Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Leinweaver.
Mark has spent 20 years working in sports as a baseball agent, media relations director, TV and radio broadcaster, author, television writer & producer and coaching convention director. He is a former non-scholarship Division II baseball player at Stonehill College in Massachusetts.
Understanding the importance of selecting the right college beyond just education and athletics, Leinweaver chose Stonehill because it had a student population of about 2000, was three hours away from his hometown in New York, offered Communications & Political Science programs, was located just outside of Boston (with internship opportunities) and provided a chance to play college baseball.
ALL were important criteria to him. His decision launched a life-changing, four-year experience that Mark credits in making him who he is today.
Twenty years later, Leinweaver decided he wanted to help other student-athletes identify their perfect “playce” to go to college – and PERFECT PLAYCEMENT was born.
What started as an independent, boutique consulting service has blossomed into an educational, honest “DO-IT-YOURSELF” high school speaking campaign. The idea behind PERFECT PLAYCEMENT is simple – help educate student-athletes and their families on how to identify a college that is right in…
1. Student Body Size
2. Comfortable Proximity from Home
3. Desired Field(s) of Study
4. Extracurricular Opportunities
5. Proper Athletic Level of Competition
The messaging also focuses on teaching the importance of how “Character Matters,” addressing anti-bullying, the dangers of social media and the need for students to volunteer in the community.
In today’s landscape, the priorities of high school players, families and coaches are extremely out of order. Expectations are unrealistically set and families are grossly uneducated in the “process”, leading to very disappointed student-athletes when they finally reach the college level. And, parents are ultimately wasting money on a college where their child shouldn’t be. Parents find themselves helpless in gaining assistance for their son or daughter.
That’s where the PERFECT PLAYCEMENT message comes in – and why high schools nationwide request Mark and his presentation. In two-plus years, he has spoken to over 60 high schools and donated back more than $12,000 to anti-bullying and special needs organizations from his fee.
Mark created PERFECT PLAYCEMENT as a “labor of love passion project” – completely on the side from his full-time job as an MLB sports agent, where his daily responsibilities include managing off-field services for Major & Minor League clients and contract negotiation.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
That is a tricky question because it’s been somewhat of a smooth road with a number of obstacles and challenges along the way.
Developing the messaging and identifying the important criteria to the presentation was smooth. However, getting someone, really anyone, to listen to it was and still continues to be tough. Once I established the message and built my website, I cold called and cold emailed hundreds of high school Athletic Directors, Coaches, AAU executives and travel ball directors nationwide.
Calls went un-returned and emails not replied to. Then, I started to focus on where I grew up in New York – which was about 40 miles north of New York City. I learned there were a few Athletic Directors who attended my high school working at small schools in that area. I called them and reconnected, explaining what I was doing now as an MLB agent but what I had started on the side as a passion project.
I offered the service for FREE and paid my own way from California to New York – including flight, rental car, food, lodging and more. After their review, and sharing with principals and other administrators, I was invited to speak at about five schools.
One Athletic Director, who was a sectional athletic board member, saw my presentation and invited me to give a 15 minute overview pitch to 60 athletic directors at their end of year meeting. There, I was told that I needed to charge a fee – or the AD’s would think my offer was “too good to be true.” I was scheduled to speak right after the representative from the New York Special Olympics. So, following his presentation, I decided (during my pitch) a fee amount but would donate a portion of it back to special needs and anti-bullying organizations in their school’s name (I soon selected Mallory’s Army after reading about a 12-year old girl from New Jersey who was bullied and committed suicide).
From that opportunity, I gained about five more presentations for the next school year. After each one, the Athletic Director would email the region AD’s, offering praise of my message from their experience. A few inquires would slowly trickle in. But, I knew I had to remain aggressive, still calling and emailing each school in the region and eventually other areas of New York and Connecticut. I pressed on, facing a lot of rejection or just being flat-out ignored.
Yet, at the same time, word began to grow to other sectional directors in the state. They invited me in to give a similar 15 minute pitch at their meeting and sure enough, bookings would follow.
But, with my full-time job, which I’m also proud of and is somewhat 24/7 for 365, I had to limit the number of dates available to 25 per year. As demand grew, so did my confidence. I connected dots of executives with relationships in other states. I started to cold call and email them too, referencing my New York success. That included Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, where it took almost 18 months from my first very call to them to my first presentation there.
Since then, MCHS Athletic Director Glenn Marx has had me present three times in just over a year and promoted my message to his colleagues at over 20 schools in the Southland. Using that endorsement, I continue to cold call and cold email schools throughout Southern California on a bi-weekly basis and continue to meet with administrators. Recently, I met with a few High School State Executives – supporting a “Character Award” initiative they promote and discussing possibilities for next school year.
So, as the road becomes smoother, there are still daily struggles with growing the audience to where the message can be heard.
Please tell us about Perfect Playcement.
Well, PERFECT PLAYCEMENT is an honest, realistic educational campaign where I present to students, parents and coaches at high schools and organizations about the fundamental elements of a college decision making process. It is NOT a recruiting or consulting service.
My message delivers an intense, interactive workshop about choosing the right college FIRST, not just the right athletic program, and is about far more than just athletics.
The focus of the hour-long interactive presentation is tailored to student-athletes (& parents) of all four high school grades who lack realistic, proper guidance. The goal is for families to concentrate on finding a school that is right in size, proximity from home, desired field of study, extracurricular interests and then potential athletic opportunities.
I also cover how character matters, addressing important issues like anti-bullying, the dangers of social media, the need for students to volunteer in their community and that getting cut DOESN’T mean a collegiate athletic career is over. Many student-athletes even have an interest in working in sports one day, much the way I did at their age and obviously do now as a current baseball agent.
The website is comprehensive with 15 brief sample clips and educational information, such as what student-athletes should be maximizing off the field or what a college coach might ask beyond athletic questions. Many high school athletic directors now work in conjunction with their Career & Guidance Counselors to coordinate a presentation because of the substance of my messaging.
What sets me apart and, perhaps makes me even more distinguished from others, is that I offer this passionate message as a labor of love on the side from my full-time job as an MLB sports agent. I do it because I understand the value of what this process did for me in my own life, and hope to use those experiences to make an impact in assisting others. But, I only have about 25 dates available per year to present in-person. 10% of my fee from EVERY presentation is donated to Mallory’s Army (an anti-bullying organization) and Unified Special Olympics.
Perfect Playcement has grown to over 60 schools in the past 24 months in eight states across the country, with over $12,000 donated in that time. There is no 3rd party recruiting service I promote, as this is strictly an educational platform to empower every student and parent to do it on their own!
What I am most proud of is truly feeling like I’m making a difference to those who are listening – even if it’s just one student and one family. The process is so flooded with misinformation and poor advice that hearing positive feedback that resonated and mattered to those who attend my presentation IS WHY I do it.
For what it’s worth, here are some emails shared by a Guidance Counselor, an Athletic Director (sent directly to their colleagues) and a parent after presentations last year that I’m so proud of…
GUIDANCE – On Nov 26, 2019, at 8:48 AM, Nathan Heltzel wrote:
Hi Mark, My AD Chris Drosopoulos emailed me a video of your lecture on 11/18. PHENOMENAL! There are not enough of us delivering the message you do. Thank you for the much needed reality check to our community, both students and parents. (Nathan went on to text me later “I like your msg and your idea…no BS…you’re the best I’ve seen at what you do… it’s all delivery! Let’s keep in touch for sure.”) – Dr. Nathan J. Heltzel, School Counselor, Briarcliff High School
ATHLETIC DIRECTOR – On Thursday, November 21, 2019, 04:38 PM, John Buonamano wrote:
Mark Leinweaver’s Perfect Playcement presentation provided parents and athletes with a reality check regarding athletic scholarships, the college selection process and leveraging a student-athletes status to serve as up-standers in an attempt to combat bullying. This was my first experience working with Mark and I cannot speak highly enough about his professionalism and engaging presentation skills. I will definitely have him back again! Every school should provide this offering. – John Buonamano, Director of Health, Wellness, Physical Education & Athletics, Croton-Harmon Schools
PARENT – On Nov 5, 2019, at 10:13 AM, Michelle Weissenberg wrote:
Good Morning Mark, Thank you so much for the great presentation at Mira Costa last night. I was disappointed that my daughter had practice and I didn’t have her miss in order to attend. I must say the presentation was not what I expected. And I am thankful that it was so much more! The points you made about recruitment, how to approach finding the right school, how to reach out to a potential coach, etc., were certainly important. But the points you stressed about student athletes giving back to their community, and the dangers of unrefined social media, and of the student’s responsibilities regarding bullying are vital for us to heed in our efforts to raise good people, not good athletes, and are too often not prioritized. Anyway, my point is I loved the presentation and I will be back with my daughter next time I hear you are coming to speak! Thank you for giving back to our community. – Michelle Weissenberg, CPA, Siltanen & Partners Advertising
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Honestly, nothing. I have zero regrets on how I’ve developed this message and now this “business. People tell me that I could have done things differently, and made this to be more lucrative, but that never was nor ever will be the point of my efforts. I think every step of this process has led me to where I am today, and I like the position that I am in.
- The flat fee of $1,000 features a 60-minute virtual webinar presentation (for parents, students and coaches) on The Desire To Play College Athletics: “Recruiting” & Character Matters (covering anti-bullying, the dangers of social media, the need to volunteer in the community and getting cut doesn’t mean a collegiate athletic career is over).
- The flat fee of $1,250 features a 40-minute in-person live daytime presentation (for students only) on Character Matters (same description as above).
- The flat fee of $1,750 features a 60-minute in-person live evening presentation (for parents and students) on The Desire To Play College Athletics: “Recruiting” & Character Matters (same description as above).
- Website: www.perfectplaycement.com
- Phone: (310) 921-8669
- Email: email@example.com
- Twitter: @PerfectPlayce