by Catharine Aradi

Playing for the Super-Dupers Gold travel team (i.e., one of the top-ranked teams in the country) may guarantee some players have an easy recruitment process. But in a Catch-22 way, most of the time if you are that good of a player--e.g., the standout player who really is head and shoulders above the rest of her grad year teammates--chances are you can get yourself recruited almost regardless of which team jersey you wear.

But here's a scenario I see all too frequently.  Player X joins a moderately successful, moderately well-known travel team because the coach promises his players not only get seen on the best fields at the best tournaments, but they also get recruited with minimal effort on their part.  (I know of one travel coach who tells her team families, "Here's how recruiting works. You play for us. Coaches come to see us, and I ask them what they need, and they watch the kids I tell them to watch.  And then when you get recruited, I negotiate the best deal for you.")

There is SO much wrong with this statement that it almost leaves me speechless. Almost, but not quite!

While it may be true that a college coach appreciates input from a travel coach with whom he or she has a long-established working relationship, most coaches--and especially those at Top 25 programs--take an “I want to see for myself,” approach to recruiting. A college coach might look at the players a travel coach recommends, but the ultimate recruiting decisions will be the college coach’s,
not the travel coach’s.

A travel coach may tell you college coaches always recruit his girls, but I guarantee that any self-respecting travel coach with a working knowledge of college softball will not suggest a player to any college coach unless he really believes this girl could legitimately contribute at that program. It’s Self-Protection 101.

If I’m an experienced travel coach, I won’t ever push a player towards a school that’s likely to be a real stretch for her, because there’s a pretty good chance we'll all lose. The college coach may start to question my judgment and may not be as interested in my girls in the future. If she goes to that school, the player may be out of her depth, may not get the playing time she hopes for, may never become a starter, and may eventually quit the team. Consequently, most travel coaches hedge their bets and try to be very careful which players they recommend to college coaches they like and whose “business” they want to keep.

On another note, if any travel coach implies/suggests that he or she can “negotiate” a better scholarship deal for you, go dunk your head in a bucket of cold water and then politely say, “No thanks!”  College coaches almost never negotiate when it comes to scholarships. All coaches--even those at top programs--have only so much money to work with. And the majority of college coaches know that there’s nothing to be gained from trying to “low ball” a scholarship offer to a prospect.  (I’m happy to explain why this is the case if you email

Once again, the moral of this story is
BE SMART!  When you get to college, if you’re too busy to do your conditioning, too tired to go to class, too disinterested to prepare for games like you should, you will almost certainly not make it as a collegiate softball player.

So, if you’re too busy, too tired, or too disinterested to take charge of your own college search and to understand how recruiting works for the majority of ball players, the odds are pretty good that you won’t end up being recruited.

And that that is just fine if it’s what you really want!