6/4/18               TAKE IT ALL WITH A GRAIN OF SALT!

One of the most frustrating aspects of travel ball for parents has nothing to do with a bat, a ball, or a glove.  I spent many years sitting in the stands at summer tournaments, and I watched moms and dad get confused and not infrequently annoyed (first time parents in particular) as they listened to other parents go on and on about college recruiting. What made this both amusing and distressing for me was that so much of the time the parents who wouldn't stop talking often knew very little about how recruiting really works.

These parents almost always mean well, and they may even admit they're speaking only from their own daughter's experience, but the fact remains that the information they put out there can be very upsetting to you.  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!  While it's true that many the bigger D-I programs have identified their 2019, 2020, and in some cases, 2021 or 2022 prospects, NONE of those girls have signed Letters of Intent because they can't do that until they are seniors. And since D-I schools represent only 25% of all college teams and since the new Div. I recruiting guidelines should put an end to colleges getting commitments from 12 and 13 year olds, the reality is that the vast majority of college coaches are still looking for and at 2019 and possibly 2020 prospects. Most will only have started to look at 2021s or 2022s.

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!


Hopefully, many of you are catching NCAA D-I championship play on ESPN.  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 and get competitive. Understand how the process works, and figure out how to make it work to your advantage!


Be sure to read the May-June article on preparing for summer travel ball.  Making the transition from high school to travel seasons can be harder then you think.  This is particularly true if you struggled all spring to "hit the slow pitching" and now, all of a sudden when you feel like you finally mastered that, you find you're out there on the travel circuit facing pitchers who throw harder and move the ball more. Yikes!

But if you're playing travel ball partly because you hope it will be a springboard onto a college team, you have a lot to get done between now and June. I understand that everybody would have you believe that all you have to do is email 20 coaches at your dream schools, and a scholarship will soon be waiting for you .  And for a teeny weeny percentage of players this might be the case.

How will this happen?  Well, either the player knows precisely the right schools to target--e.g., her exact "wow factor" schools--and she is lucky enough to have those coaches see her, recognize her talents, actively recruit her...OR...she happens to be on a team whose "name" opens doors.  In other words, either due to a past history with that program or a belief that players from this team will win them a championshp, some coaches will automatically open communications from these players.

But what about the rest of you...the other 85-90%?  You need to do your homework.  And just emailing coaches, particularly right before a big summer travel tournament will almost never get you an A+!  (If you're not sure what I'm talking about, read this month's article!)

NOTE:  With the implementation of the new Div. I recruiting guidelines, be proactive on your on behalf will be more important than ever, particularly for younger players.  If you think you'll be able to just hand it over to your travel coach, you could be in serious trouble because until your junior year, 3rd parties can no longer act as go-betweens.  In other words, your coach can't pass messages from you to a Div. I coach and back again without risking jeopardizing
your eligibility!


Div. I softball coaches recently voted in favor of returning (at least some) sanity to the recruiting process, and the Div. I Council agreed with them.  Effective immediately, all recruiting contact between Div. I coaches and prospects is prohibited until Sept. 1 of the player's junior year. On top of this, youth coaches and other "3rd parties" will no longer be able to act as go-betweens.  So your travel ball coach won't be able to LEGALLY help you make that commitment to the Univ. Of Somewhere as an 8th or 9th grader.

Existing early commits will be allowed to stand, BUT, with no permitted contact until the player is a junior, it will be interesting to see how many of these actually hold up.  Why do I say this? Well, Div. I coaches will now start focusing their active recruiting efforts on 11th and 12th graders while keeping an eye on the 9th and 10th graders who are coming up behind them.  And they will discover it's a lot easier to tell how a player may develop as a college freshman when you see how she's developed as a high school junior. Many coaches will find there are late bloomers out there---girls who have come into their own at 15, 16 or 17---and recruiting perspectives may start to shift.

There are going to be a lot of repercussions from this recruiting tsunami, and my best advice to you is to grab a copy of my book and hold onto it!  In the words of the immortal Bette Davis, "Fasten your seatbelts.  It's going to be a bumpy night."  (ref.  All About Eve, 20th Century Fox)

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