College softball is booming in both popularity and participation. However, while more women are playing softball at a high level in high school, the effects of COVID-19 on athletic department budgets means you may not see comparable growth at the collegiate level. In fact, roughly only 8.5% of high school softball players will play in college at any level. And if you want to be among that 8.5%, either with an athletic scholarship or as a walk-on, follow these tips to make the most of your recruiting opportunity.
Start By Making A Target College List
While every student athlete’s recruiting process will be different, most everyone should start their recruiting by assembling a list of target schools. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with five dream schools and five other schools that might present a more realistic opportunity. Remember, your list is just a starting point, so update it as you go, and don’t be surprised if the list you begin with looks completely different as you get further along in your recruiting.
Assess Your Abilities
As noted above, it’s perfectly fine to start with some top programs on your target list. However, at some point, you need to take an honest look at your skills and abilities and start looking for schools that best match what you have to offer. You should always keep working to continue improving, but if you’re not sure where you stand, ask your coach for their assessment. Knowing where you stand earlier means you have more time later to find the school and program that offers you the best fit.
Once you get a feel for where you’ll find the best fit softball-wise, go to camps and clinics at those schools. Getting yourself in front of coaches is a great way to raise your recruiting profile. Plus, introducing yourself to coaches and current players, and being around each team’s facilities is an ideal way to get a feel for each program. You can also get a feel for the campus while you’re there, too.
To make the most of attending a softball camp, send a coach an email to introduce yourself and let them know you’ll be attending their camp. When you have the opportunity during the camp, be sure to reintroduce yourself to the coach and coaches. They can watch out for you during the camp and you can get a feel for how a coach operates. Be sure to send a thank-you email to the coach when you get home as well to keep your foot in the door.
Find Your Fit
Finding the school and softball program that fits you best goes way beyond the playing field. Granted, if you do have the talent to play at a top program, remember that softball will essentially become a full-time, year-round job with the added requirement of a full academic load. From there, you should weigh any scholarship offers you do receive equally to determine how much of your college costs you or your family will be responsible for. Remember that a partial scholarship covering 30% of your college costs may still be a better value than a 40% scholarship at a more expensive school.
Once you have a feel for where you stand athletically and financially, remember that college is a four-year commitment. What else do you want from that beyond the opportunity to play softball? Big campus or small campus? More balance between academics and athletics? Do you want to be close to family? Do you want to be able to compete in other sports or simply have time for intramural competition and social life? Would you still want to attend a given school if you were sitting on the bench or not playing softball?
While there are those softball recruits whose talent is evident, most high school athletes are still developing. While a coach’s job is to project how much you’ll develop, it’s also important to allow yourself time to develop. Which is to say, be patient! Don’t expect scholarship offers every time you email a coach. Do expect your target list of schools, and your priorities in what you want from college to change.
While you may start with several, Division I powerhouse programs on your list, you may ultimately find your best opportunity in a lower division. Don’t set “all or nothing” or “this school or bust” goals for your recruiting. There is talent at every level of college softball. The best opportunity for you may be right in front of you.
Recruiting is a process. Allow that process to develop and play out as you continue to develop. Let the right fit find you. When you do that, you may discover that the best fit for you was right there all along.
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