April is around the corner and is a great month to get out and watch college softball games in your area. Early in the college softball season, many teams are taking trips down south to find warm weather, but come April we start seeing home games all across the country. If you have a daughter who loves the game of softball and has the dream of playing in college, it is important to inspire her with the options that are available. ESPN is showing more games on TV and the internet than ever but that is only Division l. There are so many more options.
Did anyone know that Tufts University is the reigning Dlll National Champs or that North Georgia is currently ranked #1 in Division ll and Butler College is ranked #1 in the NJCAA (Junior College) poll. Have you seen an NAIA school play?
It is difficult to get to college games because high school softball is going on at the same time but many colleges play night games or on the weekend. You need to make the time! There are so many options available and it is important for young softball players to see what it is out there. Take in a UF/Alabama softball SEC showdown Your players will come back inspired and enthusiastic and why not? The crowd, the intensity, it does not get any better than that in women’s softball.
Take the time to plan outings to college softball games in your area. It is never too young to take a softball player to these games. It will inspire them and give them knowledge to use later in the recruiting process.
When does recruiting start?
This is a an excerpt from the FPOS online class “The Road Map to College Recruiting Success” that is included with the FPOS Gold Membership
College coaches will tell you that, recruiting is happening earlier and earlier. The top Division I softball programs have lists of players as young as 8th and 9th grade. It is not unheard of to have a player “verbally” committing in the 8th grade. Later in this course, I will discuss my feelings about these early commitments, but they are happening, and it is very true that the longer you wait in the recruiting process, the fewer opportunities are available. Currently, one of the biggest recruiting tournaments in the country (where you will see the most college coaches) is the ASA 16 U Nationals, NOT the ASA Gold Nationals. The reason for this is that at Gold Nationals, all but a very few are “verbally committed” or signed.
Now remember, NCAA Division I is only one option, there are other types of schools that offer very challenging opportunities to play softball and they offer scholarship money as well. There are over 1700 colleges and universities sponsoring softball in the US that are able to offer financial aid packages. Eighty percent of these institutions are outside of Division I. I remind parents all the time that not every player needs to play Division I and finding the right fit for your daughter is really the most important thing. Appendix B describes 3 recruiting tracks.
1. For those players looking to play at the highest level of Division 1
2. For those looking to play at a lower D1 or D2 level.
3. For those looking to play at D2, D3, NAIA or JC level
The reality of the college softball recruiting process
As a successful college coach at the Division I and II level for 14 years gives me the credibility to give you some insights into the recruiting process from the college coach’s perspective. .
Here are some realities.
1. We received 1000’s of emails, videos and other communications during the year. The days before a major showcase tournament ,the number of emails was staggering.
2. I did not look at most of them. I would forward them to my overworked young assistant to put into a database. I would have my assistant look at the tapes and only give me the ones that they thought were outstanding
3. I would print out the database and bring i with me to tournaments, but I did not use the database to determine the players I was going to see.
4. Emails, letter and profiles that came from “recruiting services” usually went in the trash. If a player did not show me a personalized effort in contacting me, she was a low priority. Emails that came with my named spelled incorrectly or to the wrong coach went in the trash immediately.
So how did I choose the players I would go to see? How did I create my “must see” list for a recruiting season? Here were some keys for me.
1. First, a player had to fit my need for that recruiting class. If I did not need a pitcher I did not recruit one.
2. I had to look at my scholarship budget to figure out what players I could get based on the money I had available. Did I have to look at “in-state” only? At my school I had a certain number of “in-state” scholarships and “out-of-state” scholarships. Was I going to have to package an award with financial aid? If that were the case, then I would look at certain academic characteristics or if the player would qualify for need based financial aid.
3. I would talk to summer coaches and high school coaches I respected and get their input into who the good players were. I would also try to find out who the problems were and I would stay away from them.
4. I would read the emails and profiles and glance at the personal highlights. If there were something that made a player standout, I would have my assistant look more closely at her. Awards mattered and who she played for also mattered – at least as far as getting a player on my must see list.
5. If a player sent me multiple communications, I noticed and it mattered to me that she had a real desire to attend my particular program. Again, I looked for personalized communications, not form letters or emails sent to a group of coaches.
6. Players quickly made it off my list if I saw a poor attitude on the field or a lack of hustle. There are too many players out there, so I tried to avoid taking on a headache.
A player making my “must see list” was only the first step in the process. Then, I would try to decide if my college would be a good fit for both parties. Was she talented enough for my needs? Could she succeed academically at my school? Would she fit socially and culturally at my school?
All programs and coaches are different, but the bottom line is that there are many players out there, and you need to maximize your chances of being noticed by the type of schools you are interested in attending. You should not leave it to chance. Attending a showcase tournament does not guarantee that you will be seen by coaches and, more importantly, by coaches from the schools you are interested in.
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