NCSA

What the New NCAA Recruiting Rules Mean for Your Recruiting Journey

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By Mallory Winters, NCSA Senior Recruiting Coordinator

The new NCAA recruiting rules have brought a lot of uncertainty into the softball community. Their goal: To crack down on the rise of early offers that have been changing the softball recruiting landscape over the past several years. As of April 25, 2018, Division 1 softball coaches are not allowed to have recruiting conversations or send recruiting messages through an athlete’s club/high school coach or other third party until September 1 of the recruit’s junior year of high school. Furthermore, recruits are no longer allowed to arrange unofficial visits at the D1 level with a school’s athletic department—this includes the coach—until September 1 of the athlete’s junior year of high school. Finally, official visits at the D1 level are now allowed starting September 1 of the athlete’s junior year. In other words, September 1 of junior year is a HUGE date to remember.

Reflecting on my own recruiting process and the changes the rules create, I felt compelled to share my story. As someone who didn’t have my first college contact until the second semester of my junior year, I hope you can use my experience to create your own successful process. Even at 17, I was uneducated about the vast college softball opportunities, and with only one year remaining of high school, I didn’t have time to make a fully informed decision.

I left my recruiting to late junior year, and nearly missed out on the opportunity to play college softball

For the first three years of high school, I was living in the moment and unaware of a college decision that was quickly approaching. I was a varsity catcher and high-level travel player, but I only knew of the few schools in state and the ones I watched in the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) every year. By the middle of my junior year I had:

  • Never researched my degree and what schools offered it
  • Never attended a college camp
  • Never visited a college campus, experienced an admissions tour or seen any college softball facilities
  • Never had a phone call with a college coach
  • Never received offers to play college softball

Once I started researching schools and proactively reaching out to college coaches, things changed

When we decided to finally reach out to coaches in the second half of junior year, we looked at those WCWS teams and emailed away. The first 10-15 responses said, “Thank you for your interest, but we are no longer looking at your class.” I didn’t use my freshman and sophomore years to get educated on recruiting, learn about different schools, put together video or prepare in any way for communicating with coaches. And now the prospect of playing college softball was in jeopardy. We hurriedly reached out to a recruiting company we knew who compiled a list of schools, put together a paper profile and cover letter, then mailed it to about 300 college programs. My mom filmed every game that summer before senior year, and we edited a VHS tape (YES – a VHS tape!) to send to schools. In the span of a few months, I went from zero communication to having phone calls with a D1 program. I went on one official visit, applied to one university and verbally committed shortly after.

There are so many things that had to go right in order for this opportunity to fall into place. I had a WONDERFUL experience, but I am one of the lucky ones. Countless teammates of mine had bad college experiences, some not even making it through freshman year because they were as unprepared as I was.

What does this story—and the new recruiting rules—mean for you?

These new recruiting rules might make it even more tempting to wait until junior year to really start thinking about recruiting—and maybe even college in general. However, as you can see from my recruiting story, nothing good comes from putting off the process. Instead, start your research as soon as possible and educate yourself about how softball recruiting really works. Research colleges, lock down your future major and get a good feel for what you’re looking for in a college. Here’s why:

  • September 1 of junior year is going to be a free-for-all for everyone. With the floodgates opening on this date, you need to be sure you have laid down the foundation for calls, texts and emails from D1 coaches on that day by putting in the bulk of your recruiting research and groundwork as an underclassman.
  • There are more than 1,600 college softball programs, most of which are outside of the D1 level. Research a couple schools a week (at all levels), get video (if not for recruiting, then for your own skill development and progress), and give yourself the best chance to know exactly what you are looking for in a college before the contact starts happening September 1.
  • Reach out to schools! These rules do not include D2, D3, NAIA or junior colleges, where the majority of high school softball athletes end up. You might find that you love a school at a different level and can start building a relationship with that coach at any time.
  • Remember: You can still reach out to D1 coaches to get on their radar—they just aren’t able to communicate back until September 1 of junior year.

Whether a competitive softball player or not, the college decision is a process for EVERY family. Driven young people have been dreaming of and researching top schools since they were kids. These new recruiting rules shouldn’t change that! The most prepared and proactive softball players will be in the best position to make an informed college and softball decision when the time comes.

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