1-1-14 MAKE THE MOST OF THIS YEAR While most New Year's resolutions don't last past February, there are a couple of resolutions you can make that will be worth hanging on to. Parents can resolve to educate themselves thoroughly about the college search process for athletes. You can read my book, talk to other parents*, and make sure you and your player go into this process with realistic and focused priorities.
Players can resolve to understand that it takes hard work to be your best and to develop all of your potential. If you don't want to do the work, you may not really want to play softball in college. In you are serious about your sport, make sure you do everything in your power to get yourself recruited. Don't take it for granted, don't feel it's "owed" to you, and don't wait for coaches to come to you!
* Although other parents can provide a wealth of valuable information, take what they say with a grain of salt. Many parents will tell you it was a snap for their daughter and that she was recruited simply because she's such a good player. Only a few will admit they could or should have done things differently. So, if you're smart, you'll listen to the helpful bits and discard the hyperbole!
1-20-14 GAUGING THE IMPACT OF NEW NCAA LEGISLATION With the changes coming out of this year's NCAA Convention, it's more important than ever that parents and players understand the rules. Whether it has to do with contacts, tryouts, official visits, talking to coaches, and so on, or it's academic-related guidelines that now mandate higher GPA's and better preparedness, the process has become far more complicated than it was fifteen or twenty years ago.
Parents whose only concern is getting their 12-year old verballed to a Top Twenty-five D-I program would be wise to put the brakes on and consider all the challenges that lie ahead for their teenager. I am (and will remain) opposed to allowing student athletes to commit to a college before sometime in their junior year, and many coaches agree with me. In addition, since 75% of all kids will play at D-II, D-III or NAIA schools, the race to commit early has become confusing, divisive, and often distressing.
Many, if not most, D-II, D-III, and NAIA colleges don't begin active recruiting before the player is a junior, so like it or not, the vast majority of players will not verbal to a D-I college, and among the 75% who play at the D-II, D-III or NAIA level, most of them won't make their commitments until they are well into their junior year at the earliest. Many will commit as seniors.
If you truly believe your player is the next super star, and you are convinced she will commit to a big name college by the end of her sophomore year, you'd better be darn sure you (and she) understand and are prepared to meet the tougher D-I academic requirements head on. Make sure she's taking a heavy course load and getting the best grades she can, and if she has to follow something akin to a college regimen that means she has little time for anything beyond her studies and her sports, then so be it!
For those of you who've assumed it's easy to get into a Div. II school with average or mediocre grades, it's time to think again. As of 2018, Div. II academic requirements will be almost as tough as those required by Div. I schools!
2-14-14 BEING AN UNDERSTANDING PARENT In my workshops, I often examine the dynamic between parents and players when it comes to the college search. Unfortunately, parents can end up being more gung ho about college softball than their players are. Their high school athlete's intensely passionate feelings for the game may be starting to morph into fond memories just at the time mom and dad are planning how they will "live the dream" of seeing their child in a college uniform. This can create a lot of stress and tension, and it's important for all involved to try to communicate these feelings in the most non-judgmental way possible.
It can be incredibly hard for a teenager to try to explain why she doesn't want to play softball in college. And hopefully, this will never happen for your player. But if it does, try not to make your athlete feel she's failed you or failed herself simply because she has made a choice that--let's face it--is NOT a matter of life and death. Your daughter can (and almost certainly will) go on to have a wonderful college experience, get a solid education, and live a great life even if she never picks up a softball again. YOU, on the other hand, may have to enroll in a 12-step recovery program. But believe it or not, you too will recover, and if you're really lucky, one of your other kids will choose to do some activity that can take up all of your free time, empty your savings account, and allow you to live with vicarious joy!