Many parents and players who reach out to us with questions about our showcases also have questions about the recruiting process as a whole. To help as many parents and student-athletes as possible, we decided to address the most frequently asked questions.
This is Part III – check out Part II (“How do I stand out to a college coach?”) here
Last time, we covered the mindset and approach that it takes to stand out to a college coach – but how does a player do this at a showcase or at a tournament, when all the eyes are on her?
Standing out at a showcase or tournament starts way before camp itself, with forethought, preparation, and communication (you’re with the program so far just by reading this blog – well done). The most obvious piece of this is the softball-specific preparation – it’s the hard work and hours that you put into the game when no one is watching that put you in a position to shine when all eyes are on you: success arrives most frequently when effective preparation meets opportunity. But there are other, oft-overlooked pieces of preparation, too.
Before you arrive at camp, email the coaches with whom you’d most like to connect while you’re there. A short, simple note to let them know that you’ll be there, how interested you are in their program, what team you’re on (if it’s a travel ball tournament), your position(s), and a link to your recruiting video if you have one (more details on making your video in this post) is perfect. Send this email about a month before camp, and then follow up with a short reminder a week before the event. Remember, coaches want student-athletes who want to play in their programs, and if you’re interested in a particular school, it’s your responsibility to let them know.
A few guidelines when sending:
- Send this only to schools that you are legitimately interested in – do not blanket all coaches that will be at the event. Coaches talk to each other, and eyebrows raise when all 40–50 coaches there get a very similar form email from the same player.
- Get the coach’s name and school right (seriously). It seems simple, but ask a coach if a prospective student-athlete has ever emailed them referencing a different coach or school (hint: nearly every coach will give an exasperated “yes”). Each email should be tailored to the school and coach to whom you’re sending it – don’t send an email about how excited you are to major in mechanical engineering to a coach at a school with no engineering program. Sending a generic or stock email to the wrong school or misspelling a coach’s name shows a lack of attention to detail, and can be one of the quickest and surest ways to get crossed off a list.
- Don’t expect a response before camp. During the spring and summer, coaches are busy with their season, administrative duties, and recruiting – they might not have time to respond to your email. They’ll read your email, but don’t expect them to respond. Instead, follow up with them in person about it at camp (details on at-camp communication and coach engagement below)
As we have discussed at length, effort, work ethic and a positive mindset go a long way, and are paramount to what coaches are looking for in a player. At camp, this means demonstrating your team- first mentality, coachability, and hustle.
Smile! Coaches want players in their programs who are energy-givers. This is a person who contributes to team success, regardless of her play on the field. Engage and support teammates, smile, and show that you love the time you spend on the softball field.
If one of the college coaches in the dugout or on the field has a pointer or suggestion, listen closely, and then try to implement it in the moment if you are able– if you have questions about it, ask. Questions can and should be a signal of curiosity and interest in self-improvement, rather than a lack of understanding. The best players are not afraid of feedback, they relish it – it’s the perfect opportunity to grow and improve to realize their potential.
Run hard through the bag, take an aggressive turn on a fly ball, and turn a dropped pop-up into a double – play with the energy and enthusiasm that makes the coach picture you in her school colors.
Coach Engagement –
One of the great aspects about our showcase camps is the opportunity that players have to engage directly with college coaches – both on the field and in the dugout. At first, this opportunity can feel somewhat intimidating, and having a coach ask you a question as straightforward as what state you’re from can elicit shyness or a blank stare. But these are great opportunities for players to get to know college coaches, interact, and put themselves on a coach and school’s recruiting radar screen.
Coaches are recruiting the whole person, not just the on-the-field player. It’s crucial for their programs to find girls who can play softball at a high level, perform in the classroom at their school, and are a personality and culture fit for their team. Introducing yourself to coaches, having conversations about yourself, and about their program – these are all very natural and productive forays into finding out if you’re a fit at the school. Don’t be shy – coaches are there to engage and recruit, but they want to recruit players who have the emotional awareness and maturity to give them a handshake, look them in the eye, and say “Hi, my name is…”
Think of camp not as a truncated time frame during which you need to meet and introduce yourself to a school, impress them with your play and commit to their program. Camp is a great touchpoint along the recruiting journey, and part of an ongoing process and dialogue – but also one which affords an unparalleled opportunity at direct coach engagement that’s impossible to find elsewhere.
HEADFIRST TIP: When introducing yourself to a coach at camp, know their name and school (again, seriously – this happens more than you’d think). Do your homework and have some talking points about the school (location, size of the student body, team record from the previous season). This shows that you’re actively engaged not only in the recruiting process, but with their school and program in particular – this thoughtful effort and due diligence goes a long way in opening up and continuing a dialogue with coaches.
Standing out to a coach at camp as a player, and as a hard-working personality fit for a coach’s program starts well before camp. In fact, hustling at camp in some ways is the easy part. Your time at each camp or tournament will fly by – and the way you’ll be able to embrace and make the most of the opportunity is by being prepared and in control.
It’s easy to play hard when you know that coaches from Princeton, Texas, Amherst, and UVA are watching – those situations provide serious motivation. But someone once asked Joe DiMaggio at the tail end of a doubleheader why he ran hard through the bag on a routine 6-3 ground out. His response: “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best.” So the challenge is not to play hard at camp, or when 50 college coaches are watching, but every single time that you put cleats on – whether it’s at a showcase, in the championship game of a travel tournament, or on a dusty patch of dirt near home when no one is watching.
The time spent on the field is yours: smile, and show everyone watching how much you love every hard-working second of it.