College Softball News

Get Ready to Say Goodbye to Early College Softball Recruiting

The hot topic that caused the most buzz at the 2017 NFCA Convention in Las Vegas was early recruiting. Jessica Mendoza got the ball rolling on opening night when she mentioned during her speech that she hopes coaches can come together and find a way to stop the early recruiting process. The game of softball has evolved over the years and many changes have been made to recruiting. It is not uncommon for a college softball coach to obtain a verbal commitment from players who are in middle school.

The Division I caucus at convention spent most of their sessions discussing and proposing changes to early recruiting. College Lacrosse recently implemented a recruiting rule that college coaches are not allowed to begin recruiting athletes until September 1 of their junior year. Athletes who are younger than their junior year are still welcome at all camps and clinics that college lacrosse teams put on, however, coaches are not allowed to bring up anything having to do with recruiting or verbal commitments to these athletes.

Several other college softball coaches used their speaking platforms throughout the convention to present their stance on early recruiting. Rhonda Revelle, the Head Coach of Nebraska stood up at the very beginning of the DI caucus, raised her hand and pledged that she would fully buy-in and support this recruiting change. Hours later in the afternoon session, Arizona Head Coach Mike Candrea also stated during his presentation that he doesn’t like talking to seventh and eighth graders and that they don’t like talking to him.

College softball coaches take a huge risk with early recruiting. Some coaches don’t even bother with it and have continued to stick to their own recruiting standards of acquiring verbal commitments from juniors and seniors only. Do these schools lose out on big recruits by waiting? Probably. This wouldn’t be the case anymore if college coaches can come together under the new rule and abide by new recruiting standards.

There are some hesitancy and unanswered questions that came from the two days of caucus discussions around this topic. If the rule were to be changed, would ALL college coaches follow it? Would there be a way to monitor coaches for accountability purposes? It would be almost impossible for committee members to hold every single college coach accountable if this rule were to be changed. Would there be slip-ups? Probably. It would take some time for coaches to get used to not being able to chat about recruiting at a camp future prospects attend.

The only way for this rule change to work would be for all college softball coaches to take some sort of pledge or sign a written form holding them accountable for the rule change. Even then, would that be enough? Hopefully. On the second day of the Division I caucus, a vote was taken at the end by the coaches in the room and the majority ruled to stop early recruiting and implement the same recruiting timeline that college lacrosse uses. This would mean no talk of recruiting or mention of verbal commitments until September 1 of that player’s junior year.

Eliminating early recruiting in softball will give all colleges an equal chance at acquiring the best talent the game has to offer. Can you even imagine how many phone calls, text messages, emails, and handwritten letters the Head Coaches of teams who played in the Women’s College World Series receive after the season concludes? By forcing future prospects and recruits to wait, this could potentially give other teams a chance to acquire great talent.

It will be a risky transition and a rocky one, to say the least, if the change is made, but after being present at the convention and hearing coaches voice their opinions, give feedback on discussions, and the majority vote, this shift in the recruiting process could be right on the horizon. The weight and the pressure will soon be lifted off the chests of the seventh and eighth graders and they can focus on developing their game, maturing as an individual, and enjoy their journey. What is the rush anyway? 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 junior year in high school to make the dream a reality.

Fastpitch News ® (FPN) is dedicated to covering the sport of Women’s Fastpitch Softball. FPN provides news, analysis, opinions and coverage of College, High School, Professional and International Fastpitch leagues and organizations.


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