Softball has become a vehicle for young female athletes, and the destination is a college that is an all-around fit for them. There are parts to the procedure that seem to be unfamiliar to softball families, according to the Wichita Mustangs summer ball head coach Mark Griggs.
“Kids around here may pick up their gloves in March and play through July and expect coaches to be looking at them,” said Griggs. “But that’s not how things work.”
Not to anyone’s surprise, Griggs believes heavily in summer softball, and for good reason. College coaches are less likely to make it to high school games because they have games and practices of their own which conflict with high school schedules.
“They have to spend their money and time wisely to go to the showcase tournaments,” said Griggs.
So the advice he extends is to play for a team that will showcase your talents in highly recruited tournaments in Texas or Colorado, for example.
Griggs has coached 67 young women who currently play for a Division I program, and he says there can be a way of finding out if those schools are interested in you before you reach a certain age.
NCAA rules prohibit contact from coach to player before September of her junior year. Athletes, however, can do whatever they want and whenever they want in order to have communication with a coach.
For example, if a young athlete calls a coach and the coach misses the call, they cannot call you back. Perseverance by the athlete can lead to early commitments and verbal agreements.
Griggs coached Kelsey Stewart of Maize and is father to Emily Griggs of Maize, both of whom verbally committed to Florida when they were sophomores.
“It’s nice to go where you want to go,” said Griggs. “But it’s more important to go where you are wanted.”
So the question becomes what to do when you have set your dreams on a specific school and have not heard from them. According to Griggs, there are a few things any athlete can do to help themselves out:
- Set your sights on a school you can play for. Write down the top ten schools you are considering athletically and academically. But remember to be realistic when finding the school that is right for you.
- Find out who plays your position at these schools and check on when they will be graduating. This will allow you to find out if you will be valuable to the coach.
- Send a letter to any college coaches you are interested in playing for. The coach may respond with a note that extends an invite to a camp. You’re best option is to attend the camp in order to allow the coach to see you one-on-one.
- Griggs suggests you do not use recruiting coordinators because the most beneficial response from college coaches will be to the letters you send them personally. This includes mom and dad, make sure the person communicating an interest is you.
Chuck Schrader, head coach at Clearwater for the last six years and the founder of the Renegades summer softball program agrees that recruiting coordinators have the reputation of being costly and possibly ineffective.
“I’ve been to so many camps and clinics,” said Schrader. “I’ve listened to college head coaches talk and I’ve never heard one of them ever tell a group of kids or parents or other coaches to hire recruiting services. In fact, I’ve heard them say the opposite and say don’t waste your money on that stuff.”
Schrader is a strong believer in the college camps as well. College coaches are limited on the time they can recruit, and a camp does not count against them as a recruiting day. “It’ll cost the family some money, not much, for a ton of good feedback,” said Schrader. “Plus a chance to audition in front of the coaches without it costing the coaches any money.”
Upcoming college softball camps
University of Kansas
High school camp July 16-19
Pitcher and catcher camp July 19-20
Wichita State University
High school camp July 9-11
Clinic from June 27- July 26
Schrader has advice that can set an athlete apart from the rest. Before attending the camp the athlete should fill out an online profile and send a personal message to the coach letting them know you signed up for their camp and you are interested in enrolling in their school in the future. Now the coach knows your name and age, which helps the coach make that connection at camp.
“The kids get to see what the coach is about,” said Schrader. “And how organized the camp is and how hard the coach pushes them to excel, giving you a better look at the personality of the coach.”
Tomorrow, find out how college athletes from the state of Kansas used some of the tips from above to get themselves on the right track to a college scholarship and education.