Playing College Softball Is Not a Pipe Dream



By Mallory Winters, NCSA softball senior recruiting coordinator

Watching the Women’s College World Series or Olympic Softball Championship inspires dreams and goals in the hearts of many young softball players. For a lot of hopefuls, however, college softball is often considered to be merely a “pipe dream.” Years down the road, many athletes and families have the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” regrets of missed opportunities. Whether they didn’t know how to get recruited, they thought their coach was handling it for them, or they just thought they were good enough to get “discovered,” the reasons for these missed opportunities are endless.

I’m here to tell you that playing college softball is not a pipe dream. For every student-athlete who has a goal to compete in college, it is completely attainable with the right plan, the right expectations, and the necessary work ethic.

A great, well-executed plan is the key ingredient to playing college softball. As a family, start early. There are over 1,600 college softball programs, and approximately 80% of those teams are outside of Division I. That’s a lot of potential opportunities.

Start by researching what you really want in a college

As you research these various programs, have discussions as a family about what is important in the college decision. This does not just mean picking the most competitive softball team or the school with the best facilities. Have a real, impactful conversation. What is necessary to talk about when you’re making that college decision: social environment, academic standards and scholarship needs.

Every family is different, and every family’s college goals are different. You must have a plan that meets your family’s needs. Be honest with each other. Students and parents often have very different goals. Do not wait until the last minute to do years’ worth of research, as that will put you behind on an already steep curve, greatly limiting the available opportunities.

Set the right expectations on what level is your best fit

Expectations can be the biggest barrier to your softball career. Not every athlete is a top-level player, and your best fit may be at a school you’ve never seen on TV. Division II, Division III, NAIA, and junior college programs have a ton of valuable life and softball experience to offer.

Expect that college coaches may already have some of their rosters filled. Expect that some coaches might not respond to your emails. Expect that your dream school might never see you play in person. There are thousands of high school and middle school athletes playing softball competitively throughout the U.S. and around the globe.

These expectations will help keep your mind focused on the end goal in recruiting – a college degree. If you concentrate on your plan and set your expectations accordingly, creating opportunities for yourself at all levels will ultimately lead to a successful recruiting experience.

Put in the hard work necessary to make it to the next level

Great plans and expectations are the pillars of a successful recruiting process. However, without hard work, playing college softball will remain a Pipe Dream. This intangible quality is often neglected in the whirlwind softball environment. You need to put in the work academically, athletically and in your recruiting. Ask yourself these questions to gauge your work ethic:

  • Are you willing to work hard to maintain solid grades throughout high school?
  • Are you willing to get help, tutors, extra study sessions in areas where you are struggling?
  • Are you willing to train harder than the competition, harder than you think you’re capable of?
  • Are you willing to condition on your own time?
  • Are you willing to eat right and be disciplined in your nutrition?
  • Are you willing to take on the responsibilities that come with recruiting?
  • Are you willing to spend the hours researching schools and handcrafting unique emails?
  • Are you willing to follow up with every coach who shows interest in you?
  • Are you willing to put yourself out there, to go on visits and meet new people, to make a tough decision about your future and goals?

If you put in the time to plan, have the proper expectations, and take on the work, you can achieve your dream of playing softball in college. At the end of your college softball career, when the uniform is taken off for the last time — or 20 years down the road, when dropping your children off at their own practices — you will know that you had the power to turn your dream into a reality.

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