11-1-14 USE YOUR WINTER BREAK PRODUCTIVELY If you're a 2016 or 2017 graduate, the winter break, which more or less runs from Thanksgiving until high school softball starts in the spring, is a great time to focus on your personal needs and goals as a college bound student athlete. You should give yourself a week or two away from softball, and then start or renew your conditioning program, perhaps attend a local college camp or two, and evaluate where you are in your college search.
Juniors should be taking SAT and ACT tests over the break so you have a baseline score and know where you stand. If you haven't already done so, you should identify the schools you want to send snail mail packets to and begin working on those. Your target date for a mailing of a letter/resume/transcript/video link/summer schedule should be no later than May 1. But if you play spring high school ball and/or your travel team holds practices in the spring, it can be hard to get every thing done at the last minute. That's why the winter break can be so valuable.
If you're a sophomore and you're determined to reach out to Div. I coaches to see if you might be a candidate for those kinds of teams, the winter break is when you need to identify the schools to write, get your video done, work on a resume and letter of introduction, and so on. If you're focusing more on the 75-85% group--i.e., Div. II, III and NAIA schools as well as Div. I schools that don't pursue freshmen and sophomores, use the winter to create a postcard to send out in late spring to a variety of those programs.
In other words, use this time to move your personal college search forward and then you'll be able to focus on spring softball once the snow melts!
11-15-14 IF YOU DO CHOOSE TO GO TO A CAMP... I've said many times that college camps (as well as most independently run showcase camps) are designed to be fundraisers first and foremost. People don't hold camps out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it to make money. There's nothing wrong with that, of course. But too many parents see camps as something to throw money at in the belief that this will be the magic bullet to get their player recruited without doing any work.
Whatever else you take away from a camp, take away this. Yes, college coaches do occasionally recruit a player who has attended their camps or whom they've seen at a showcase camp. However, the vast majority of players who attend camps aren't recruited as a result of the camp. Most kids will leave most camps with (hopefully) a happy memory and a nice tee shirt. That's really all you can count on. Anything more than that will be the result of either a spectacular performance or spectacular luck...or possibly both!
If you attend a college or other camp hoping to be leave as a top prospect for one school or another, make sure that you follow up independently afterwards. Don't just email the coaches in question. Phone them and see if they remember you, and if they do, ask whether or not they're now considering you as someone they'd like to recruit. If you don't get an answer you can use, chances are you need to continue to look at other college teams!
12-1-14 GIVE THE GIFTS THAT KEEP ON GIVING - REDUX 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. And don't qualify it by saying, "but you can do better."
• 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 path.)
• 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!
• If you need extra guidance or find yourself overly stressed as you go through the college search and recruiting process, give yourself the gift of a phone consultation with me. For $30, I promise to allay a lot of your fears and talk you down off that ledge!
12-14-14 EMBRACE THE SPIRIT OF THE SEASON! Christmas comes but once a year. The same goes for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate. Why not embrace the spirit of the holidays by giving something back to the softball world? Volunteer to work at a camp or clinic teaching your skills to younger players. If you can't find a local organization that runs clinics, perhaps you can organize a used equipment drive among your friends or teammates and collect gently used equipment to donate to a group such as Let's Play it Forward. You can check out their website at http://www.letsplayitforward.org/
If you've been fortunate enough to achieve success in your softball endeavors, you'll definitely have something to share, whether it's your knowledge and experience, your work ethic, or the "gear" you no longer use!