The How-To-Guide: Prospect-to-Recruit-to-Commit
Where do I start? What do I do? What Camps to attend? Do I do Showcases? Do I need to be on a better travel team? High School Ball or Club?
I receive a ton of questions from parents who are just looking for an answer. There are plenty of people out there who are wanting to tell you what to do, but are they credible?
To be clear, I don’t think there’s a one-size fits all approach to this. There are different paths and different success stories that maybe you’ve heard about. My attempt in this writing is to give you a general approach – it’s what I would do if I had a daughter aspiring to play softball at a higher level. It’s the same approach I’ve shared with countless individuals who’ve seen their dream of playing beyond high school come true.
I can’t write this without thinking about Darya Kaboli-Nejad, currently a member of the Oregon Ducks Softball Team. Darya fell under my guidance as a freshman in high school when she walked into my Omaha hitting facility looking to improve her swing. Through hard work, she did that. Her dream was to take her skills to the next level and play college softball.
Her parents supported this idea and took Darya to dozens of on-campus camps and spent weekends playing as a guest on various top-level club teams. I made calls to my network of coaches asking that they take a close look at her, but despite all these efforts, Darya was going unnoticed. We turned our attention to smaller schools, DII and NAIA, but nobody seemed to want to offer her a spot.
As crazy as this sounds, one day Darya walked into my facility smiling and said, “I’m going to play for Oregon!” I tried to temper her enthusiasm but promised to give Coach White a call ahead of her trip to attend his prospect camp. Coach White agreed to look at her.
Darya put forth her typical 100% effort at the Oregon Camp, and at the end of the camp, she walked up to Coach White and told him, “I want to play for you here at Oregon.” And, as she relayed his response back to me as she waited for her flight at the airport, he said, “Great, we have a spot for you!”
This is an unreal story, and not a typical experience of how an athlete finds her way onto a top-level college softball program such as Oregon.
Later, while Coach White was working one of our camps, I said to him, “I just want to personally thank you for giving Darya a chance to be part of your program.” His response was classic! He said, “Who the hell am I to tell a kid like her she can’t play.” For the record, I love Coach White. He’s as decent as any person walking this earth and he’s a softball genius.
I think of Darya, for one because it’s a cool story worth sharing, but also because I wish I had been able to give her a better plan. Maybe she wouldn’t have been on the emotional roller-coaster of dealing with all the rejections (although that’s going to be part of it) and maybe her family wouldn’t have wasted so much money on countless road trips and on-campus camps.
So how do you go from prospect to recruit to commit? Through my experiences, I believe this is the best path:
Step 1: CAMPS - Find a reputable camp with a low player-to-coach ratio featuring multiple programs from different levels.
Here’s why: In a camp setting coaches can talk to you throughout the entire day – parents can talk to coaches. There are no restrictions on interaction between coaches, parents, and participants in a camp setting.
The camp may feature coaches or programs you may not think you have interest in, but it will be beneficial in two ways:
1) The obvious is you may discover an interest you had not previously thought about.
2) Receiving interest and/or an offer from another program is something that tends to make you more interesting to other programs. If you can say, I’ve been offered by XYZ University to a program you are really interested in, then that might force the program you really like to take a closer look
Camps can be a springboard into the next step in this process.
Things to be Cautious About:
1. Make sure the camp is reputable
2. Do your research to make sure they have a history of delivering Coaches
3. The camp needs to have a good player-to-coach ratio. Anything better than 8:1 is good.
4. The camp is being operated by someone who is organized and communicates with you.
5. The camp needs to be compliant with NCAA rules when featuring NCAA coaches.
Step 2: Follow-up from Coaches You’ve met at Camp
Follow-up happens on a few different levels. One important thing to do is to attend a school’s on-campus camp once you’ve made a connection with a coach. Attending an on-campus camp is useful to help you get a feel for the facilities, coaches, and that program’s players, but it’s more important when you’ve already been identified as someone the staff may be interested in. You’ll no longer be 1 of 200 or more campers, but you’ll be someone they pay close attention to throughout the camp.
Follow-up can go beyond an on-campus camp, but can be follow-through from coaches by watching you play at a tournament or showcase. Coaches like to see you in competition. We have competitive games in our camps for instructional purposes but also for coaches to see how athletes compete.
If you’re currently attending showcases and tournaments with the hope of being recognized by a college coach, you’re asking for them to find a needle in a haystack. Most coaches, if not all top programs, go to tournament games or showcase games as a way of following-up with athletes they already know about. Very few, if any, are at these events to “discover” a hidden gem. Beyond that, when you add up the total number of players who are competing in these events and divide that by the number of coaches who are attending, let alone the number who are there to “discover” someone, you’ll quickly find that the odds are not good.
Step 3: Evaluating Offers
With the new NCAA rules regarding when a DI coach can make a scholarship offer (Junior Year), big school offers will be coming later – however, it does not change that those same coaches will be evaluating and following athletes long before an offer is ever made. The rule was made to keep programs from offering 8th graders, but it won’t stop programs from evaluating and following younger athletes. The rule has no impact on non-NCAA DI schools.
When you do get an offer, evaluate things that are important to you as an individual before committing.
These things may include:
1) Level of Play
2) Academic Considerations (Majors)
3) Distance from Home
4) The Coach (Although never choose a program based on a coach – they change often)
5) Level of Academic Support
6) Stability of the Program (Do they have a high transfer rate?)
7) Talk to Current or Past Players of that Program
8) Financial Considerations (Do you want to pay 25K a year just to play softball?)
9) Social Opportunities
10) Size of the School
Make sure you’ve spent time on-campus and that you’ve spent time on at least one other campus to have something to compare. A mistake many athletes make is that they commit to the first program that shows some attention. Please make sure you know the program is right for you by having visited at least one other program with the same level of openness.
Once you’ve found a “fit” for you and you’re ready to commit, you’ll feel better knowing you did your homework on the school, coach, and program.
1. A Good Camp is the Best Place to Start
2. Engage in Follow-Up
3. Study before Committing
If you have any questions, please let me know! Coach@championshipfastpitch.com
Please consider one of our camps this summer – it can change your life!
For a location near you, please visit: https://www.jerradhardin.com/camp-locations-1