College Softball Camps: Who, When, Why?

by Robby Wilson

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College Softball Camps: Who, When, Why?

How do you know which college recruiting camps you should or shouldn’t be signing your daughter up for? It’s the most sensitive yet, misunderstood part of the softball recruiting process…camps. Years ago the common thought “in the softball world” was “camps are where recruiting happens”. So the question is…where do I start? The statement is partially true. About as true as “what’s the fastest route between California and Florida in a car”? Well, the loosely defined answer which is similar to the above would be “on the interstate instead of backroads”. Which interstate? At what speed? In which car?

The same questions need to be asked by the athlete and the families, when discussing taking the camp route for recruiting. Let me add/clarify by saying there’s much more to camps than just recruiting. Camps are a phenomenal way to get one on one training from some of the best minds in softball. But somewhere along the way, the recruiting of the athlete became the more focused aspect of the camp versus the development of the athlete, when it came to college camps. It’s much more complex than “I want to go to XYZ University, so I’m going to go to their camp on September 9th”.

Does that school meet your needs athletically, academically, morally, spiritually, regionally, etc.?

Or the equally important questions…does the coach of that program have a need that matches your graduation year and position? Are you the “type” of player that coach recruits?

With 1,600+ college softball programs, there’s never been any shortage of college softball recruiting camps. And especially now that the new NCAA D1 rules began in mid-August ( , you can bet there will be even more, many on the same weekends as each other, and the importance of attending the RIGHT ones becomes even more important than it was before.

It’s important to note here that the term “camps” is loosely referring to not only to “institutional camps” on the coach’s campus, but also showcase camps of which many athletes in the recruiting process frequently attend with the intention of the “bowling ball approach”…meaning roll the ball down the lane at a bunch of pins instead of one pin and let’s see what pins fall and which ones stay. Don’t get me wrong, I am 110% for showcase camps if they’re ran the right way by the experienced people such as, HeadFirst Honor Roll Camps, Faster2First, among a few others. But again, somewhere along the way everyone got lost and forgot the true focus, the athlete! Nowadays everybody thinks they can run a showcase camp and I’ll be the first to tell you, they’re not all good ones.

NSR College Softball Camps Scouting

So Are Showcase Camps Good?

Yes, if it’s the right people running it, with the coaches applicable to that particular athlete’s ability, and the coach(es) there have expressed prior interest in the athlete and it is simply serving as the opportunity for the coach to put a face to the email or call. However, the wrong showcase camp can cost you $100-1,000 and do nothing but waste your time and money.

So How Do I Know Which Institutional Camps To Attend?

First, were you personally invited by the coach? Personally…invited…personally. Let that sink in for a second. Let’s assume you’re getting a bunch of camp email invitations and I know not everyone reading this actually will be, which is a whole new set of Q&A because that means you’re absolutely nowhere in the recruiting process.  But for the sake of this blog, let’s assume you are receiving a bunch of camp invites in your email. Some are on the same weekends as the others. Some you’ve attended before and the coaches “invited” you back again, and again. Some you’ve not attended but you totally want to play at that school because they have a cool website, you’ve seen them on tv, or you like their uniforms (yes, I’m kidding). You end up registering for the camp this weekend at XYZ university because they’re on tv (or whatever reason)…the problem is, the coach over at ABC university actually invited you to his camp and it’s on the same weekend. And he has a need that matches your graduation year, position, plus the school has your major and he’s actually seen some video of you and has some interest in confirming your abilities via his camp. But you didn’t know that because when you saw the multitude of camp invites and immediately narrowed down based on whatever the biggest, most television broadcasted team was, you immediately chose that one.

You wouldn’t believe how many very talented prospects I’ve seen lose a solid D2 or even mid-major D1 opportunity because they were too busy going to this power 5 camp for the 11th time in hopes that this camp will be the camp that the coach notices her. And vise versa! No kidding…a truly talented kid who has power 5 ability, but immediately only goes to the camps of the smaller programs that are far less applicable, simply because someone, somewhere told her to “be realistic” which is true…but the very definition of being realistic is “someone who has a good grip on the reality of a situation and understands what can and cannot be done, something that is a practical, achievable idea, or something that resembles the actual truth about life or a situation, based on vast experience”. Did you catch the key words there? BASED ON VAST EXPERIENCE. What teenager much less a parent or even most travel coaches, have “vast experience” in the softball recruiting world? Few…I’d say less than 1% that is for certain.

Either way you look at it, you:

  1. Over-assess or under-assess your abilities, selling yourself short or missing out on truly applicable opportunities
  2. Don’t understand that college softball recruiting is subjective not objective. So just because this particular school isn’t giving you the time of day doesn’t absolutely mean you can’t play at that LEVEL, it means the coach of that school isn’t interested in your style of play and/or abilities or simply doesn’t have the need for you. (Sidebar: See #1)
  3. The measuring stick you’re using is broken or not broken-in (aka vast experience)

So now, how do you know which ones to attend over the others? The best advice I can give you is don’t attempt to figure out that puzzle alone. Even with my prospects I work with as their scout, touching base with the applicable coaches to verify they have a need that matches certain athletes and that this particular camp would be the right evaluation opportunity for that coach, is so vital to success in recruiting. At the completion of camp or at the worst, that week, we should know if the coach says “yes” or “no”.

There’s a reason they call it “the recruiting process” and not “the recruiting day”. If done correctly, each step of the recruiting process SHOULD lead you to the next step of the process. There’s only four steps, believe it or not…but I would safely bet that half of prospects I talk to got lost somewhere along the way in step one or two, and started the process all over again, over and over, not knowing any better.

I’m Not Getting Email Invites To Camps, What Do I Do?

Get help, now. You’re more than welcome to simply google “college softball camps” and believe me, there’s a myriad of websites out there that will give you list upon list of college softball camps. I just googled it and the smallest list had 289 camps…for September through December! Try deciphering that and determining which ones to attend (don’t really). Get help, really. Don’t try to figure that out on your own. A lot of wasted time and money shooting fish in a barrel if you do go at it alone.

Bottom Line?

College softball recruiting is a subjective, not objective, recruiting sport. Simply said, college coaches recruit based on their “recruiting personalities”. Don’t think of an invite to camp as a sign of the coach’s interest or probability of making an offer. Keep in mind, the schools are making a profit from each player who attends. Most of the time any athlete who can pay to attend will be invited to attend. What you have to keep in mind is that the coaches may only actually be recruiting 5-10 players annually and may actually already have several of them committed or working towards that. So, the chance of you simply and randomly “being discovered at camp” aren’t exactly in your favor. A lot of coach put a huge deal of weight on their institutional camp(s) and see it as a big-time asset in being able to evaluate possible athletes vs currently committed ones. Other coaches simply use it for revenue, PR, etc. Coaches invite hundreds of prospects to their camps because they are revenue for their program. The hard truth is that out of those hundreds, they are only evaluating a small portion of the athletes at camp for their program. You know those 4-7 kids that were standing over to the side at some point in time talking to the college coach during camp? Those are the “prospects”…the other 90-92/100 kids? Those are the “campers”.

In short? Have a plan and don’t go at it alone. Be assessed by a subjective party. Be advised by an experienced party with the more than just 5-10 college coach relationships. There’s 1650+ college softball programs out there…so why in the world would you limit yourself when you’re trying to find the right fit?

Feel free to email Coach Wilson any camp and/or recruiting related questions to or check him out on

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Robby Wilson

Robby Wilson

Robby Wilson is the National Director of Softball Scouting. Robby has a B.S. in Exercise Science and has been a certified strength and conditioning specialist working with High School and College athletes for 10 years and scouting for NSR over 6 years. As a previous college athlete and high school standout Robby endured the recruiting process himself and has seen firsthand, the changes over the years. As the Director of Scouting, Robby works with College Coaches, high school/club athletes, as well as high school and travel coaches on a daily basis in pursuit of getting the athlete the right exposure and promoting those athletes to collegiate athletic programs for them to continue the love for their sport while getting a quality education. Join Robbie On: Facebook/NSRsoftball, Twitter, Facebook/NSRArkansas.

Coaching the Parents

Coaching the Parents: How Mom & Dad Can Help You  Get Recruited or Keep You From It…

Coaching the Parents: How Mom & Dad Can Help You
Get Recruited or Keep You From It… Written By Robby Wilson

“Don’t just sit there and watch the third strike, at least go down swinging! If you do that again, we’re leaving you won’t even play the rest of the weekend!” We’ve all heard it, seen it, maybe even experienced it – the travel mom or dad standing behind home plate, arms crossed, looking for the first thing to yell about, whether good or bad. But we’ve all heard it a million times that the parents are an integral part of the recruiting process for more than just finances, family support, and location.

Think about it…put yourself in a college coach’s shoes and imagine you’re recruiting a kid. Imagine the athlete you’re looking to recruit has parents that are yelling such as the situation above, sitting behind home plate tearing their own kid down. Then whether or not you see the dad/mom say something to the coach as well, the demeanor that is permitted with this team tells you that these parents are the type that likely will attack the coach about playing time, playing certain positions, making a good/bad call, etc. What does this mean to a college coach? It means that if he recruits this kid, the parents are going to be more trouble for the next 4-5 years than the athlete may be worth. If the parents have been able to act this way for years in travel ball, attempting to set a standard/expectations once beginning in college ball, not likely to be successful because they’ve built a habit of being able to do and say whatever, whenever.

Recently in June 2014, I attended one of the year’s biggest showcases annually in Colorado. In scouting various games alongside several of the college coaches, I had a couple of situations that were exactly this. Sitting watching game 1 with several of the coaches, they made the comment how well-behaved the parents were, how helpful they were, and how the girls seemed to be enjoying themselves while working hard because there was no “background noise.” BUT, then game 2 rolled around. Two different teams and two totally different sets of parents. The negative things observed in the first two innings:

Pitcher’s dad behind home plate shaking his head and throwing his hands up in disappointment. Mom even told the umpire a few times how blind he was and so forth.

Another dad watches his daughter strike out and as she’s walking back to the dugout, he grabs his keys and tells her “I can’t watch this stuff, just ride with Janey” and leaves.

Another set of parents even GO OVER to the dugout after a kid grounded out, and begins verbalizing their irritation beginning with words that would’ve gotten soap put in a kid’s mouth.

And believe me, I could go on and on about what I saw throughout the week in Colorado. It was very disheartening. The point I wanted to make with this particular time was that as soon as these parents began doing those things, each of those college coaches got up and left. One even crumbled up the team’s roster sheet and tossed it as he walked away. In talking to several of them later that day at another field, they all seemed very disheartened as well. One coach even said

with so many people not wanting softball to continue to grow, why would the people in the world of softball continue to keep the sport down themselves? If we know these are negatives about our sport, why do we continue to allow it? I simply will not recruit a kid, nor will I recruit from a team where that type of stuff is permitted. I prefer the teams to have the parental agreement some of them have, where they sign agreeing that they will be silent unless it’s in support, they will stay away from home plate and away from the dugout, and enforce a 24 hour rule on discussing things with the players as well as the coaches.

This really sunk in when I thought about it. And when I talked to several more coaches about it they kept mentioning the similar statement of “coaching the parents”, meaning that the travel organization and/or team coaches should have a set standard and explain the expectations from the beginning and possible even sign an agreement and enforce it.

This is not to say that any parents have bad intentions, that’s 99.9% of the time not the case. The parents love their kids, want them to do well, spend a lot of money and time helping support the kid’s dream of being the best they can be and eventually playing college ball. But sometimes our support, time and passion of the kid’s dream allows us to get frustrated when things don’t always go perfect, and often times it is displayed at the showcase or taken out on the kid. It’s never intentional, but always detrimental. This doesn’t mean the parents have to tell the kids everything is all sunshine and lollipops either. It means we don’t have to say anything at all!

You see, the girls have been playing this sport for 4-12 years. They’ve been trained and taught for moments like this and showcases like this. Normally if they make a mistake, make an error, bad throw, strikeout, these girls are so trained and experienced in the sport that THEY ALREADY know what they did wrong, so why do we need to remind them publicly? We don’t!

From a college scouting perspective I will tell you this…the perfect situation of which I’ve had numerous times and later on, ended up working with that athlete is this:

The kid normally is flawless defensively and is a threat at the plate offensively…the kid makes an error or strikes out. At the end of the play the kid either (1) Doesn’t even look over at the parents, or (2) The kid looks over at mom/dad with a frown on her face but without saying a word, mom or dad gives a thumbs up or a look meaning “dust your shoulders off, you’re ok”. Then the kid smirks a little grin. And for the rest of the game the kid is back in action and never misses a step.

You see what happened there? The parents might have been frustrated that their kid made a mistake, but they kept it inside and instead of scolding her, they gave her some positive motivation and changed the kids attitude and demeanor in one split second. “The coach’s job is to coach. The player’s job is to play. The parent’s job is to be a supportive spectator without interfering.”

Even with my own daughter and keep in mind as a scout, it’s part of my job to be critical…I don’t say a word during her games. I sit back, support, give the thumbs up on good things and give a clap during bad things essentially telling her it’s okay, and I don’t get involved. She can tell me after the game the mistakes she made and what she should’ve done, etc. I simply nod my head and agree. After each game she “grades herself” in the form of A-F and then explains to me why she graded that way. After she tells me those things, she tells me what she wants to focus more on during her training this week. And we leave it at that. No griping, no belittling, no more actual talk about it that night aside from where we’re getting ice cream from. All that being said, my daughter is 8 years old. If she is knowledgeable enough about the game of softball and her abilities to tell me what she did wrong, etc…don’t you think a teenager who has played for 4-12 years can do the same?

A Coach’s Perspective

Imagine being the college coach and scouting the kid mentioned above with the dad behind home plate questioning every call the ump or coach makes, while mom is in the stands gossiping about the team, coaches, and other players not being able to hold a candle to her baby girl. Now if you’re the college coach, do you want to deal with this family for 4-5 years? Nope! Because the minute she arrives on campus if she’s not starting or playing where dad thinks she should play, coach is going to hear about it. Not only that, but the college coach LOVES for the kid’s parents to attend their games because it builds support for the teams and puts rears in the seats! It’s a traveling fan club! But on the contrary, he/she would have to intervene if the parent(s) tried those same antics and possibly consider cutting the kid after year one. There is no kid, no athlete, anywhere, that isn’t replaceable. Some will argue differently, but the good can never outweigh the bad with situations like that. Just because this 2016 pitcher is throwing 60’s, is 6 ft tall, and has stellar academics and a big bat to boot…I have a few of those that are my prospects alone! So how many of those do you think there are out there for the college coach to find? He/She is going to move on, find another, and this one will have supportive parents who understand letting their kid fight their own battles and discover who they are.

On the other side of things, an ideal family as described earlier, is an ideal situation for the coach and can help drive the kid’s recruiting with that coach/school. How? Imagine two different girls, both 2016 pitchers, both great academics, both good bats, but one is hitting 58-60 while the other is hitting 63. But the pitcher hitting 63 has the yelling dad and gossiping mom, while the girls hitting 58 has the quietly supportive parents with the child who understands handling her own business. More stress or less stress? More friction and trouble? Or less friction and trouble? The kid throwing 58-60 is going to win out, every single time, every day of the week. Why? It’s much easier to have your pitching coach work with her and bring her speeds up and/or utilize her movement much more, than to deal with the dad calling you because his daughter isn’t pitching a game or standing behind home plate yelling at her because her drop ball isn’t dropping.

Further Analyzation

This goes beyond just what you see at the fields during game time. It’s what’s known around town. What the other parents say. What the parent is posting on facebook, twitter, blogs, instagram, and so forth. Everyone has seen the posts about questioning the coach, we would have won if my daughter pitched, the coach lost the game(s) for us, my super stud kid better get some playing time or I’m switching teams, and so forth. Whether you do it in person, in public later, or on social media, the negativity with a sense of “entitlement”, it is going to lose your kiddo many opportunities now and the cycle will continue into his/her adulthood in employment, as well as what they teach their kids.

What I Like To See

Whether the parents shows up in support but stays quiet, or simply cheers for everyone and even compliments the other team on various players and plays, those are the parents whose kids are probably smiling and having a blast while taking care of business on the ball field. I like to see that pitcher that has a homer hit off her and looks over and smirks at dad as if to say “she nailed that one”, and then strikes out the next at bat. I like to see that dad who has pirched up over on the left field fence out of the way because he knows he’s tempted to talk to her during the game and so he removes himself so he can be there in support, but not in mouthing and degrading. I like to see parents who keep it light. You may get tense in nerves because of the game, all parents do, but don’t let it show. Keep it light. Smile, have fun, dance even, but trust me – the fun loving good time will rub off on the girls and believe me, the girls have to be happy to play well.


We could go on for days on end about what to do and what not to do, but it’s actually not that complicated. The athlete playing softball (or any sport for that matter) must also have their “family support” considered by a college coach because it’s not just the kid who will be involved with the university and their program, it’s the family. And if the family is not the family you want around the program or that you want wearing your school colors at the game, there’s no kid too talented to move on.Travel coach should keep this in mind and possibly implement a structure and agreement with the parents, setting the standard on what is and is not acceptable, if you haven’t already. Parents should take a long, hard look at how they are during the games/tournaments. Talk it over with your softball player and get her perspective. Either way, the “family support” is just another piece analyzed in the recruiting puzzle that is widely known, but often overlooked. Hopefully this article goes a long way in confirming some of the things you’ve considered or wondered, but never knew for sure.

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When Good Isn’t Good Enough

good enough

When Good Isn’t Good Enough Written By Robby Wilson

Imagine this…you have a 3.5 star player (we will call her “player A”) who has natural talent, works with a pitching/hitting coach 1x/ week, and always seems to perform “relatively” well every tournament you play her in. She’s known as one of the best in the area but the problem is, she knows that. She knows she has talent right now and stands out in a town, county, etc. But how long does that cut it? Now imagine the other girl (we will call her “player B”)…she’s really a 2.5 maybe 3 star player talent-wise, but she’s a “grinder”. She’s not only meeting with her pitching/hitting coach 1x/week, she’s following the plan the coach gave her to do on her own those other days, she’s hitting the gym numerous times a week as planned, eating correctly, going to applicable skills camps to further her knowledge not just of the game, but of training for the game. Over time player A stays the same, pretty good but about as talented as she was last year. But player B has been working her tail off not just in practice, but in lessons, at the gym, in the classroom, and at home. At the end of the day who do you think is the more appealing player to a college coach? Player B of course. Why? She realizes that “good isn’t good enough” and she works for it!

The who are you when I’m not looking is much more than just a country song, it’s what scouts and coaches want to know as well. The answer to this question is one of the prime indicators as to whether an athlete is truly dedicated to their craft (softball) and whether or not they have what it takes to play and study at the next level.

Work Ethic

When you think of “work ethic” you think of how hard somebody is working during a game, during a practice, or in class. What a lot of players/parents fail to consider is that having a good “work ethic” means an altogether effort towards maximizing one’s potential in a given area(s). So this means what you’re doing OUTSIDE of what you’re required or expected to. How many extra hours did you spend studying for the ACT because you wanted to score well? What did you do this week to get faster? Every softball player that has the desire to play college softball always tells us scouts that they have a “great work ethic,” but in reality the ones with a great work ethic are much less frequent.

This is why college softball coaches love a prospect with work ethic. It not only means they’re determined and driven to succeed, it also means when they step onto campus they’re going to work their butts off on the field, in the classroom, in the weight room, and in the community. Because of the high physical demands of being a college student-athlete, someone with an average work ethic won’t survive academically, much less athletically. So give your work ethic some thought…sit back and analyze how much free time you have on social media, sleepovers, and so forth. Not that those things aren’t great for a kid, but did you do your training first?

Organization & Time Management

Some people don’t learn the importance of being organized or having meticulous time management skills until much later in life, if at all. However, if you hope and plan to be a college athlete, you had better get started NOW! Start with a planner. Keep a planner of your events. Write down not only your game and tourney schedule, but also your lessons, practices, etc. Also write down academic obligations. Write down any other obligations that you want to make sure to plan around. But then especially, write down your individual workouts. Write them into your planner. Make it an appointment with yourself that is non-negotiable. Also use this planner to help you keep your college coach contacts, your un-officials, your prospect camps, and so forth organized.

Organization and time management skills are a very vital aspect to not only surviving but thriving as a college student athlete.

Act Long Enough And You Will Become

This isn’t always the case in student athletics, much less at the collegiate level. However, it’s a similar statement to what I tell all of my prospects: If you want to be a college athlete you must study like a college athlete, train like a college athlete, eat like a college athlete, and prepare like a college athlete. It’s actually very self-explanatory. Outside of school, practices, games, tournaments, 1x/week lessons, what else are you doing?

There are several aspects never considered in the underclassmen/High School level that are actually very vital contributors to a successful athlete:

1. Nutrition:
In order to obtain optimal performance the athlete must fuel themselves with adequate nutrition including essential vitamins, minerals, and ratios of their dietary needs. This means eating clean, avoiding fast foods, properly hydrating, spacing meals adequately, basically fueling properly.
Think of your body like a sprint cup car. Do you think they just drop by the local gas station and fuel up on 87 unleaded? NOPE! They use race fuel specific to a high performing engine like they’re running. The same goes for an athlete and their body!

2. Strength Training:
There are so many misconceptions out there it’s ridiculous. What many don’t know is that my degree is in Exercise Science/Dietetics and I was a strength coach and personal trainer for years. Working with athletes on these same concepts is what I did all day every day. Strength training is one of the must-have components for a proper athlete training program- regardless of who you are. However, it becomes even more important for softball players looking to gain a competitive edge for many reasons. Coaches around the world recognize the true need for a solid player who is quick, agile, and focused on his or her sport.

Go watch a softball game and you will see that most of the time the players are standing around and then must move quickly for a short distance. Naturally this would make you assume that softball is an aerobic sport… but the players' restriction is found by how they respond to anaerobic needs. You may sprint for a few seconds but then you have the opportunity to rest before having to do so again, if needed. This is where the misconception is softball training always comes in, they either train themselves one way or the other, without understanding that the foundation of one IS the other. In softball your strength training and conditioning program should center around raising your anaerbobic threshold and thus a good aerobic base. Using interval training, quick movements in different directions, emphasizing foot speed, balance, and agility. This should also be combined with strength training utilizing the same interval concepts to an extent, using compound and multiplanar movements. At particular parts of the off-season you may utilize some isolation movements, but not much. Most movements in softball involve the ATP-CP system which on average, performs for 7.4 seconds or less. Some of the highest ATP-CP systems ever recorded were ~10 seconds, and that was Michael Johnson, an Olympic sprinter!

Other tid bits of strength training for softball:

1. Never ignore an adequate dynamic warm-up, from head to toe.

2. Never ignore an adequate cool down.

3. Never ignore your pre-competition nutrition and post-competition nutrition.

4. What counts the most: what you’re doing outside of what everyone else is doing. In the deep, dark corners of the gym, the field after the lights go out, the back yard speed and agility work.

5. Modify your strength & conditioning plan every 4-6 weeks.

6. If you play softball year round, interval and strength training lightly 2 maybe 3 times a week on non-competition days is best.

7. If you don’t know how to train for your sport, ask a professional. Look for a certification in ACE, ACSM, etc. Look for a degree.

What Does All Of This Have To Do With Softball Recruiting?

Everything! The bottom line is a college coach is looking for a prospect that not only has talent, but that isn’t satisfied and continues to grind and work her fanny off to get better. Polish the good aspects of your game and correct your not-so-good aspects of your game. Strive to get stronger and faster, strive to increase the GPA and ACT, strive to be the absolute best that you can be. An athlete that settles on the talent level she is now is an athlete that one day, will be forced to settle herself when she completes her softball career in high school rather than college.

As a scout I see players all the time that survive on the talent they have and the routine they’re working with, but without a specific plan and goals in mind besides playing college ball. These athletes tend to always remain the same, procrastinate, and settle. These athletes will most likely not play in college unless something changes.

Now What?

1. Write down your goals. Start at the end of the paper and write in big letters your macro goal of “play college ball”.

2. Then start backwards with mid-sized “micro” goals such as “Increase speed from 3.0 to 2.7” or “increase overhand to 65” or possibly even “become natural at playing additional positions.”

3. Now you have your goals laid out, and it’s time to plan for them.

a. What is going to be necessary of you to better your Hto1 from 3.0 to 2.7? Speed school? Strength and conditioning 2x/week? Proper nutrition? Timing yourself 1x/every 2 weeks? Write it down and get started.

b. Same goes for the other goals. Map out a plan and get after it.

4. Now that you have your macro goals and micro goals and a plan to achieve them, you need to self-assess each of these categories/goals and determine where you’re at right now. If you don’t know where you’re starting, how can you monitor your progress?

5. Now that you’ve self-assessed, you need to do a little research. Find out what speed you need to run, what overhand you need to have for your position, what GPA/ACT you should have to make it and get academic $ from the schools you have written as a goal.

a. Now you know where you are as well as where you need to be.

Take Home Message

Although the message above seems a little off topic for college softball recruiting, I can assure you, it is more applicable than most posts I’ve written thus far. Improving yourself in all aspects academically, athletically, physically and mentally not only makes you a better individual but is sure to increase your “stock” with the college coaches you hope to be recruited by. Work ethic alone can impress a coach enough to move you forward in the process with his program. If you came to a July prospect camp and threw a 55mph overhand and ran a 3.0 home to 1st, then returned in December and threw a 61mph overhand and ran a 2.7 home to 1st, don’t you think he is going to take note of that? I do, because I saw it happen with a prospect of mine. She had been working tirelessly in the gym, on the field, and doing all things necessary to “better her stock” with the college coaches. And once she did, they took notice and began discussing with her what she had been doing in the last several months. The metrics and talent are great, but the true value is that the difference between those months told that college coach she wants it and is willing to do what is necessary to obtain it, period.

The same thing I’ve taught all my athletes and prospects: If you want something bad enough, you work for it and you never stop working for it. Once you’ve gotten it, you have to work even harder to keep it. Being “good” isn’t good enough anymore. The rise in competition for a scholarship, the very apparent rise in the growth of the best sport on earth (softball), there’s always someone out there just like you working to steal your opportunity. You’re either the sheep or the wolf, and it’s your choice.

Science says it takes 6-months to adapt to a routine and 12 months to build a habit…so my best advice is you better get started right now.

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The Importance Of Individualism In College Softball Recruiting


The Importance Of Individualism In College Softball Recruiting Written By Robby Wilson

By definition, the word “individualism” means:

Belief in the primary importance of the individual and in the virtues of self-reliance; the principle or habit of independent thought or action; the practice of independence in thought and action on the premise that the development and expression of an individual character and personality are of the utmost importance.

So what does that have to do with softball recruiting? Everything! The reason the college
recruiting process becomes so confusing, twisty and turny for parents and players alike, often times coaches as well, is because they try to practice one method or one train of thought, and expect every college coach thinks that same way. If one person who got recruited to go play over here offers up some advice, the parent asking runs with it. But if I’m asking a question about how to get my daughter recruited to play at an SEC school, and the advice I am getting is coming from a person who was recruited to play at a NJCAA school (which is a great option as well), does that mean the same recruiting needs will go for each? Nope. “To each his own” is more applicable here than ever before.

There are tons of factors that vary answers from coach to coach, such as:
1. That coach’s personal likes/dislikes
2. The coach’s division (Div I, Div II, etc.)
3. The hierarchy or delegation understanding of the program and their coaches
4. Program standards
5. Regional influences

So such common questions you hear all the time such as:
1. When should an athlete get into the recruiting process
2. Should an athlete focus solely on softball or play multiple sports to be more athletic
3. What characteristics do you look for in new recruits
4. Should you play high school ball or travel only

These questions while all great questions, produce a loaded answer. It’s impossible really, to get one sure-fire, beyond the shadow of a doubt, answer. From working with so many college coaches on a daily basis I can tell you, each and every coach has their own philosophies and feelings about everything, ranging from how early to begin the recruiting process down to whether a pitcher needs to be 5’10” or 5”3” is okay…every coach is different.

When parents, coaches and players use the term “college ball”, that doesn’t do it justice. If you ask an elite Division I program such as OU, Alabama, Tennessee, or the University of Arkansas, you’re going to hear somewhat varying answers but relatively close. Some elite DI programs are done recruiting their freshman and have 8th and even 7th grades (2018 and 2019) being recruited and some offered. However, if you ask a mid-major Div I or possibly a good Div II program, they may still need a 2015 pitcher (junior) and still wide open on their 2016 class (sophomore). Some Division III or Juco programs may still have a handful of 2014 (seniors) they’re looking for. It varies, level to level.

So you see, the answer to how early to begin the recruiting process is impossible to answer without “individualizing” the situation. If your softball player has the talent to play at the elite Division I level, and you feel like her maturity level is ready to handle the responsibilities that come along with being in the recruiting process, then you need to get her started a year before the college coaches at those programs have begun recruiting them. So if the elite Division I program she “hopes” to play for some day is finished with their 2017 class (freshman) and she is an 8th grader (2018), it’s time to touch base with the coaches and get into the process NOW. That way the coaches have ample evaluation time to spend with her as well as she has ample time to prove her ability and worth to that program and it’s coaches.

It’s important to note that this will not be the same case with a Div II or even Juco program. All levels of play all have their own recruiting timelines and tendencies. As long as the player is realistic about their level of play as well as (and possibly just as important) the region(s) they are willing to travel to in order to play ball there, your recruiting timeline should be applicable to the division and level of which the program(s) they’re targeting are.

So what does individualism have to do with it?

There are going to be some college coaches that say they want to hear about an athlete in 7th grade because they want to watch and recruit them for a year or two if they are worthy. In contrast, there are going to be some college coaches that tell a sophomore “it’s still early in the recruiting process, so we’ll touch base next year.” I’ve seen it, time over and time again. There are going to be some college coaches that answer the travel ball question “I want you to play high school ball too because of the year round play as well as the fact that in high school ball, playing so many games, you get more live action practice than you will in two travel seasons combined.” HOWEVER, on the contrary, there are going to be college coaches that will say “only travel ball so that you can train with your coach year round and high school doesn’t slow down your development. Think of not playing HS ball as off-season, where you should be working on the things we discussed fixing.” I’ve heard and seen both sides, multiple times, from all levels of college coaches. Again, “to each his own.”

Individualism…this means given your individual situation, your individual talent level, your individual hopes and dreams, your individual regional thoughts. Given those individual factors, this is how you determine the answer to every single one of your softball recruiting questions. Your answer(s) WILL NOT BE the same as the other girl on your team, it simply won’t. You live in Texas but you want to play for an Elite Div I in Florida…but your teammate who also lives in Texas, wants to stay in the state of Texas and doesn’t want to go to a big school. So while you likely need to get going NOW in the recruiting process, your teammate may have a little more time.

Examples of individualism with recruiting:

Coach A And Coach B

Worry About You
The biggest and best advice I can give you from somebody who works in college softball recruiting every day, all day, is: worry about YOUR particular situation and child. While it’s good to get advice from Jane and Joe, great to read an article here and there from a google search, it’s best to come to your own conclusions about your family and most importantly, your kiddo. If you have questions about the recruiting process, about what or when to do something, do your research from multiple avenues, talk to the experts in that area, and draw your own conclusions rather than put your daughter’s future in the hands of your neighbor who’s kid walked on to a program 20 years ago that no longer even has the program.

Your individual family, your individual kiddo’s recruiting process, your kiddo’s talent level and level desired to play, all play a role in individualizing your recruiting approach. There is no “cookie-cutter” plan that works no matter what. If you individualize your situation, and then apply that to the college coach’s individual preferences, THAT is what brings about a winning combination. The athlete’s talent, personality, academics, family, and so on all have to be a match to make this all work.

Take Home Message
There is no “golden rule” or Barnes & Noble book you can go buy that will give you all of the magical answers that place your athlete with a full-ride to their first choice college and spend the rest of your life in lala land. Just like a weight-loss plan, just like preparing a financial budget for your household, your kiddo’s college softball recruiting plan requires individualism in order to ensure success in finding the best “fit”.

Softball Junk

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Softball Recruiting = Business

College Recruiting

Written By Robby Wilson

I was doing an in-home interview with an athlete and her family a week or so ago and they told me something I very regularly hear and while frustrating for them, it was an easy explanation for a change. The parents as well as the athlete began telling me how they’ve been showcasing with their team, going to camps, emailing and calling coaches, for the last couple of years…and all of that with still no result. They began in her 8th grade year, and now being a couple of years later, they were under the impression they were doing everything right. So why had this produced no responses or recruiting interest from the coaches? Numbers. Plain and simple, numbers.

You see, college recruiting is a business, through and through. Not only for the university and the coaches, but for you as well. And anyone in business will tell you, the numbers never lie. In diving into the explanation for this family I decided to elaborate from both a coach’s perspective as well as an athlete’s.

Example: Most business men and women will tell you that a 3% conversion rate is good. So when John Doe, the owner of the furniture store down the road begins doing postcard mail outs, he sends out a thousand postcards in his marketing efforts. It cost him $300 to send out those thousand post cards. So if he gets a 3% return on that, it means that 30 different new customers will be coming his way! That is HUGE in the business world. If only one single person of those 30 end up buying furniture from him, he’s already covered his money spent and actually made a little profit.

So now apply this to your college recruiting efforts…if you are attending camps, showcasing, doing mail outs, sending emails, and making phone calls, but you’re only doing this with the average of 2-5 schools. Well if you get a 3% return on your efforts, that means you have a 0.15% chance of getting recruited by one of those five schools. Make sense? If you’re targeting 50-100 different programs initially, your 3% application indicates you will have anywhere from 1-3 schools actively recruiting you. But at least you’re being recruited now, right? Now apply that on a larger scale, and a larger scale, and so forth. There are over 1500 college softball programs out there, if you’re only pursuing 2-5 and those programs either have no need or have no interest in you, your efforts are too little too late.

Extra tip: You’ve heard it a million times, but there are numerous ways to narrow down the programs to target. Major, location, realistic playing ability, and so forth. By the time you apply these things, you’re still likely to have 1,000 plus options.

Now looking at college softball recruiting from a coach’s perspective…it’s business. At the end of the day we know this:

1. The coach was hired to coach a team, to win, to produce graduating student-athletes, and again, win.

2. He/she MUST recruit players that bottom line, are going to help them win and get to the top of their conference and beyond.

3. The coach is only given so much money to spend on recruiting as well as athletic scholarships (if level allows). Therefore, he/she must meticulously watch their bottom line in recruiting and make sure their recruiting budget is always in line.

4. Again, coaches are paid to WIN.

In order to stay within budget and WIN, the coach must ensure that each and every player that he/she spends a single dime on recruiting, has the potential to elevate their teams level of play and contribute to their overall goal(s). If you hire a roofing company to put on a new roof, but they never do, would you keep them around? No. Same applies here. A coach is hired to maintain the integrity and reputation of a program, elevate all aspects of play, education, and reputation, and last but certainly not least, WIN. If he/she is not doing these things, their position as the coach isn’t necessarily secure.

So don’t take it personal if a college coach is not recruiting you. It simply means he/she can’t let their emotions dictate their business. Yes, business. Coaching is a job, and running their team and their recruiting is a business. If a college coach is recruiting you, you receive an offer, and you commit to their program, you can guarantee that he/she is comfortable with your talent level, your commitment to education, and your ability to make mature and responsible decisions as a student-athlete/adult. Otherwise, you come to school and fail out or quit the team, his/her INVESTMENT was a bad one and thus, cripples their overall goal in this business venture that is coaching their college softball team and leading them to the top of their conference or more.

Remember the 3%
If you recall the “3% return on investment” discussed for the athlete? The same goes for coaches. If they only seek out a few pitchers for this given graduation year, their chances of finding the caliber and character of player they need is slim because their 3% return will be 1 or less. This is why the recruiting process is just that, a “process”. Where as they begin building their list of potential prospects as well. For every year, every position, there are thousands of athletes just like you looking for a place to compete. The coach’s job from there is to determine which athlete(s) give him/her the best chance to lead their conference. Period.

Bottom Line
The “take home message” here is that college softball recruiting, and every sport for that matter, should be looked at as a business both from the coach’s perspective as well as the athlete’s. If your college recruiting is a business, and you’re only “marketing” yourself to 2-5 programs, and getting a 3% return is considered good, that’s not a very good outcome is it? By the time most softball athletes realize that they haven’t been marketing themselves to enough programs, they’re in their sophomore or even junior year, which we all know is not ideal to say the least. Everything is college recruiting is a business, it’s about numbers. There are a bunch of variables that are involved and in the end if you leave it to chance, your end result will be nothing even close to what you were hoping for. It doesn’t mean you weren’t talented enough or worthy, it simply means you weren’t marketing yourself to enough schools and weren’t marketing yourself to the right schools.

Softball Junk

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Parents Vs. Athlete In Recruiting, What Is Your Role

Robby Wilson

Robby Wilson

Written By Robby Wilson

Working with as many prospects, college coaches, and parents as I do in scouting, I see all types of variations of the parent vs. athlete dominance. No two family dynamics are the same. This makes it incredibly hard in managing the athlete’s future because you typically have too much of one thing, and never enough of the other. On the rare occasion, and I actually have found a lot of these over my time as a scout, you have the perfect combination of supportive parents and self-managed athlete. Those are great for me, great for their recruiting process, and loved by college coaches. The typical family dynamics variations are:

Controlling parent; Non-opinionated athlete

I don’t care parent; Self-managed athlete

Although the supportive parent/self-managed athlete is ideal for all involved, it is rare. However, I’m a firm believer that if the athlete is talented, has the academics, has the character, has the drive/desire, and all in addition to supportive parents, you can COACH the family on what each individual’s role is in the child’s recruiting process. Not only in softball, but in all sports. Even the dad who is the coach of his daughter’s team (everyone knows that one), if he is taught how to step back at the right times and be supportive at others times, even that athlete has success at hand.

So what is the “ideal situation” of the family dynamic? How does mom and dad know when to take control or when to step back? It’s actually simple. If the athlete is at the age of recruiting where they need to start thinking about their future, the key word here is their future. Your role as a parent is to be the caring, supportive ear. The comrade. But as hard as it is to swallow, not the decision maker. You don’t want your athlete to go 1,000 miles away to school, no parent does. But the athlete’s #1 choice program who happens to be ranked nationally in what she wants to major in, just happens to be that far away. Don’t squash those dreams and motivation before they even get started. Support them.

The ideal family dynamic IF your athlete is beginning or is in the recruiting process, regardless of the player’s age, is exactly that, the supporter. When it comes to the common aspects (not all of course) of the recruiting process, your role is such:

1. he athlete is beginning to research colleges with softball programs that have her major

a. You sit in a chair with her, behind her, and listen more, talk less. Hear what she has to say.

b.  You teach her, if need be, about how to search schools and how to find out online if the school has her major, etc. “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

2. Your athlete decides she wants to contact college coaches.

a. You set up an email for her and tell her you’re going to have the password too. Teach her how to use the email. Teach her how to compose an email properly. Teach her how to find a coach’s email on the schools website.

b. DO NOT, under any circumstances, send the emails for the player. If a player asks for help when sending one, help. But do not send emails for them. The player needs to “have some skin in it too.” This is her recruiting, her future, her duty. She will appreciate it much more if she is taking an active role in achieving what she wants.

3.Athlete wants to call a college coach.

a. Teach her how to find a college coach’s office number on a school’s website. Only do this once. From there, she needs to remember how. If not, she can ask how again, but from there, she should remember.

b. Do not call for the athlete UNLESS the coach asks you to. This is the player’s job. The player to call, speak with the coach, leave a voicemail if necessary, etc. But not mom or dad.

4. Athlete wants to attend some camps.

a. Tell the athlete to research the program etc. before determining if the camp is worth her time in consideration of whether she even wants to attend the school.

b. She should then, find the camps for those schools and print a list for HER to discuss with mom and dad. The only thing to discuss here is not what school it is, but is the travel, finances, etc. Together, mapping out the best course of action.

5. Athlete decides she wants to take some unofficial visits.

a. Let her be the one to look at her calendar, see when she can go, and contact the coaches. She needs to understand the concept of time management, planning, and attention to detail. Those three characteristics are the difference between college success and college failure.

6. Athlete considering her options and preparing to commit.

a. At this point you SHOULD NOT immediately give your feelings. Watch, wait, she will seek you for guidance because the reality of leaving home has come into her mind. Now is when she will approach you with “what do you guys think?”

b. Bite your tongue in telling her what you want. It’s about her. This is when she is looking for guidance as an adult, but not mom and dad. She wants your guidance on the comparison of the schools, the highest chance of success, the comfort level at the programs, the opportunities for the next 40 years (not the next 4), etc.

I was in west Arkansas interviewing an athlete last week and her father told me a saying that really rings true here: “Boys need to play to feel good, but girls need to feel good to play good.” That quote has stuck in the back of my head since. As a father of a softballer myself, as well as a college softball scout. So if you apply this same quote to the recruiting process it is simple: With college softball prospects they need to feel good, supported, but in control of their own destiny to not only play well on the field, but also to succeed in college as well as in life!

Use the recruiting process with your softballer as a teaching moment. Step back, give them the reigns, but be there right beside her to guide her when she asks for it. Remember, guiding and controlling are two separate things. This is a teachable moment in time with your daughter that could teach her things that will impact a lifetime. Time management, how to cope with stress, how to prepare properly (proper preparation prevents poor performance), how to stay organized, how to conduct herself in different settings/crowds, how to work hard to get what she wants, and lastly and possibly the most important, that she can achieve anything she wants to on her own if she sets her mind to it and takes care of business!

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