May can be the craziest month of the year, particularly for juniors in high school. Sure, there are all the fun things like prom and yearbook and high school softball playoffs.  But there are other important things that happen (or should happen) in May, and you need to be on top of them.

Travel ball starts in late May/early June for almost all teams, and your travel coach may be scheduling weekend practices and working hard to ensure you're ready when competition begins. You might also have a May SAT date, and unless you're really on top of your college search, you may be starting to panic as you realize that you've done nothing but send out emails (most of which were probably not read) to a few college coaches.

If that's the case, you still have a couple of weeks to get your video shot and uploaded to YouTube and and snail mail your letter of introduction (or follow up), your resume, your transcript and your summer schedule to 40-70 college coaches.  After that's done, you'll need to follow those up with an email reminding each coach that your packet is on his or her desk and that you hope to see the coach over the summer. And yes, while it's true that some snail mail packets never get opened, and many, many emails never get read, coaches still appreciate that you have reached out to them personally to show your interest in their school.

However, the bottom line on the hard work many of you will be scrambling to do this month is that it will only be worth the effort if you are realistic and target schools where you have a strong, legitimate WOW FACTOR!  Whether you do all the right things or simply rely on dumb luck, the quickest and easiest way to be recruited is to identify those college teams where (and this is what counts) IN THE COACH'S OPINION, you will make an impact. If you can do that, 2015 grads can zoom into June with the knowledge that when fall rolls around, you'll be well on the way to finding your college home!

Hopefully, many of you will catch NCAA D-I championship play on ESPN (see bottom of page for link to schedule) over the next three weeks.  This is always an exciting time of year. It's wonderful to see these young ladies excelling at the college level, but my hat goes off to all the girls who took part in college softball this spring--be it as a league-honored D-I starter or a supportive role player at a small D-III you've never heard of.  All of these young ladies are elite athletes of one kind or another.

As you watch the games on ESPN, you're bound to experience a lot of thoughts, ranging from "Wow!!!!" to "Gee, I could do that," to "My kid is better than their starting 2nd baseman." But I’d like to interject a word of caution.  It's never as easy as it looks.  As you watch, try to pay attention to the "subtext" of the game--e.g., listen to the things the commentators say that tend to 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 thousands of good players out there.  Yes, you should celebrate your All-League achievements in high school, and yes, 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 definitely pursue the kind of championship team where that's a given--whether it be at a D-I, D-II, NAIA or D-III or a JC program.

But if softball isn't your whole life, that's okay too!  There is definitely a place for you in college ball...just 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, try to keep a few things in mind.  No matter how good you are, there are other players out there who are just as good, if not better. 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! 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!

NOTE:  For the complete version of this essay, link to

As you watched the college world series--be it at the D-I, D-II, D-III or NAIA level--you saw a lot of young ladies who have worked their rear ends off to get where they are. They have given up trips to the beach with friends, movie nights at the mall, spring breaks with their sorority sisters and study years abroad. They've gotten up early (and I don't mean 8:00 a.m.) to go work out in the gym.  They may well have spent time on the disabled list or had to live in the trainer's office during rehab for a pulled muscle. Some have had to put extra hours in at study hall or with a tutor, and many have had to prepare for finals right before leaving for their championship tournament.

All of them have practiced more than you can imagine, and all have made one type of sacrifice or another.  Some have been given "heck" by their coaches more times than they want to count. Some have only been given one chance to get a hit or strike out a batter before being pulled for another player.  If you play at that level, it's all about winning, and it's highly competitive.

So...the moral here is a simple one.  If you don't love softball and you're not having fun, you may want to have an honest and open discussion with your parents about your needs, their needs, your wishes and their wishes for you!  (Their wishes for themselves don't count in this discussion, I'm sorry to say.)

I'll be the first one to tell you that playing college ball won't always be cookies and ice cream.  But if you're having fun because you're doing something you want to do and love to do, I promise you, it will all be worth it!

Parents and would be college players face a number of dilemmas when it comes to the college search process.  Hype is everywhere, and frankly, it's just easier for many parents/players to believe it.  After all, when a camp ad seems to guarantee you'll leave the camp with dozens of coaches putting your number into speed dial on their cell phones, or a glitzy, corporate web site promises thousands of coaches will see your profile...and of course, recruit just makes sense to buy into it. Or does it?

Families are so busy, and parents often have several children to get to practices, games, lessons, tutoring, and so on. On top of that, both parents often work, so logistics can be positively maddening.  Teenage athletes have school and softball, not to mention other sports, friends, maybe a job, and of course, the ubiquitous social media. What a drag it is to have to write letters, address envelopes, attach stamps, make follow up phone calls, and so on.  Why not just accept it as gospel when your travel coach says, "Email your top 20 colleges every week with your stats and such and you'll get recruited."

Oh, and by the way, if you believe this kind of hype, I have a bridge in San Francisco I can sell!  Yes, there will always be players who are magically, randomly discovered at major tournaments or camps.  But you might want to keep in mind that those seemingly lucky players--most of the time--may also be the very best players or performers at that particular camp or tournament.

You can choose to buy into the hype and take what seems like the easiest way out. We'll all hope you get very lucky.  Because if you don't, by the time you figure things out and realize that the college search for 90% of all players comes down to knowledge, perspective and hard work, chances are many, if not most, of the spots you might have taken on college teams will have gone to players who were savvy enough not to be dazzled by flash and glam. These spots went to players who were so committed to playing softball in college that they were not about to leave anything to chance. They learned the secrets that guarantee success and made the choice to take control of their own college search!

                                                                             © Collegiate Softball Connection 2014