One of the hardest parts of playing summer travel ball is something that has nothing to do with a bat, a ball or a glove. It can be frustrating, confusing and even annoying for parents (newbies in particular) to have to listen to other parents go on and on about college recruiting especially when they don't really know what they're talking about.
They may be extremely well intentioned and they may be speaking only from their own daughter's experience, but the fact remains that the information they put out there can be very distressing to your parents. The worst comment I hear is some version of the old, "WHAT??? Your daughter hasn't committed yet? Well, you know all the good schools (read D-I) are done through 2025! If your player isn't being recruited, she's never going to find somewhere to play."
This is just flat out WRONG! No doubt many of the bigger D-I programs have identified their 2018, 2019 and in some case, 2020 prospects. But NONE of those kids have signed Letters of Intent because they can't do that until they are seniors. And sinc D-I schools represent only 25% of all college teams, and since a fair number of D-I coaches don't look to get commitments from 12 year olds, the reality is that the vast majority of college coaches are still considering 2018 prospects. Most will only have started to loo at 2019s or 2020s.
Parents! When you're in the stands during games, try to take everything you hear with a grain of salt. If you have questions about the validity of what you hear or what you're being told--by travel coaches or other parents--shoot me an email and I'll do my best to clarify things. It's easy to get all worked up when it seems like all the other players are way ahead of your athlete, but before you have a stroke make sure that what you're hearing is real and not hyperbole!
5-14-17 IT'S A GREAT TIME FOR COLLEGE SOFTBALL
May is the best time to be a fan of college softball because there are so many great games to see. If you live near a strong Div. I, II, III or NAIA college, you might be able to catch a regional or super-regional playoff game. If you're in Oklahoma, you could attend the WCWS. And if you can't actually be at a game, just download the Watch ESPN app and you can follow the action on your TV, tablet, computer or phone.
But while you're in the midst of championship fever, pay attention to the commentators. Some are former softball greats, and many have the experience of competing in the playoffs themselves. Over and over, you'll hear them talk about the work it takes to succeed at that level as well as the demands placed upon players by winning coaches. Every year, I urge players (and their parents) to really listen to the subtext of the play-by-play at Div. I regionals, super regionals and the Women's College World Series. In my experience very few young athletes are prepared for the challenges of competing in college period, let alone at the highest levels.
As you listen, you might also pick up some handy tips to improve your game. Of course changing or making your game better takes a lot of practice and commitment. But a small fix in your batting mechanics or an awareness of game strategy you might not have had before can help you shine on your own championship field as summer rolls around and travel ball begins!
6-1-17 MORE OBSERVATIONS FROM THE ROAD TO THE DIV. I CHAMPIONSHIP
As you watch these games and study all the different teams, and as you listen to the announcers' commentary, ask yourself what it is you really want out of your college softball experience. Do you want to be a player who starts every game? Are you okay being a part-time player? Or will you settle for being the team cheerleader who works very hard at her game, but who rarely gets to do anything more than pinch run, pinch hit, and take part in inter-squad scrimmages? Some girls can be happy as role players. But if that's not YOU, then you need to find the college team where you can be the player who makes a difference!
Enjoy this championship journey. I hope you learn a lot, and I hope you get fired up to stay on top of your own personal college search. If you are a junior and you haven't started this process, try to do so ASAP. Check out my book for tips on what really works when it comes to getting a college coach's attention. But always remember that softball has to be something you love doing. While you'll definitely have to work at it--and work hard--keep in mind that it's called playing softball not working softball. It has to be fun!
6-13-17 SUMMER BALL CAN MAKE YOU ABSOLUTELY NUTS!
Everyone starts the summer with high expectations, be they parents or players.... "My daughter's team will only play in tournaments loaded with college coaches. Those college coaches will come to watch a lot of our games. When watching our games, they'll focus intently on my daughter. When coaches are focusing intently on my daughter, she'll go 3 for 3 with two doubles and 4 RBI or she'll strike out 10 batters and only give up one hit...a bloop single. Those college coaches watching will decide they have to have her on their teams, and active recruiting will begin with offers rolling in. My daughter's teammates will all get along and they'll perform like a well-oiled machine...AND...we'll qualify for Nationals where we will finish in the top ten. Okay, maybe the top 20."
Now, back to real life. I suppose the above scenario is possible...if your players is on one of the top 10 or 20 teams in the entire United States. (And even then there's no guarantee they'll all get along. Not to mention the fact that the coaches of those super teams want to win and if your kid isn't producing, she'll sit the bench or simply get cut.) Try to keep this in mind. You, your player and her team will have good games, good days and maybe even good tournaments. But there may also be days when it seems as if absolutely nothing goes right. The 2nd baseman couldn't field a beach ball if it was handed to her, the pitcher seems to have only vague memories of what a strike is, and your batters couldn't hit a soccer ball off of a tee. It is what it is. It's easy to be optimistic, enthusiastic and supportive when everything is going well. But when things get wonky, everybody--and I mean everybody--gets uptight...which only makes things worse. If you'd like some ideas for coping, just email me at email@example.com!
But while you're in the midst of championship fever, pay attention to the commentators. Most are former softball greats, and many have the experience of competing in the playoffs themselves. Over and over, you'll hear them talk about the work it takes to succeed at that level as well as the demands placed upon players by winning coaches. Best of all, you'll be able to pick up all sorts of handy dandy tips to improve your game.
Of course changing or making your game better takes a lot of practice and commitment. But a small fix in your batting mechanics or an awareness of game strategy you might not have had before can help you shine on your own championship field as summer rolls around and travel ball begins!