It has been over a week since the conclusion of the 2017 NFCA Las Vegas Convention. Last week we published an article that highlighted the hot topic from the convention of putting a stop to early college softball recruiting. The Division I Caucus took a vote and the majority of the college coaches present agreed that they want early recruiting to end. College lacrosse recently implemented a recruiting rule that coaches weren’t able to engage in communication about the recruiting process until September 1st of that player’s junior year of high school. College softball coaches nationwide are open to implementing a similar rule for softball.
The first question that was asked by college softball coaches, was concerning the camps that the schools put on throughout the year. Would the players who fall in the classes below the junior class be allowed to attend the camps? The answer was yes. College lacrosse allows athletes in middle school and high school to attend all college camps. It is the responsibility and integrity of the college coaches to hold themselves and each other accountable and not mention recruiting or show favoritism towards any athletes too young for the rule.
There are many pros that come with the idea of saying goodbye to early college softball recruiting. Putting a stop to early softball recruiting would relieve a lot of stress for recruits, their families, and the college coaches. Imagine being an eighth-grade softball player and a college coach asks you for an early verbal after watching a game or attending a camp. This is a huge decision for a recruit to make at any age, let alone having to make it as a 14-year-old. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the recruiting process and fall in love with the first school that is interested in you. Often times decisions are rash, which causes players to second guess.
Halting the recruiting process until a player’s junior year also takes pressure off the college coaches. College softball teams filter out a senior class every year. This means coaches must bring in new players and be thinking a class or two ahead each year. Coaches who recruit eighth graders and ninth graders are trusting that these athletes will develop and improve over the course of four or five years and be ready to make an impact by the time they arrive on campus.
After a softball player makes a verbal commitment their game can go one or two ways. Some athletes will choose to elevate their game by setting new goals and putting in additional work to reach the new goal. Others who verbal too early may feel as though they achieved their goal and won’t put as much work in because they don’t feel as though they have to anymore. Unfortunately, this happens all too often and what these players fail to understand is that a verbal commitment isn’t official and a college coach can pull back a verbal at any time.
The recruit can also pull back on a verbal before they sign on the dotted line on signing day in the fall of their senior year of high school. It is not uncommon for a recruit to give her verbal commitment early and then after a few years change her mind. This goes back to the point above that you can’t expect a 14-year-old to know exactly what she wants in life and the path that is going to get her there. It is encouraged that players and their families sit down and do research on the schools and majors offered before committing to a coach and a school.
Eliminating early recruiting in softball will give all colleges an equal chance at acquiring the best talent the game has to offer. If a new rule is issued, college coaches will find themselves watching the 16U tournaments versus the 14U ones in the summer months. If the rule change is implemented, the weight and the pressure will be lifted off the younger players and they can focus on developing their game, maturing as an individual, and enjoy their journey. There shouldn’t be a rush when it comes to making the biggest decision of a player’s life. Everything happens for a reason and if it’s meant to be, it will be, it just may take until the start of a player’s junior year in high school to make their college softball dream a reality.