NCSA

Why Being ‘Good Enough’ May Not Be Enough

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By Kyle Winters, Recruiting Coordinator at NCSA Next College Student Athlete

One of the most common pieces of recruiting advice I hear is: “If you’re good enough, college coaches will find you.” While this may have been the case 20 years ago when word of mouth was the only way coaches heard about prospects, recruiting has come a long way since those days. Athletes no longer have to leave the fate of their recruiting process to chance—nor should they!

Most families don’t realize that, per NCAA rules, there are no restrictions on when or how student-athletes and their families can start proactively reaching out to college coaches. In this article, I explain the importance of being proactive in your recruiting to ensure you maximize all collegiate softball opportunities available and find the school that’s the best fit for your daughter.

The story of an athlete who was good enough but didn’t get ‘discovered’

To help you understand why I’m so passionate about college athletic recruiting, I should explain my background and journey through the recruiting process.

I grew up in Arvada, Colorado, playing baseball out of Pomona High School, a 5A school. At the time, it was one of the best baseball programs in the country (ranked as a top 20 program my sophomore and junior seasons). Fast forward to September of my senior season—a mere two months before the baseball National Letter of Intent early signing period. By this point, I was 6’4” and throwing in the low 90’s. And I had very little interest from college coaches.

Thankfully, I was able to pitch at some showcases and against the best baseball team in the country, who I shut out over seven innings. As a result, I finally got a few D1 offers, New Mexico among them. I decided to commit to the University of New Mexico, and signed my NLI in November of 2004.

After committing, I continued with my senior year. Following graduation, I wound up being drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 first-year player draft, 156th overall (college/junior college/Puerto Rico), essentially deeming me one of the top 100 high school baseball players in the country. While I was incredibly happy with how my process worked out, the University of Mexico was by no means my first choice of college, or baseball program.

I had aspirations of playing at schools like Rice, Stanford and Notre Dame and without a doubt had the talent to do so. Unfortunately, by the time any of those programs heard of me, they had finished recruiting my graduating class at least a year earlier. Had I known how soon they filled up recruiting classes, I could have tried to get on the radar of those college coaches as a freshman. There is no doubt in my mind that I would have had a surplus of college programs to choose from had I been informed about the process.

What this means for your daughter’s recruiting

By this point, you’re probably wondering how any of this relates to your daughter and her goals of playing in college. Recruiting for softball is exponentially more aggressive than baseball was when I was going through the process 12 years ago. Top DI programs will verbally commit girls as early as 8th grade, and most DI programs will be finished recruiting a class by the end of those athletes’ sophomore year! As a result, every other level is affected, and competitive DII programs are now committing girls as early as their freshman and sophomore year, as well.

My plea to your family is to learn from the mistakes made by mine. Don’t wait until you are already behind and overwhelmed to start being proactive.

  • Get organized early
  • Get an online presence so coaches have a place to find your daughter’s information
  • Make a skills video
  • Take control of your recruiting process by getting it in front of as many college coaches as possible

Start emailing college coaches at every division level

Have your daughter email her profile and video to 10 schools at each Division level: Division I, Division II, Division III and NAIA.  Now let me be clear, this DOES NOT mean that you should start spam emailing every college coach in the country every week! Do your research and create a list of schools that may fit the mold of what your daughter is interested in. Your daughter’s emails should be well thought out and specific to every program that you reach out to.

When you’re reaching out to college coaches, the coaches’ responses—or lack thereof—will provide insight into what types of collegiate softball programs will be the best fit for your daughter. For example, if you start reaching out to Division I programs, and they don’t follow up, that may be an indicator that those schools are not be a good fit at that time. It’s most likely a good idea to expand your horizons.

Building relationships with college coaches early on is key

Getting started early gives athletes a leg up on their competition, but it also allows athletes to build relationships with coaches early on. Several times a week, I speak with parents who are under the impression that college coaches can’t even talk to their daughter until junior year.

According to the NCAA recruiting rules, DI coaches are not able to directly reach out to athletes until September 1 of their junior year. But if DI coaches are interested in recruiting your daughter, they will go through third-party resources, like her coach, to start the recruiting process. And remember, your athlete can always initiate communication with college coaches.

Furthermore, Division III and NAIA coaches have no restrictions on when they can contact athletes, so they can begin talking to your daughter right now. Make sure your daughter is asking those coaches questions about their schools, their academics and what they are looking for in their recruits.  Even if those schools aren’t the ultimate interest of your daughter, that communication will be great practice for building relationships with the schools she’s most passionate about.

The follow-up is one of the most important parts of the recruiting process

Once you’ve gotten your daughter’s information to coaches, you may or may not hear back from anyone, which is OK. Depending on how young your daughter is, she may need to wait another year before she reaches out again with an updated skills video. Meanwhile, continue to research schools and start to narrow down your list based on your daughter’s athletic, academic and social interests compared to the schools that seem interested in her. Use this process of elimination to determine which school is best for your daughter.

By starting early, your family can find the best fit and maximize your daughter’s scholarship opportunities while schools still have athletic money to dole out.  If everything works out, your daughter will be able to sign a National Letter of Intent in the fall of her senior year and use her senior season as a proverbial “victory lap.”

My biggest hope is that your family understands the importance of being proactive early on and making your own opportunities instead of waiting and hoping that coaches find her. I think Coach Bob Chmiel, former Recruiting Coordinator at Notre Dame and the University of Michigan, may have put it best, saying, “If you don’t manage the recruiting process, the recruiting process will manage you.”

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