an average of 34 wins per season — advancing to two NCAA Regionals and claiming the first Big Ten Tournament title in program history (Hawkeye Sports). 

Heller helped to guide six All-Americans and at least one first-team All-Big Ten selection in five of his six seasons. The most in six years all-time Iowa has had an amazing 21 Major League Baseball Draft picks.

It does not end here for Coach Heller, his lead his team to a USA silver medal in the 2017 World University Games. They were the first Ameican team to win a medal in the University’s history.  

Rick also coached at Iowa, Indiana State, Northern Iowa, and Upper Iowa,  leading all four schools to NCAA postseason play.

LRT Sports: What is the most important quality you look for in a recruit?

Coach Heller: If the player has the skills level to play for us,  the most important quality is being a humble person. We look at a lot of traits, but I’ve never had a player that overachieved that wasn’t humble.

LRT Sports: How can a recruit to get on your radar?

Coach Heller: Perfect Game and PBR events. Coaches recommendations. 

LRT Sports: When should an athlete contact you, what is the best way? (age, grade, time of year, email, phone, or other)

Coach Heller: As soon as they want to get the process started. E mail and video. Also, coming to one of our camps. 

LRT Sports: What are your expectations for incoming players in the classroom, in the weight room, and on the field?

Coach Heller: We set high expectations in all areas of a players life here at Iowa. We have a process driven program where we focus on everything a player does every day. Classroom, community, nutrition, weight room, field. Graduating in four years is something we take seriously here and we do it at an elite level nationally.

LRT Sports: What are the do’s and don’ts of being recruited?

Coach Heller: Do-Send information yourself,  not your parents. Do communicate yourself, not  your parents. Do take care of your own business, not your parents. Speak for yourself on visits, not your parents. Do hustle (play hard) on the field and be positive and upbeat when things go bad.  

LRT Sports: What is the best advice you can offer a recruit? (Please explain)

Coach Heller: Take care of your own business, play hard and bring great energy to the field every day. Those kids stand out even when things aren’t going well. At least in our program. We place a high value on being a great teammate and how a player handles adversity. There has to be talent, but a player with a little less talent and a great work ethic and attitude can separate himself this way. Train as efficiently as possible in the off season-Be as fast and as strong as you can be.

LRT Sports: What really jumps out to you when reviewing a recruit’s highlight tape?

Coach Heller: We like simple with no music. Just the basic info we need. Some training swings and a few game swings. Some defense work both practice and game. Pitchers both bull pen and game from the front and side. If they have something that shows speed that is great as well (both running and throwing). No more than 3-4 minutes. No parents cheerleading.

LRT Sports: What are the main do’s and don’ts for a recruit’s highlight tape?

Coach Heller: Just short clips of a few AB’s or all the pitches a pitcher throws. Add in some practice work as well. 

LRT Sports: What advice do you have for recruits who get turned down by their dream schools? What are their options if they don’t gain the recruiting attention they desire?

Coach Heller: My advice is to look for the programs who really want YOU. The coach that the recruit will play for is the most important factor in making a decision. Not the facilities, fancy gear or location. If the coach only cares about winning or himself and won’t stick with you when things go bad, the recruit will be miserable in two weeks and all the fancy stuff won’t matter. Look for coaches who have a track record of winning with player development. Stay away from programs that are “recruiting schools” They recruit the best player they can find and if that player doesn’t perform they cut them and find another talented player. This is what happens at lot of “dream” schools. Playing at a lower level with the right coach and right program is more important than playing at a D1 school that you won’t play at or for a coach that isn’t a great fit. Again, above all else, play for a coach that will care about you as a person and be there for you 20 years after you graduate. This is the biggest mistake most families make. They usually pick the “shiniest toy” not the right fit for the right reason. 

LRT Sports: How big a factor is social media when recruiting players? What advice do you have for athletes regarding social media? (Please explain)

Coach Heller: It is big. We just had to call a recruit and tell them that if they didn’t stop doing stupid stuff on twitter we were not going to recruit them. It happens all the time. Kids put stuff up on social media that causes us to not recruit them or drop them. There are lots of educational pieces on line about what not to do. Most is common sense and helps us realize the type of person the kid is. So when they post dumb or controversial stuff we know they won’t fit in here.  

For more information about Iowa’s baseball program Hawkeyesports.com

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