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. Please enjoy the first of our five-part series!
The first question we’re addressing is one of our most frequently asked, “What should my daughter be doing right now to get recruited to play college softball?”
Ultimately, playing at the next level takes a combination of factors that are in your control – hard work, performance on the field and in the classroom – as well as factors outside of your control – a coach deciding that you are a fit in their program, or what positions fill their immediate needs. The important takeaway is that there are MANY opportunities to continue your career in college, and actively engaging the process is the best way to set yourself up for success. (PRO TIP: “actively engaging” is the key phrase)
While each recruiting journey and process looks different, what’s outlined below identifies a general guide to the process. Three key take aways to remember as you go through the process are:
- Keep an open mind. There may be a school that you meet at a showcase in August before your senior year that ends up being the perfect fit – and it might not be “the school” where you envisioned playing. It’s crucial to have goals and an idea of what you’re looking for, but it’s also important to keep in mind that these can develop, grow and change as you go through the process.
- Enjoy the process. Appreciate every opportunity that you have with a uniform on your back.
- Find the school that is the best fit. This fit will heavily impact your academic and social experience – with or without athletics in the picture. These four years will be transformative and great, and the process should reflect that with a thoughtful and thorough approach. Coaches may move and take new jobs, athletic careers may come to an end due to injury, but if you choose the school that is the best all-around fit for you, you will be in a great position to have a meaningful college experience. Ultimately, you’ll walk away with a degree that will set you up for a successful next step in the journey.
Start the year and your high school career off on the right foot by performing in the classroom. Take pride in your grades, just as you do your play on the field.
Athletically, start playing and keep at it. If you play multiple sports and enjoy them, continue to play. Do not believe the narrative that you have to specialize early to have a chance to play in college. Coaches love to see and recruit competitors and well-rounded athletes, and it’s never considered a bad thing to be playing multiple sports. At our camps, college softball coaches continually tell us that they love to recruit well-rounded athletes – continue to be one.
Regardless of what team you are playing on (freshman, junior varsity, or varsity), look for opportunities to play and help your team however you can. If you’ve only ever played shortstop and you are presented with an opportunity to play outfield, take it! Prove that you are a dynamic and versatile player with a team-first attitude – you never know when this versatility will come in handy down the road.
Fill out questionnaires for the colleges you are interested in attending. This can help you put your name in their system. If you’re especially interested in a school or coach, email or call them letting them know of your interest. Understand that Division I coaches cannot email or call you back per NCAA rules, but they can answer your call, and it doesn’t hurt to express your early interest. (PRO TIP: College coaches cannot return your calls or emails until July 1st after your junior year – so if you don’t hear back, they’re not ignoring you, they just can’t contact you directly.)
This is a good opportunity to start looking at what types of schools are potential academic fits for you. In your initial scan, cast a broad net and keep an open mind as to what types of schools you are interested in, both academically and athletically. Above all else, continue to work hard in the classroom and challenge yourself in subjects that you’re passionate about with honors and AP classes if they’re the right fit.
Again, if you play and enjoy multiple sports, continue to play them. There may be people on your high school or travel teams who are starting to verbally commit to play at certain colleges. If this is you, congratulations. If this is not you, you are not being lost in the process, and are not “late”. The most important step is finding the right college fit, not being the first person to commit – academic, social, and athletic fit is imperative. Many of you will be playing on travel teams – take care of your body (know when you need a break – you will not do yourself any favors by playing through injury). Fill out recruiting questionnaires for colleges that interest you so that you’re on their radar and in their system.
Create a two minute video of yourself training. Post this video on YouTube (PRO TIP: use your name in your username – it’s easier for coaches to remember if it’s as close as possible to your name) and send the link to college coaches and programs that interest you. Write a short note introducing yourself, provide the link and thank them for their time. Coaches watch these videos that come pouring in and many will watch the entire thing if done right. It should not be longer than 3-4 minutes.
- Say your name, age and school in front of the camera. Speak clearly, look the camera in the eye and show the viewer that you are comfortable and confident.
- Hitter: 15 swings in the cage (10 from open camera angle, 3 from behind hitter and two from behind the screen).
- Infielder: 12 groundballs – 4 at you, 3 backhand, 3 forehand and 2 slow rollers. Combination of throwing to 1B and “turning two.” For first basemen, combination of throwing to 2B, throwing home and one or two throws across the diamond to 3B.
- Outfielder: 5 fly balls (get behind the ball, throw to 2B and home) and 4 groundballs (2 at you, 1 forehand/spin, 1 backhand) with throws.
- Catcher: Have someone video you from the front while receiving 5 balls from a bullpen session. Make 5 throws to 2B (two with camera right behind catcher, 3 with camera zoomed in on catcher and behind 2B so viewer can time the throw). Block 3 balls in the dirt and make 2 throws to 2B and 1 to 3B. This should all be done on regulation bases.
- Pitchers: Capture 20 pitch bullpen. Throw 5 of each of your pitches, indicating before each one which pitch is coming. Camera should be behind pitcher, offset to arm side for 15. Five should come from behind catcher/backstop.
- Include your email, graduation year and name on-screen at the end of the video.
Continue to play with your travel ball team, and start thinking about finding showcases where you’ll have access to the schools in which you’re interested. This is an important summer to continue to improve as a player and also start gaining exposure to college coaches.
Junior year is often seen as the toughest year of high school from an academic perspective, and a time when it all seems to come to a head. Traditionally, it’s the time for more advanced classes, more standardized tests, more pressure in the looming college process – and less sleep. You may be involved in leadership roles in some of your extracurricular activities – it’s important to remember that these take time, and to dedicate your time to those leadership positions that you’re most passionate about. It’s more important to be fully engaged in fewer activities than have less significant roles and spread yourself too thin.
This is also the year that you’ll probably start the college visits. In advance of these visits, reach out to the coaches to let them know that you’ll be on campus and to see if they have a window to sit down to talk about the program. This is a great opportunity to get a feel for the program, introduce yourself to the coach and demonstrate your strong interest in the program. Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (the sooner in your junior year the better). All potential Division I and II athletes must register to determine academic eligibility and qualify to play at these levels. You’ll also need to send your SAT and ACT scores to the NCAA Clearinghouse/Eligibility Center directly.
Keep playing! This summer is another important one to develop as a player and continue to gain exposure to college coaches. Your recruiting footprint includes playing, showcasing and also proactive outreach to coaches that are on your narrowing list of schools. Update your video (guidelines above) and send out.
You’ll be working through the final process for narrowing your school list, applying and writing college essays. This is also when you may be taking official visits to schools that are fits on every level, from academics to athletics and campus culture. If you’re receiving athletic aid to play at the Division I level, you’ll be signing your National Letter of Intent in November. By winter, your applications are in!
Enjoy your last high school season. It’s important to continue to challenge yourself in the classroom and to develop your game on the field. Finish strong – always go hard through the bag.
This is the time to PLAY and enjoy doing it! This could be your last season of ball with your travel team. Relish the tournaments and overnights. Enjoy the hours at the field. Capitalize on the 1000th ground ball rep in the infield. Regardless of the outcome of each tournament, enjoy the teammates you’re with, value the opponents you play against. Remember to thank your family, coaches and everyone who helped you along the way.