For you high school juniors and families out there who are awaiting phone calls, we are sure we don’t have to remind you that September 1st is right around the corner!
For others who may not understand this, for Division I softball September 1st now represents the first time collegiate coaches can contact prospective student-athletes in the junior class to discuss recruiting opportunities.
It is undeniably an exciting time that can also be nerve racking with many unknowns. Let’s talk about some ways to navigate “the big day”.
1) Try not to blow it out of the water while also demystifying the day
I know what you could be thinking, “Michael, you literally just called it ‘the big day’ though and you want me to not over blow it?” That is correct, I did, and yes that is what I’m asking you to do. It is a big day, regardless if you receive the calls you are hoping for or if it goes how you are hoping it will the day is still important in your recruitment process. But here is the key: it is not the end of the road for you if it does not go the way you want. The process also isn’t over if you do receive the calls and have the positive, exciting conversations you are awaiting.
While exciting, “September 1st” is not the end all be all moment, everyone needs to remember that. Recruiting continues, coaches lists and interest levels change all the time. It’s as much as a bench mark that can help guide your next steps.
2) I didn’t get the phone calls I wanted, now what?!
First and foremost, it’s okay to be and feel disappointment. That is natural, normal, and healthy. Personally, I don’t think as a society we do a good enough job normalizing disappointment, especially in the athletics realm. Everything has to be, “well I’m just going to work harder”, “everything is fine”, “sure it could be disappointing but it doesn’t bother me! I’m untouchable”. It’s incredibly unhealthy. What is healthy and mature is allowing yourself to feel that disappointment and then channeling it into action; that is when the idea of “I’m going to work harder” can actually be productive. You’re a human being, don’t run away from the disappointment, meet it head on and overcome it.
Once you’re able to do that, take a step back and formulate a plan to move forward with. Think to yourself, “what is the best course of action?” and contact your coach/club director/recruiting coordinator to discuss options and pick their brain. Get your parents involved in the conversation.
Next steps can include e-mailing these schools to include updates, skill videos, etc. You can also look up any camps and clinic the program may have coming up and consider attending them to get yourself in front of the staff. If your coach feels it is appropriate they can reach out on your behalf as well.
*A note about e-mails: do not randomly send your fall schedule with a “I hope you can come see me play” tagline. That is only acceptable if there is some kind of relationship with a program’s staff; that includes you’ve attended camp and they know you, they’ve attended your games, there has been an expressed interest, etc. When schedule e-mails are sent with no knowledge of the athlete they end up in the trash. If you are going to send your schedule make sure your skills video is attached along with your key information (graduation year, club team, position, where you are from, and always GPA).
3) I did receive the calls and contact I was awaiting
Congratulations, that is very exciting! Enjoy the moment, take it one step at a time, and go with the flow. Once the contact is complete, give yourself sometime to process everything. You may even want to take notes about the call once it is complete so you are able to revisit them later. As mentioned above, the work isn’t done if that positive call comes through. Did the coach talk to you about areas of your game they’d like to see you improve? Do your grades or test scores need improvement? Did they give you positive feedback on anything? Take everything they said in and get back to work, even on the good stuff. Obviously improving weakness is the priority but strengthening your strengths also cannot be emphasized enough. Example: they love the way you always hustle around the field. Is there ever a time you don’t? How about during warm-ups? Can you now work to elevate your teammates around you to a new level of “hustle”? Things to consider.
The main point here: keep working, it’s not a time to suddenly kick up your feet and coast.
4) Be very realistic about things
This should be happening throughout your entire recruiting experience but being realistic about where you stand, your talent level, etc. is crucial to a successful recruiting process. Not every competitive softball player will play at UCLA or Oklahoma; it’s just the plain truth of the matter.
But you know what the cool thing about that is? That’s okay! It doesn’t make you “less important”, it doesn’t make your hard work less valuable or impressive, simply it doesn’t make you “lesser”. That is something that can get lost, especially in the world of social media where you can be extremely aware of what everyone else is doing, where they are going, what camps they are attending, who they are taking photos with, etc. Again, it’s natural, but work to overcome it.
Have an open and honest conversation. This can be with your coaches, parents, an important family member or role model, or even just within yourself. Where does your talent level and your ceiling for potential best lend itself to? I cannot stress enough how important this is and as soon as you can get there the better the odds are for you to have a positive recruiting experience with the best outcome FOR YOU.
5) Please don’t ever rule out opportunities that don’t fit a set “mold”
Please don’t. There are so many amazing opportunities out there from DI to NJCAA, so many! Work hard to break out of the mindset that your future college “has to be a Power 5” or “has to be a DI”, you are only doing yourself a disservice. College has to be about more than just softball. Yes, it is important but it is a great vehicle and the rest of your experience is arguably more important. The size of the institution, the location, degree offerings, culture of the program, and coaching staff all matter!
Handcuffing and limiting yourself in that way is not a smart choice.
Another example, how about future playing time and on-field contribution? What if you’re not okay being a role player through your four years? Let’s say you have “DI” mid major talent but need to develop more and are looking at realistically not seeing much playing time over your career. Now say you could be a freshman starter in a high ranking DII program. Which one fits your desires and goals more? There is no blanketed “right or wrong” answer, it all comes down to what is most important to you. If playing as much as possible is of the utmost importance to you but you don’t want to look at a “DII” program simply because it is “DII”, what good or sense does that do or make? You are potentially setting yourself up for a lot of disappointment.
So again, please do not get yourself locked into a tunnel visioned viewpoint that closes you off to at least considering every opportunity out there. What you find may surprise you!