by Kim Gwydir
I hear this comment often from travel ball coach regarding one of their players – “she has a D1 body”. That comment made me think – is there really a D1 body or mold and did I recruit that way either knowingly our subconsciously?
Here are some facts I came up with
1) Big girls potentially hit the ball farther. If you have any doubts of this – remember Keilani Ricketts from U of Oklahoma (all 6 foot 2 in) who with what looks like an effortless swing and bounce the ball off the outfield fence. In turn, tall girls potentially pitch the ball faster and expend less energy doing it so they can pitch more and eat up more innings.
2) Talent comes in all sizes. One of my best homerun hitters in college was all of 5 foot 2 in tall. One of the best players ever out of South Florida who went to U of Alabama and stared at third base was only 5 feet tall.
3) I remember getting a lot of emails from kids 5 foot 3 in tall that played second base and outfield.
So what does all of that mean?
I think it is naturally for a coach to see a tall kid with a strong build and take notice because they are not the norm. But having a D1 body without the talent is not going to help that coach win games. I know I took on a few “project” players in my career that had size and I hoped to develop them into D1 players. Sometimes it worked but more often it did not.
I also think there are some coaches who like to recruit a certain type of player. If you look at the coach’s team you will get a good idea if that particular coach has a profile of a certain type of player. What I think you will find is that the better teams at D1 find talent – and that talent can come in all shapes and sizes.
Now my last comment –there are a lot of 5 foot 3 in 2B/OF in the travel ball world. If you fit this mold then you need to do something to standout to college coaches. Remember, there are a lot of players trying to get recruited who are similar to you. If you fit the “average” profile when it comes to size – what can you do to stand out when it comes to recruiting?
1. Speed – I used to say “tall and slow I can deal with if she can hit – small and slow is a deadly combo”. Work on your speed and highlight it to college coaches. Speed can change a softball game and help you stand out from the crowd. Coaches like having “table setter types” who can steal bases at the top of the order and in the 9 spot.
2. Be better technically at your game and get stronger. You can blame your parents for the genetics of your height – but you can always work to improve your technique and strength. Parents – ever hear of Dustin Pedroia? He is a big time major league player – nothing special to look at but a hard nose player who has a very nice and long major league career. Sadly, few players take the time to learn the finer points of the game and really work on their technique and even less work on the strengthening part before they get to college. Players who practice on their own outside of team practice are in the minority these days.
3. Be the kind of player on the field coaches want to see. In other words – have a great attitude. It seems corny but time and time again – coaches will tell you attitude matters. If you have a bad one – it does not matter your size – softball coaches do not get paid enough to take on a poor attitude. I was running an exposure game in Florida and we had some Junior College coaches working the event. I asked them to pick an MVP of the game – they chose a player who was about 5 foot 3 and when I asked why – they said it was her hustle and her enthusiasm that just made her stand out from the others. All the players were talented they said, but she stood out because of her attitude and hustle.
All coaches are trying to recruit “difference makers”. Those are the players that make their team better than other teams and help them win games. Players that hit the ball farther throw the ball harder, run faster than the average fit this category but there are those players who bring leadership, heart, determination and these traits help a team win as well. Remember, we are recruiting a softball player so in addition to leadership, hustle and heart you better have skills as well. The problem as a college coach is that it is much easier to evaluate a players hitting, fielding and pitching in a tournament setting than it is to evaluate the character traits like leadership and heart.
Let me give you some tips to help you in the recruiting process.
– Understand what makes you special as a softball player and tell college coaches often. Meaning, send more than 1 email during the recruiting process.
– Tall girls, girls who run really fast or pitchers who throw 70 mph are easy to spot at a tournament – but for the rest, they need to get the coaches to come to them and stay and watch them they play. This is when a good skills video will help. By seeing them play ahead of time through video, the coach can decide if there is something there they like and when they come to the game they are invested in staying and watching that particular player.
There is a quote from John Wooden the great basketball coach at UCLA – it said something along the lines of “Don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can do”. In other words, even if you are not 6 foot tall you can still control your hustle, work ethic and conditioning. Coaches love players who hustle – you know why? They are fun to coach. You don’t spend time trying to motivate them because they are self motivated