Many of you are starting to look forward to summer travel ball. Two things should be uppermost in your mind. First of all, this is supposed to be a sport you love, and it's supposed to be fun. If you wake up on the morning of a tournament and you groan at the thought of the weekend ahead, you might want to reexamine your goals and focus. It might be time to have a chat with Mom and Dad about whether or not you really want softball to be a part of your college experience. It is a sport...if you give it up, you will find other things to fill your life.
The second thing you should be aware of is that if you are serious about playing college softball, and you are a sophomore or junior, it's very, very important that you understand how this process works. If you (or your parents) are just assuming you will be magically discovered and offered a scholarship simply because you were voted All-league in high school or because you're a great kid, you might want to think again. Sure, people win the lottery and become overnight millionaires. But that is the exception, not the rule as far as buying lottery tickets is concerned. Where softball is concerned, you shouldn't gamble. If you want it, learn how the system works, and then go out an make your dream happen!
5-13-13 THERE'S ALWAYS SOMETHING TO LEARN AS YOU WATCH THE WCWS
Hopefully, many of you will catch NCAA championship play on ESPN over the next three weeks. As you watch the games, you're bound to experience a lot of thoughts, ranging from "Gee, I could do that," to "My kid is way better than their starting 2nd baseman." But let me interject a word of caution at this point. It's never as easy as it looks. Smart people pay attention to the "subtext" of the game--to the things the commentators say that otherwise would go in one ear and out the other. If you really listen, you'll hear that the work load of most players at the very top of the collegiate game is substantial. Also, their coaches are tough. They expect, if not demand, an intense commitment to winning. This includes hours of conditioning--both mental and physical--extra time working on skills and drills, and the willingness to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve both team and personal goals.
Being good is a gift to appreciate, but it's not nearly enough. There are lots of good players out there. You should celebrate your All-League achievements in high school, and you should be very proud of everything you've accomplished so far in your softball career. But keep these things in perspective. Ask yourself if you are the kind of player who truly lives, eats, breathes, and sleeps softball? If softball is your life, then you should pursue the kind of championship team where that's a given--whether it be at a D-I, D-II, NAIA or D-III program. (And if softball isn't your whole life, that's okay too! There is a place for you in college ball as long as you really love the game! There are all sorts of programs out there; you simply need to find the one that’s right for you.) All college ball at all levels of competition will demand more of you than you expect. And that's a good thing. It's the only way you'll grow. You should want to work hard, to get better, to set new goals for yourself, because while making a college team is the culmination of all your efforts so far, it’s also the beginning of a new chapter in your game.
In the meantime, however, try to keep a few things in mind. No matter how good you are, there are other players out there who are just as accomplished. And some of them may feel they're entitled to take a spot away from you on a college team! So what should you do? You've got to have game, of course! You've got to want it! You've got to be willing to fight back and show some coach that you deserve that spot more! And maybe most importantly, you've got to be smart about it. Get cagey, get competitive. Understand how the process works, and figure out how to make it work to your advantage!
6-1-13 ADVERSITY SUCKS, BUT IT MAKES YOU A BETTER PLAYER
Some athletes seem to glide through the recruiting process with ease, encountering few obstacles along the way. It can be daunting to watch this, particularly if you yourself have run into roadblocks. Perhaps you get hurt and have to miss a high school or travel season. Maybe you don't get to play on a top travel team whose players seem to generate college coach interest without doing much work at all. Or you might struggle to meet NCAA/NAIA academic minimums, having to put extra time in studying while your friends are out enjoying themselves.
These kinds of issues will definitely test your commitment to playing in college, . However, they can also help you clarify your goals, strengthen your resolve, and prove to yourself (and anyone watching) that you have what it takes to succeed at the next level. As frustrating as an injury or academic problem may be, they can force you to focus on what you really want from your life and college experience. I've seen it happen lots of times. A player who faces a tough rehab or who has to work extra hard to pass her SAT realizes how much she wants to play softball in college. So she gets real, gets down to work, and makes that very thing happen!
6-16-13 REALITY CHECKS
Often when I'm talking to a player or her parent, I'll hear something like, "Coach Bill told me that the coach from the University of So and So was talking to him about me/my kid...or was here to see me/her..." This sounds like great news, and indeed, it may be. However, when I ask the player/parent, "So what was the outcome?" most of the time, they don't have an answer for me because this is where many travel coaches go "vague" with the player or her parent. Sometimes it's because they didn't write anything down and/or they were bombarded with college coaches talking to them about a lot of kids. So the specific intent of any particular coach's conversation may have been lost along the way. But sometimes it happens because nothing CONCRETE actually took place. The college coach may have mentioned your name because you wrote him, but the college coach is actually more interested in someone else--or might be there to look at someone on the other team. In other words, your NAME may have come up, but it didn't signify anything.
It may also be that your travel coach asked the college coach what he/she was looking for, and the coach said, "We still need a catcher and a 2nd base." And your coach might have mentioned your name along with the other catcher and his two 2nd basemen. So while your name was said, there's nothing in that conversation to indicate any specific interest. It may be smart to give your travel coach a little gift of a small notebook with a pencil or pen attached. Ask him/her to jot down the names of any college coaches who express a serious interest so that you can follow up with a call or an email. Ask your coach to ask that college coach for a card that he can pass along to you. Do this with respect and appreciation for what your travel coaches do for you. However, stress to them that in order for you to be as proactive as possible and to take responsibility for your college search, you need all the help and information you can get. And that includes knowing what's real and what isn't.