by Catharine Aradi

Summer can be a very trying time for softball families...for reasons that are both positive and negative.  If your team goes to Colorado, for example, and does well, most everyone will be a good humor.  If your team qualifies for a major National event such as USA Softball or PGF Nationals, you might be looking forward to a new and exciting softball experience and the promise of seeing lots of college coaches.  Yet...even these seemingly positive scenarios can add stress to your summer experience.

Parents may have to take a lot of time off of work if their daughter's team travels to Colorado, then home, then to another state, then home, then off to Nationals in wherever.  The budget they so carefully laid out for softball expenses last spring may been thrown out the window by early July, particularly if they didn't plan for that trip to Nationals.

Then there is the bigger issue of recruiting.  If your player is starting her senior this fall and you (or rather your/her friends) have put all of your/their faith in email and your/their travel coach, I sincerely hope in August you feel that faith was justified.  It can be extremely distressing to come back from a well-attended tournament and feel completely paralyzed and defeated because your player isn't being bombarded with scholarship offers...or even getting any specific interest.

I can probably explain why that is happening...and usually offer ways to remedy this situation...but I also know that it can be difficult for parents to step back far enough to see the "big picture" when people keep asking you--and always in the nicest way, of course--"And who's recruiting your daughter?" or "And what offers has she had?"

(Oh yes...and please be aware that the above notes describe the lives of people who are happy with travel ball!)

Back when I traveled to Colorado for the big tournaments (before I realized I was spending more time in my car than watching players), I saw all sorts of family meltdowns happening by the end of that week. (I'd see them after late July tournaments as well.) Unfortunately, for every single happy family out there---e.g., families who feel they are moving forward towards a recruiting/college search resolution and families that are simply having fun---there are probably 20 or 50 or even 100 families that are experiencing much less uplifting emotions.

These feelings---which range from anxiety to frustration and from despair to rage---may be the result of your team being stuck at satellite fields or having poor game times or not doing well.  It may be that your own daughter isn't doing well.  It may be that team chemistry has never coalesced and everybody is miserable.  (This tends to happen more when the team isn't performing up to expectations.) might be that college coaches haven't paid enough attention to your team or your daughter.

Sometimes, this misery is due to the simple fact that a light-bulb finally goes on over Mom and Dad's heads. They've started to realize that their player is not likely to be discovered by ten top Div. I college coaches all of whom want to offer her a big scholarship.  Perhaps she's not really a big Div. I prospect, or all she did was send out emails, or she never took her SAT, or her grades aren't good, or the family doesn't really understand how recruiting actually works.

Stressed families see that their softball summer is coming to an end...even if it's only mid-July. There will be no trip to Nationals.  There won't be any more opportunities (until fall ball..but right now that's the last thing they want to think about) for college coaches to see their daughter hit a game-winning grand slam or make a game-saving catch or strike out the side with the bases loaded.  So, now what do they do?

If your player is a 2021 or 2022 grad, you shouldn't worry.  There is time to figure it out and get it together!  But what about 2020 grads... those young ladies who still love the game and who have the grades and the skills and who really want to play in college...but who just haven't had anything happen?  What do they do? Sadly, many of them will spend the next few months mired in uncertainty.  Should they send out more emails?  Should they look for a new team for  where the coach guarantees all of his/her players get recruited?  Should they make a new video?  Should they just wait until fall ball...and see what happens then?

The problem is that once senior year starts, things happen very quickly.  Players have to deal with homework and SAT/ACT tests and looming college applications.  And there's fall ball too. Some travel teams play more tournaments in the fall than they do in the summer!  Unfortunately, college coaches tend to scout much less!

It's always harder dealing with travel and weekend tournaments when you have an English paper due or a Chemistry exam pending.  It can be tough to get new letters out to coaches and identify better target colleges as fall unfolds.  (Not to mention the fact that more and more coaches will finish recruiting as the rest of the year goes by.)

BUT...never fear.  If you understand how recruiting works, and you're willing to take charge of your college search (while staying as grounded as possible), you CAN find a college and a team to recruit you. So, whatever your July brings you, keep your chin up.  It may not be at the same pace for all of you, but as long as you get where you're going, all will be well.

In the meantime, if you sense some of your friends and teammates are on the brink of despair, feel free to send them my way.  There are still lots of colleges looking for 2020 grads. There are coaches taking new jobs and coaches who may have just gotten started, and many of them will be excited to hear from new prospects! 

Finally, here's something important to consider.  Every year, when I get to August, I have rising seniors who have committed and I have a few more who are on what I call final approach.  They're talking to coaches at specific schools about visits and applications and so on.  But the rest of my rising seniors often feel as if they're running in circles chasing their tails.  This can be disconcerting. Yet, between August and April, every one of them figures it out. A few will opt for junior colleges or decide not to play at all. The rest will find a college team and a college home and be looking forward to starting an exciting new chapter of their lives.  I know this because it has happened this way every year for over 25 years!

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