Parents thinking ahead to the holidays and wondering what they can give their player may want to add these things to her list of concert tickets, designer jeans, iTunes downloads and a new car.

• Give her the gift of your recognition of how hard she works to be the best ball player she can be.

• Give her the gift of your commitment to her college education. (Remember, she's not going to make $100,000 a year as a ball player, so if you don't want her sleeping in your den when she's twenty-seven, she needs a degree and a career.)

• Give her your promise to support her search for a college team without letting your own ego needs or personal agenda factor in. 

• Give her the gift of maturity and perspective and remember that she will stop playing softball some day. It would be nice when that happens if you could both look back on this time and remember it as one that brought you closer together and helped her grow into the young adult you now know her to be!

11-9-12    IS IT TOO LATE FOR YOU?
It's not unusual for me to receive phone calls or emails from parents at this time of year asking if it's too late for their senior. Sometimes, they've done everything they should, but maybe they targeted too few schools or targeted schools where their player wouldn't be considered an impact player.  Sometimes, their player has done a few things such as make a video or send out twenty emails, but the family as a whole just doesn't have a grasp of the big picture, and consequently, their player is now stuck.  Once in a while, I even hear from a family that has done next to nothing, but they are still surprised that their player hasn't been recruited.

The answer to their question is almost always the same. It's not too late if you are willing to accept the realities of your situation, and if you're committed to doing the work it may take to find the school that's right for you. Will you have as many options as you might have had six or ten months ago?  No.  Will you have to adjust your expectations a bit?  Possibly.  But there will be schools looking for prospects well into spring. There just will be fewer and fewer of them. If you are lagging behind, don't put things off a moment longer.  Take charge of your college search and get out there and make it happen!

The NCAA is--by all standards--a work in progress. Yes, their rules are very specific and you have to follow them, but those rules change...frequently!  And when they change, the NCAA does not mail out postcards to every athlete in the country. My book is generally very accurate where the recruiting process is concerned. However, it goes to press each year in January, and a rule that was in effect in January may be revised, voted upon, approved, and changed by August.

The smart athlete will make sure that she and her parents visit the NCAA web site several times a year to check for guideline revisions. Major academic rule changes usually take 2-3 years to go into effect, so you're probably safe there unless you're reading my book as a freshman or an 8th grader. But rules that govern things like communicating with coaches, visits to colleges, and so on may be revised within the span of a single year. Just to be on the safe side, always check with the NCAA directly if you have any doubts!

I'm going to go a little bit off topic here because December is a good time to reflect on the "big picture" that life paints for us. I lost two good friends this month, and while both were elderly--one 80 and one 88--I'm sure they would have liked to have more time with family and friends.  When you're a teenager, you tend to believe you're infallible, that you'll never get old, and you'll certainly never die. I get that. Part of growing up is pushing the boundaries and testing your limits...even when common sense tells you not to.

But in the wake of the Newtown shootings and other senseless acts of violence that seem almost inescapable these days, I would remind young adults that there are people who care dearly for you and who want you to have a long and productive future. I know, I know.  When you're arguing with your parent(s) over things like honoring curfews and doing your homework and attending an SAT prep versus choosing your wardrobe for a big party, it's pretty hard to feel all warm and fuzzy about your family. 

And hey, parents do make mistakes--any parent who believes otherwise may want to do a serious reality check.  However, parents  have one thing going for them that you don' least not yet.  Parents have life experience...lots of it. Most of the time we've been there and done that.  That's why we worry about you doing it!

So I'm asking you this Christmas to give your folks one small gift. (Actually, one LARGE gift.)  THINK!  Think before you text and drive or drink and drive or tell them you're somewhere you're not.  Think before you do anything that might be considered life-threateningly stupid.  Any softball player knows one pitch can be a game-changer.  In the same way, one mistake can be a life-changer.  No one expects you to be perfect--at least I don't!  But if you're old enough to be reading this, then you're old enough to start making smart choices. One day, many, many years from now, when your children are telling you how mean you are, you just might be glad you did!

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