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:
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”.
Robby Wilson Robby is the Director of College Scouting for National Scouting Report for Arkansas, and for college softball for the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Missouri. 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. 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
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