A softball player may decide at a young age that they want to play college softball one day. That is the first step in the recruiting process, making the initial decision. College softball is a four-year commitment, and many will compare being a collegiate student-athlete to that of a full-time job. At the Division I college softball level, athletes will be required to attend 20 hours of practice a week on top of being a full-time student in the fall months. The softball load goes down to eight hours a week in the winter portion of the season, before resuming back to the full 20 hours and travel during the spring season.
When you start the recruiting process with your athlete, it’s important to do your research first. Once you complete the following list from our previous article, the softball piece to the puzzle comes next.
- Brainstorm a Major/Career Path
- Location Preference
- In-State vs. Out-of-State Tuition
- Make a Wants/Needs List
College softball is a four-year commitment. The difference between Division I, II, III, NAIA, and NJCAA is often the softball load. The practice amount, travel schedule, and level of play are the most significant differences at these collegiate levels. Whereas the academic load will be similar.
Most college softball hopefuls get caught up in seeking out the softball program first. I cannot stress enough, the importance of completing the list above before thinking about the softball program. College softball is only four years. Your career is for the rest of your life. It’s common for collegiate athletes to complete their four years and then go back to school afterward at the same school or a different school, so they can focus on the career path they want.
Once you have completed the list above, it’s time to start thinking about the softball part and where that would fit into the process.
Make a List of Schools: It is recommended to make a list of five dream schools and five realistic schools with softball programs that would interest you. Once you have made your list, it’s time to do research on each school and connect the dots to your first list above. If you stay true to your first list, you will be able to narrow down your next list reasonably quickly. These lists are bound to change over time, so don’t be discouraged if you cross out every school on your first list.
Research the Softball Program: Once you identify schools that you would be interested in that have softball programs, it’s time to narrow the focus to the softball team. Online research will reveal many things, such as team records over the years, information about the coaching staff and current players – if you are a softball pitcher, it will be essential to make a note of how many pitchers are currently on the pitching staff and when they will graduate.
Go on a Visit: Once you have some schools and college teams in mind, the next step will be planning a visit. Most colleges campuses are open to the public. If you are passing through a state on the way to a softball tournament that has a school you’re interested in, make a pit stop. Seeing a college in person is much different than looking at pictures online. When you find the campus of your dreams, it will shine a little brighter than the others when you are there. When you are on your visits, go check out the softball field. During the fall months, most teams will offer open practices to the public. This would also be a great way to get a feel for the softball environment and the culture the coaches have created for the team.
Attend a Camp/Clinic: Most college softball programs will host yearly softball clinics with one in the summer and one in the winter months. Clinics are the best way to be seen by a college coach. The college coaches will run the camps and clinics with help from the current players. It’s an excellent opportunity to be put into a potential future environment and be surrounded by potential future coaches and players. Before attending the clinic, send an email to the coach introducing yourself and let them know that you are coming. Then at the clinic, introduce yourself by shaking the coaches hand and making eye contact. Following the clinic, send a thank you email to the coach and attach your upcoming game schedule to it and invite them to come. You cannot be afraid to put yourself out there because thousands of softball players may also want to be part of the same softball program one day too.
With the new college softball recruiting rule, college coaches will be unable to reply to or make contact with any players (outside of hosted camps or clinics) until September 1stof the athlete’s junior year of high school. The new rule gives athletes a chance to focus on making their lists and find ways to develop their game before giving a verbal commitment when they are ready. If you are a college softball hopeful, take your time throughout the recruiting process. The process will be different for each athlete. Remain true to yourself, stay the course, trust the process and you will end up at the school and program that will be the right fit for you.