Question: 16U vs 18U As a Junior? My daughter is starting her junior year, but she will still be eligible to play 16U travel ball next summer prior to her senior year of high school. She has an opportunity to play on an 18U team next year instead of 16U. She would be the number 1 pitcher on the 16U team and would probably be the number 3 pitcher on the 18U team. From a recruiting perspective, how can I help her make the decision between these two teams? I'm afraid that another summer of 16U will not give her the exposure that she could get at 18U. Her overall playing time would probably be the same on either team. Do you think that going 16U again would be a big disadvantage?
Answer: 16U vs 18U As a Junior
I get asked this question all the time, and with very few exceptions, my answer is an unqualified, "Play 18/U! However, the reasons to play 16/U might include: 1. She's not strong enough to play on the only good 18/U teams in the area. 2. There are emotional, financial, or other reasons that make playing on the 18/U team difficult. 3. The only good team in the area/region is a 16/U team, and it's one of the top 16/U teams in the entire state or region. 4. There's no other choice. 5. She's already scoped out the college situation and plans to play locally, not play in college, go to a JC, or go to a specific school whether or not she plays ball.
That said, it's usually more difficult for juniors to get the exposure they need on a 16 U team (except for the top teams in any given area, and even then sometimes it's tough for juniors to be seen because coaches scouting 16/U teams are usually looking at younger players.)
These days, D-I coaches will almost never recruit a player they've not seen in person. D-II and NAIA coaches tend to be the same way, BUT, they have the advantage of being allowed to have players on campus for tryouts. So, if they can't see a player at a tournament, it doesn't necessarily eliminate her as a prospect for that school. D-III coaches also like to see kids, but these coaches tend to travel less and are more likely to factor in a well-made video if they cannot get to see a prospect. Sometimes the choice is out of your hands. Sometimes you have to work around this obstacle. And you can certainly do that. But if at all possible, have her play 18/U. Coaches want to see kids competing UP, rather than DOWN. Hope this helps!
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