Information on the College Recruiting Process
Jess and my paths crossed many times before we actually came to know each other. I was helping coach the varsity team in Swartz Creek, while she was in middle school and playing in the travel softball club I would eventually be coaching in, FireStix Fastpitch. I recognized her potential mostly in 8th grade while watching a game after our varsity practice. Fast forward to today, where although I am no longer assisting with the school team, Jess is a member of my 16u travel team.
Jess is a 2019 1B/OF Power Hitter who recently gave a verbal commitment to Tiffin University. It seems like yesterday that she was just a middle school girl hanging out at the high school tryouts, where her dad was helping out. My how time flies. Jess learned about my blog and expressed interest in writing, so I asked her to give it a shot. She did, writing her first post, "My Journey to Self-Confidence in Softball" back in April of 2016. She followed that post with, "What it is Like Being a Freshman on Varsity" in July of 2017. This is her third post, which describes the college recruiting process from her point of view.
Regular readers of this blog already know my opinion on early college recruiting in fastpitch softball. I have been strongly outspoken against the practice and absurdity of girls giving verbal commitments to college softball programs while they are still in middle school. Hearing a young prepubescent girl declaring her love for a particular college of her dreams brings a range of emotions for most people. I used to feel shock and awe, thinking how impressive the player must be. Now I just get angry.
Do not misunderstand me as I have no bad feelings towards the young girls in these situations. Had my daughter received an offer in middle school from her dream school, I have no doubt she would have given a verbal commitment too. Although she did not, they were still watching her all the time during all of her high school years. Regardless, I look back and wonder how different our experience would have been had college coaches not been able to recruit players until the fall of their junior years.
I feel so strongly about this issue because I fully understand the downside of early recruiting. I lived it with my daughter. An enormous amount of stress can be felt by these players during the recruiting process. While it may be easy to believe that having a big part of the process over so early (the verbal commitment), many people fail to contemplate the pressure put on the players to live up to and meet such high expectations. I wrote about some of these pressures and issues in my last post, College Recruiting Gone Mad.
Since then the NFCA posted information about this issue as well as a petition for people to sign in effort to put an end to early college recruiting in softball. I signed it and urged my followers to do so too. I have also seen more articles critical of this practice including one I hope you all take a moment to read, Why I Decommitted: Grace Marsalo's Struggle With The Early Verbal, on Flo Softball. This is why I have frequently stressed the importance of taking breaks and more recently the rising trend of players experiencing softball burnout.
A colleague and friend of mine, Donny Dreher of Finesse Fastpitch where my daughter played, recently produced an important video (below) that I encourage you all to watch. Did you know there is a rapidly growing number of college athletes taking anti-depressant medication and or seeing sports psychologists to treat depression? Let that sink in for a minute. While some of you may dismiss this or explain it away, I hope the majority of you take some time to think about this fact and the other concerns.
I am hopeful, yet skeptical, about the NCAA’s proposed changes with the recruiting process. Reading between the lines I see a lot of gray areas. There seems to be much reliance on college coaches to police themselves. I can only hope they have the integrity to make this honor system work and that the NCAA holds those who do not accountable.
Another thing I have noticed in recent years is the ranking of players and teams as young as 12u by some popular fastpitch websites. Good grief.
Another week of work and school goes by for you and your daughter. You pack the car with your things and her softball gear and hit the road towards the hotel. Whether it be a college softball camp or tournament, your dreading the drive, but eager for some softball. One minute she’s texting on her cell phone a bit and listening to music and passed out the next.
She’s learning to deal with her anxieties and fears right before your very eyes.
Your glad she’s resting, so she’ll be fresh in the morning. You’re already thinking about how little sleep you’ll get that night and the amount of coffee it will take to get your morning rolling. You’re hoping that she’ll have a great day, perform to the best of her abilities and make an impression on a coach or two.
You make it to the hotel, wake her up, get checked in and she crashes again while you’re staying at the imperfections of the hotel ceiling in the flicker of the television’s light. You blink your eyes and the alarm’s going off. You get ready, rush through breakfast and dash to the field or college. She’s fine. You’re exhausted as the camp or game begins.
I want to help you by sharing my thoughts on college softball camps. Through the years my daughter attended too many to count or name and now she works them as a member of her college softball team. Today as a 16U travel coach I am encouraging my players to attend camps.
Which ones? How many? What types? Why? Those are some of the most common questions I’m asked. I’ll answer these and more in this article, which I hope you will share with other parents in your softball circles.
So. My daughter has transferred from Ball State to Valdosta State to finish her education and play her final two years of college softball. Was this the plan all along? No. Did we ever anticipate this? No. Why the move? Well, it's a long story for another day. I will however share with you the short story. Craig Nicholson recruited her. She committed, finished her senior year in high school, earned back-to-back 1st Team All-State honors as a shortstop, graduated, had an open house, went to the BSU orientation, met her future freshman teammates and began her final year of summer travel softball. A couple weeks after orientation, she was notified that Nicholson took the head coaching job at Arizona State University.
Valdosta State Softball Stadium