Question: Our 12 year old, multi-sport daughter (2023) played for a high caliber 12/U travel ball team, and while it was a great experience and showed she could compete as a pitcher at a high level, it consumed all our time. Aside from academics which is top priority (she is an A student), it did not allow any time for other sports, friends/ family time, rest, etc.
So we made the decision to leave the team - and now we are being pressured on this decision due to college recruiting rules today that allow looking at 7th / 8th graders now. Our answer 1) academics will always be top priority, 2) at 12 and starting 7th grade playing multiple sports are critical to determine which sports she may want to play in college, 3) balancing friends, being a kid, burnout and injuries that occur playing a single sport.
Are we making the right decision? Please note we just relocated to FL and everything is year round unlike other states where sports are seasonal and more balanced. Many Thanks for your advice.
Answer: Frankly, I applaud your decision to balance your 12 year old's time and interests. Parents get caught up in the insanity of college scholarships and the prospect of seeing their players on ESPN because that's what they think all college softball is about. Many of these parents completely lose sight of the fact that their daughter is almost certainly not the next Jennie Finch, and she's probably not going to the Olympics, nor will she earn $150,000 a year playing softball after she graduates college.
Too many of these parents also (almost stubbornly) refuse to acknowledge the "realities" of college softball and how recruiting actually works. They prefer not to understand that 1) 75% of ALL college teams are not D-I. This is important because it means 75% of colleges aren't going to recruit like D-I schools. 2) Only about 55% of players will ever get any athletic based aid, and the majority of those that do will get partial amounts, not full rides.
At the end of the day, all that's going to matter is how talented some college coach thinks your player is...and that's beyond your control. If she's truly got top Div. I ability, as long as you get her on coaches' radar by her sophomore year, she'll be fine. If she's a low level Div. I talent or a strong Div. II or III or NAIA player, then those are the schools that will recruit her... And what is critical about this is the fact that the vast majority of Div. II, III and NAIA (and even a fair number of smaller D-I) coaches don't pursue players and commitments before players are into their junior year.
So, where your daughter is concerned, let her continue to develop her softball skills along with her strong academics and whatever other sports she wants to play. Give her the opportunity to learn and grow and to decide if she really wants to play any sport in college. You have plenty of time for her to do this. If she gets into high school and still loves playing, you can then begin to plan a college search and follow the necessary pathways to help her find the college and team that are a perfect fit for her.
Try not to give into pressure from other people since most of them don't have a clue. Do what you think is best for your daughter. And remember, she's 12. She won't start college until she's 18. Between now and then a lot can happen to change the direction her life takes. Save for college, plan ahead in case she wants to play a sport there, and let the rest take care of itself. Best wishes!
PS Please note that a lot of pressure is being put on the NCAA to figure out a way to ban early commitments. The Div. I council made a (in my opinion) weak attempt to do this by tightening the Div. I Recruiting Calendar as of this year, but I believe it's going to take much stronger legislative action in order to restore common sense to the college recruiting process in softball. While the majority of coaches would love to see this happen, unfortunately, there are still some coaches (mostly from power conferences) who believe it's their right to lock down 13 and 14 year old players by recruiting 5 or 6 years in advance. Hopefully, within the next few years, wiser heads will prevail.