Most softball players dream of being recruited by dozens of NCAA Division I programs, getting a scholarship, and playing well enough to get noticed by professional coaches.But few get recruited or even make the team at the Division II, III or NAIA level, much less Division I. According to Cheri Naudin of Collegiate Sports Advocate, a company that matches student-athletes with colleges, there are only 1,650 softball programs in the country, and that includes the junior college level. If every team averaged six newcomers each year, that leaves less than 10,000 open spots.
Once the harsh reality sets in, players and parents are blindsided. The biggest reason, Naudin says, is parents aren’t realistic about their child’s talent level.
“They only see their competition in a small marketplace,” she explained. “They don’t understand the depth of competition nationwide. People are lost; they’re mystified when they get to their junior year and they’re like, “What? I didn’t get recruited?”
Before starting Collegiate Sports Advocate, Naudin owned Softball Academy of Texas for four years. She has personally coached over 50 NCAA athletes, and has helped over 150 get recruited to schools in the Power Five and other conferences. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Another roadblock, she said, is the intense competitiveness of softball recruiting. Schools are scouting players as early as eighth grade.
“Nobody likes it, it’s not right for the student athlete, but it’s what’s happening,” Naudin said.
This certainly doesn’t mean your child should abandon her goal of playing at the collegiate level.
Naudin recommends four steps players and parents can take to increase their chances.
Expand Your Competition
As difficult as it may seem, parents need to be honest about their child’s talent. The best way for players to find out whether they can play beyond the local level is to connect with coaches and teams beyond your district. Attend camps and clinics hosted by reputable coaches in your state or around the country, if it’s affordable. Services like Collegiate Sports Advocate can also help in assessing your daughter’s skills and abilities.
Focus On Academics
Players who excel in the classroom can broaden their opportunities athletically. Naudin has matched numerous athletes to Ivy League and other schools with high academic standards. If your child is an average player, but has a score of 30 on her ACT, target a program that plays to her academic strength. Naudin advises kids to get ACT and SAT testing as early as their freshman year. Athletes must compete in the classroom to remain eligible to play on the field.
Develop Good Character
When Naudin asks kids what they think coaches look for most in an athlete, she usually hears responses like, “positive attitude” or “teamwork.”
“It’s really the opposite; they want the biggest, best player who hits home runs or strikes everybody out,” she said.
That’s not to say qualities like attitude and teamwork aren’t important, particularly when it comes to filling that final roster spot or two. Besides physical talent, many coaches want players who succeed academically, follow instructions, and have solid time management skills.
Look Beyond Athletics
If your daughter is fortunate enough to be recruited by more than one school, make sure the final decision is based on more than just the team they’ll be playing for.
“Look for the flavor of a school,” Naudin said. “Are these the kind of people you want your child associating with? Are they going to make your child successful? A big thing, for me, is to look at the quality and character of the coach. That’s the person your child will be mentored by for the next four years.”
From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr.