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.


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!

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.

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