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.