7-1-14 COURAGE, MY FRIEND! If you're reading this now, it means you're half way through summer travel ball. WHAT??? It's not even Independence Day yet! True, however, times have changed. When I started working as a recruiting consultant, most travel ball didn't get going until school was out in mid-June, and teams played well into August. Even if they didn't go to Nationals, they usually had a summer wrap-up tournament somewhere. Tryouts weren't held until September, and fall ball consisted of maybe four tournaments, and only one or two required substantial travel. (Ah...the good old days!)
These days, travel ball starts at the end of May, and many teams have crashed and burned by the middle of July if they haven't qualified for Nationals. Some of the seniors may have bailed out claiming they have to get ready for their pending move to college, and the rest of the team may be feeling disappointed or disgruntled.
It's not so surprising. After all, hopes were very high in May...we were going to qualify, we were going to play in Colorado, we were going to be seen by lots of college coaches, and we were going to be offered scholarships! And all of this would happen simply because we sent out emails to twenty or twenty-five college coaches!
Yeah...no. It may work that way for a player on one of the top teams in the country--e.g., those with immediate and impactful name recognition--but for the average athlete, if she hasn't laid a solid foundation for her college search, if she and her parents have no real understanding of the big picture and how recruiting really works, chances are unless she hits the jackpot in Las Vegas, by the end of travel ball, she'll be left scratching her head and wondering why things didn't turn out as planned.
Is there a solution? You bet! It's July, and you may only have a couple of tournaments left. But if you aren't getting the results you hoped for or needed to see as a result of your summer experience, there is a lot you can do between now and fall to ensure your college search ends up being both rewarding and the start of a wonderful future. Give me a holler, and I'll point you in the right direction!
7-15-14 IF TRAVEL BALL IS GETTING YOU DOWN... If you find yourself in the middle of July on the verge of a travel ball meltdown, take heart. This is not uncommon as the grind of tournament weekends starts to wear parents and players down and families begin to realize that there is fierce competition for spots on college teams and that just being a good player is not a guarantee of recruitment. Here are a few suggestions that may help you survive the rest of the summer and go into fall ball energized and more enthusiastic than ever!
1) Be patient and try to step back far enough to see the big picture. Perspective is everything in recruiting. Having been at these tournaments for more years than I can count, I can practically guarantee that the stress can and will take its toll. Many families spend a boatload of money to travel all over the country, only to discover that even the biggest showcase may not be the be all and end all of the college search for their players.
2) Luck does play into recruiting for some athletes. You will, no doubt, see or hear of a young lady who just happened to play her brains out one weekend when some college coach just happened to be watching--maybe her, maybe another player, maybe another team--and lo and behold, she was recruited, perhaps even offered some scholarship money. Every bone in your body will be aching to know why that can't happen for you! (If it's any comfort, I ask myself the same question every time I check my lottery ticket!) As the saying goes, "That's show biz!" (Remember my 3 laws of recruiting: 1) It's not fair; 2) It's never going to be fair; and 3) You're probably not the family who will disprove the first two laws!)
3) Hard work and realistic expectations will counter-balance luck every darn day! So, if you've done your homework and if you're looking at the schools where you could make a difference, this will pay off. The secret to a successful college search is finding the school and the team where you will be considered an impact player. It's not that hard...but for many players, it takes hard work and perseverance as well as a rock-solid determination to play in college!
8-1-14 DOWN TIME CAN BE GOOD FOR YOU The next few weeks offer players a chance to take a break from softball. Most teams are finished with summer ball, and while some will be holding fall ball tryouts, you may still be able to spend a couple of weeks "chilling." I know that continuity is important in keeping your game strong, but your body will thank you if you give it some R and R (as in rest and rejuvenation!)
You may not realize you're suffering from a mild case of burn out until you spend a couple of weeks not hitting, not pitching, and not thinking about softball. And if you start feeling withdrawal--e.g., you start seriously jonesing for your game, that's a good thing! If you don't--e.g., if you find that you hate the thought of picking up a bat again--then perhaps it's time to consider another activity. The last thing anyone should be doing is trying to find a college to recruit you to play a game you no longer enjoy.
Use this down time in August to assess the state of your heart, mind and body...at least in regards to softball. You'll be glad you did!
8-15-14 ARE YOU SWITCHING TEAMS...AGAIN? August can be a tough month for parents and players. If the summer went as you hoped, and if you like your current travel ball team, then you're probably planning on staying put. But what if the team structure changes? Maybe you have to move up to a new coach, or maybe you're concerned about the number and type of fall ball tournaments the team will be playing in. Or, you may not be happy with your summer experience, and you may feel that it's time for a change of scenery. It can be hard, particularly for seniors, to move to a new team, and yet the fall is often an important time for you in terms of exposure. While the bigger D-I programs are done recruiting for this year, many D-II, NAIA and D-III coaches are still actively seeking prospects. (And of course, the bigger D-I's are looking ahead to 2016 and 2017 recruits.)
Players sometimes worry that college coaches will be upset by the fact that the player is on a new team. Let me reassure you, this is generally not the case...as long as you have a good reason for moving. You just need to be sure that you let all the coaches you've reached out to by letter or phone or email know the name of your new team, your new jersey number, and your fall schedule. If you've laid the groundwork and targeted the types of schools where you could really make an impact, the coaches will make the effort to see you in action no matter what team you're on.