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
I recently made a post on the Softball Journey Facebook page (Pick the School, Not the Coach) concerning uncertainty that the current and future players of the Michigan State Softball Team are experiencing with the ongoing investigation of the coaching staff. My heart goes out to them, because if there is a change in coaches, I know what some of them might be in for. When there is a coaching change, the new coach does not have to honor any of the former coach's wishes, promises or scholarships.
The fact of the matter is that after 2 years my daughter was unhappy and wanted to transfer. She still loved the game and wanted to play for 2 more years. She loved so much about BSU, her teammates, the school, most of the professors, Muncie, Indiana and made tons of friends.
The Phone Call & What Now?
She called me and let me know she wanted to transfer. So, I had to figure out what the NCAA rules were and what we needed to do to find her another college softball opportunity. I downloaded and read the official NCAA Transfer Guide. I sought advice from several people in my softball circle. I learned that neither of us could communicate with any college coaches until she had been officially released from BSU. And that would have to wait until the end of her season.
There was a lot of information in the guide and much about academic concerns, such as which credits transfer and the rules about transferring to different divisions. Hayley had also talked to a former teammate who transferred the previous year. She met with the compliance official and an assitant athletic director as well. She got advice from all of them as well as encouragement.
Help from our Friends
The rules did not state whether anybody outside of our family could contact college softball coaches. But, we did not want to enter this gray area. I contacted my friend Brian Chidester at College Bound Jocks (right) and gave him a list of schools that Hayley was interested in. Her list was filled with D1 and D2 programs that had good business schools, good softball programs and were mostly in warm weather climates. He sent out emails to them that he knew of a D1 left-handed power hitter, 1B/OF who was going to be transferring. He did so without giving them her name or any of her information. Numerous coaches replied that they were interested and wished to speak with her upon her official release.
The day came when she had her meeting with the coach at the end of the season. She said she would be transferring. They processed the paperwork and within 24 hours she was officially released. We forwarded the release to Brian. He sent it to the coaches who wanted to talk with her. They contacted Hayley. She went on a visit by herself and I joined her on another. She made her decision while we were visiting Valdosta State, committed, applied and was accepted to the school. We went to the bookstore. She bought a shirt and I got my Dad-Hat (below). We toured more of the town and drove home the next morning.
Does that sound simple and quick? Hardly. I left out a bunch of details. Never having been through the process before, we were a bit paranoid about the NCAA rules. And another big concern was which credits would transfer. VSU confirmed all of them would, while other schools needed more time to figure that out, which wasn't very reassuring. VSU is a D2 school, costs less to attend than the D1 schools that were interested in her and the athletic scholarship offer she received made it a no-brainer. It also helped greatly that the coach was close friends with Craig Nicholson. It's a small world, eh?
Mr. Softball - Seriously LOL
I met a guy while coaching during the high school season at the Michigan Stars tournament, which has something like 50+ teams in it. He called me "Mr. Softball." I laughed and we talked for a bit. He was a reader of this very blog and said he tells everybody about it. I thanked him and went on to our upcoming game. The subject of transferring from one college softball program to another was never one I had hoped to gain any degree of expertise on. But, here we are going through it this very moment. And since I'm the guy who puts himself out there offering others all this advice to those on the softball journeys....you know.....Mr. Softball (again LOL), I feel obligated to share all of this with you.
With that said...if your daughter or anybody you know may be going through this, my advice to you is as follows:
- Download and read the latest NCAA, NAIA, NCJAA guide of the transfer rules.
- Ensure your daughter always does her best academically and finishes her year strong in the classroom.
- Encourage your daughter that things will workout elsewhere; to stay upbeat and finish her season.
- Don't burn bridges, no matter how bitter you may be. Believe me....I know that this is not easy!
- Re-evaluate what your daughter wants her next couple years to be like on and off the field, where and how far away.
- Research possible colleges for their academics, costs, etc. first, then their softball programs.
- Create a list with contact info from your research.
- Contact Brian at College Bound Jocks and work out a deal with him for his assistance (This may even include making a new skills video for prospective coaches to view). As I wrote above, he can give you a head start on the process.
- If you don't want another party such as CBJ to assist you, wait until your daughter has her official release and begin doing the leg work yourselves.
- Determine what her living arrangements will be (dorms, sharing a rental house or apartment, etc.)
- Be prepared to visit several colleges all over again.
I hope this helps those of you who might be in this situation. Best of luck to all.
Beautiful Valdosta Sate University
I've been told by numerous people in my softball circle that the top D2 softball teams are as good, if not better, than the mid-major D1 teams. Since Valdosta State has won 6 consecutive Gulf South Conference Championships, a National Championship in 2012 and was ranked #1 for 9 weeks in 2015, I will be gaining some perspective on this very subject. Over the next 2 years I'll share with you my observations and experiences.
In recent years I've seen several players that we knew of and/or that Hayley played with at one time prior to college who have transferred. And it almost seems to be the norm that many players have experienced changes in their coaching staffs during their careers. While advising you to pick the schools and not the coaches, the exception may be finding a school that's had the same coaches for a number of years. And if you're currently at the point in the recruiting process where you're receiving offers, there's nothing wrong with asking them if they're going to be there during your 4 years on the team.