In my 25 plus years as a recruiting consultant, it's safe to say I've heard it all. But that doesn't mean it's all old hat. For parents going through this process for the first time, the softball player's college search can wreak emotional as well as financial havoc. Families who would be much better of putting money into a college savings account max out their credit cards paying for hotels and bats and pitching lessons. Adult parents who consider themselves to be realistic, level-headed and hard-working often lose all touch with reality, and this sometimes results in behaviors that range from silly or mildly embarrassing to downright nuts.
I was a softball parent. I understand how easy it is to get caught up in the emotions of the moment, especially when you want so badly for your child to succeed. But let me give parents a word of advice. TAKE A DEEP BREATH and TAKE A STEP BACK. If you can't stay grounded and maintain perspective, let someone else guide your daughter's college search. Whatever you're feeling---fear that some other player is better than yours and will take away your daughter's spot on a team or frustration and disappointment because college coaches just don't see the same things in your player that you do or intense anxiety because you can't pay for your child's education---it's fine to acknowledge those feelings, but DO NOT act on them!
The first law of recruiting is that it's not fair, and you will have to accept that some things will be beyond your control. For example, you cannot change the way a college coach thinks, nor can you predict or manage the way your player performs during a game when college coaches are watching.
Your player will almost certainly NOT make $100,000 a year or more as a professional softball player after she graduates college. Your first wish for her should be that she get an education that helps her find a good job, have a rewarding career, and earn a decent living. Your second wish should be that if SHE wants to play softball, she can find a college and a team that enables her to have a positive collegiate experience with the sport she loves. Yes, it would be nice if she got some scholarship money to help pay for this, but remember, less than 55% of softball players get any softball-based aid. And the vast majority of those will get partial amounts. Assuming an athletic scholarship will pay for your daughter's education is rather like trading your cow for a handful of magic beans.
Finding a college to recruit your player should, however, be very possible if that's what she truly wants. Getting some financial aid (maybe even a lot) is also possible if your player has fantastic grades and test scores or if she qualifies for need-based or diversity-based aid. She might even get some athletic-based aid. But the odds are very good that you are going to have to foot the bill for a big chunk of her education. (NOTE: For some families, the best pathway is to start at a junior college, and then move on to a four-year school. It might not be what you want. But in terms of the big picture, it's a viable option.)
One final observation. Try to stay in the real world. I frequently hear parents say that if their child could only play on Travel Team X, it would all be handed to her because all the kids on Team X get big scholarships. Or if her team had a "college liaison" who made sure every college coach watched their kid at tournaments, she'd get that scholarship. Let me set the record straight. YES, if your player is good enough to be the starting pitcher or centerfielder on a team that has finished in the top ten at PGF or ASA Nationals for the past five years, she may indeed have an advantage over other players. (Remember, recruiting isn't fair!!!)
But I have yet to meet a team "recruiting coordinator" or "college liaison" who could make the coach at Arizona or Alabama (or anywhere else for that matter) recruit an athlete just because that's what Mom and Dad think this coach should be doing. Let's face it. College coaches can and do make recruiting mistakes. But most of them have a pretty good idea of what they're looking for, and all the "wishin' and hopin'" in the world won't make them recruit your player if she doesn't fit the bill.
Parents, you essentially have two choices. Choice 1) You can be proactive, guide your player through her college search, realistically assess her long-term life needs as well as her softball skills, and do everything in your power to help her find the college and a team that are right for her. Or Choice 2) You can choose to believe other people should make this happen for her, that she shouldn't have to do any work beyond sending out a few emails, and that she should be recruited (and probably offered a sizeable scholarship) just because she's a good kid and a good player. And if this doesn't happen, you have the absolute right to blame everyone but yourselves!
Like it or not...I can guarantee that the happiest parents and, most importantly, the happiest players will be those who make Choice 1.
9-14-2017 GET A HEAD START ON YOUR FINANCIAL AID APPS
This is a reminder that if you haven't done so, 2017 grad parents really need to start working on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid or "FAFSA" now if you are hoping to get financial aid beyond athletic money. If you think you might qualify for academic aid, diversity based aid, geographic diversity based aid, work study, loans, need-based grants, merit awards, and so on, be sure to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible and have it sent to the appropriate colleges. Also, you might want to check with the colleges you're applying to or attending to see if they have any additional financial aid requirements beyond the FAFSA. FAFSA opens its applications for the 2018-19 school year as of October 1.
Here's a link to the FAFSA web page where all your questions will be answered! http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
NOTE: Canadian students need to consult the financial aid office at any colleges recruiting you because you don't apply for aid using the FAFSA.
10-1-2017 FALL BALL DEFINITELY HAS ITS LIMITATIONS
It's not unusual for a softball family to end the summer feeling exhausted, maybe a little discouraged and possibly even disappointed. But after a couple of weeks off, those same families will look at fall ball the way a starving man looks at a five-course meal. This will be their salvation! But counting on fall ball to solve all your recruiting problems can be a mistake.
What parents forget is that this is FALL ball!!!! That means both college coaches and high school players are back in school. Coaches have teams to prepare for spring competition. High school players have homework and school activities. Travel coaches may expect their players to compete five or six weekends in a row, but it's not unusual for kids to have to miss some games due to academic or other commitments. And while there might be numerous tournaments for teams to choose from every weekend, the fact of the matter is that college coaches just don't go out to scout that much.
Coaches at well-funded programs may travel to one or two tournaments out of their region, and they might attend a couple of regional events. But beyond that, they're busy with their own teams. And frankly, a lot of college coaches only go out once or twice the entire fall season.
So if you haven't done your recruiting homework and/or you don't really understand how recruiting works and how to put yourself on a coach's radar, fall could be a very chilly time for you. ( If you'd like more information on fall ball and how to make sure coaches don't overlook you, send me an email! )
10-15-17 IF I HAD TEN BUCKS...
...for every time a college coach told me "...confidentially..." that he or she a) ignores all emails that aren't from someone he/she knows; b) forwards most email to an assistant who ignores all emails that aren't from someone they know; c) gets fifty, sixty, a hundred (or more) email inquiries or updates every week, and they can't possibly read, let alone answer all of them; or d) has practically given up on email completely except for specific personal business, I would have enough money to buy a really nice new laptop to handle all of my emails. Consequently, I get very frustrated when players tell me, "I emailed my top ten or twenty colleges, and sent a resume." My blood pressure goes up even more when they add, "I did that because that's what my travel coach told me to do. He said that would get me recruited!"
Why do I get so frustrated? Because being recruited successfully is a combination of knowing just how the process really works, being willing to put in the time to make sure you succeed---e.g., you hard own hard work, and just a little pinch of luck and timing. And when players send out emails that are never read or answered, it can really put them way behind in the process. Start with a hard copy, personalized letter of introduction, a resume with your video link and schedule and a copy of your transcript. Put a stamp on the envelope and take it to the mail box! Follow up with a phone call. And then, once a coach has proven he or she will responsibly and reliably use email to communicate with you, you can take it for granted that your emails will be important enough to be read and responded to!