As the 2021 class wraps up their summer schedule, college coaches narrow their list of potential recruits. The incoming junior class was heavily affected by the new recruiting rules. Many prospective student-athletes were beginning their recruiting process when communication shut down between PSA's and Division 1 college coaches before September 1st of their junior year. This legislation changed the game by decreasing the emphasis on early recruiting and providing athletes more time to evaluate the schools they're interested in attending. When the lines of communication re-open, what recruiting questions should you ask?
You've dreamt of this day for months, and this is an impactful decision. For this reason, there are a few things you should think about before making a commitment.
Take your time when making a decision. If you're worried about making the right choice, you're not alone. A coach who truly cares about you won't rush you into making a commitment. Evaluate the pros and cons of each program that you're interested in before making your final decision.
Although playing at a division one school may be your ultimate goal, do not discount schools at division two and three levels. Junior college is another option that can pay dividends in developing your skillset. In the past few years, junior college players have excelled at division one level. For example, Molly Jacobsen (Ole Miss), Kaitlin Lee (Ole Miss), and Krystal Goodman (Alabama) have all pitched successfully in the SEC after attending a JUCO at the beginning of their careers.
The coaching carousel is in constant motion. This summer alone there was over 30 head coaching changes at the division one level. As coaches continue to learn and improve their developmental skills, they can quickly move up the ladder in the coaching world. For this reason, you never know where a coach could end up in the next year or two. One great interaction or phone call with a coach could go a long way in creating opportunities for you in the future. Don't discount anyone based on the level they coach. There are many knowledgeable minds at every level of softball. Create opportunities for yourself by acknowledging and thanking every coach you come in contact with.
Everyone dreams of earning a starting position in their Freshman campaign, but that may not be realistic. I will always believe that you are in control of your opportunities based on effort and hard work, but there are exceptions to this. Depending on a coach's current team layout, they may not recruit you to play your primary position. Remain open to the idea of playing anywhere on the field, and make a point to ask what role you can play to make an immediate impact.
A coach worth playing for will be honest with you, and they may tell you they see you in supporting roles early on. This might mean pinch-hitting or playing time as a defensive specialist in your first year or two. If playing immediately is important to you, take this into consideration when making your decision.
From sport-specific training in the weight room to data-driven information, advancements in player development are at an all-time high. Asking a coach how they develop their current players will give you an idea of what they value and how they intend to improve your skills. This also makes it apparent that you're interested in improving your level of play. Coaches need driven players to impact their program. There is no better way to show your interest in improvement than asking how they develop their players at the highest level.
Team culture is quickly becoming a popular topic in interviews with both softball coaches and players. Culture is defined by the shared attitudes and values towards goals, competition, and relationships within a team. If a coach's philosophy matches up with the culture of the team, you usually have a recipe for success.
You may hear repetitive and un-original themes when asking some coaches this question. That doesn't mean they don't live by those values, but it's worth doing some research. Scroll through each coach's and player's social media accounts to see if their team is upholding these values. Past players who had a great experience also tend to post about it. The more you know, the easier it is to make an informed decision.
This answer should be a reflection of their team culture. Every coach values hard work and dedication, but some of the other characteristics they mention may stand out to you. For example, do they value passionate players who ask questions, or do they prefer a, "do as I say" atmosphere? Some players are great at doing what they're told without asking questions. Others need to understand why they're working on a specific drill. It's important to understand how you learn and how a coach would coach you based on your personality.
This question is specific to those student-athletes who have a plan for after college. If you want to go into the medical field or engineering, it may be hard to schedule classes around your practice times. Therefore, it's important to understand how your academics could be affected by your sport. Many coaches will make exceptions if you can prove you're committed to both your studies and the team. However, it will be challenging, and there are programs who discourage certain majors. If this pertains to you, make sure you ask about academic arrangements in detail.
Recruiting conversations may seem stressful, but they're worth the uncomfortable first phone call. Your ability to put yourself out there and open up is an investment in your future. As you continue to talk with different coaches, the decision making will take care of itself. As an added bonus you'll refine your communication skills and be better prepared for college and the workplace. Coaches are investing in you as the future of their program, so give them an idea of who you are and why you love the game. You'll be glad you did.