A conversation with a parent

By Kim Gwydir – Founder FastpitchOnlineShowcase.com

Recently I had a great conversation with a parent of a player entering her senior year. His daughter plays on a solid travel team and has received phone calls and emails from college coaches of schools she wants to attend.  They now want to “take the next step” and narrow down her choices and make final visits. The father had some great questions that parents, and players alike, will be interested in. Please keep in mind this player and her family have done their due diligence and have been communicating with college coaches on a regular basis and had a good skills video that they have already sent to the college coaches.

 

Question #1

We were hearing a lot for a certain school during the summer but have not heard anything in the last month. What does this mean? She really likes the school and it is one of her top 5 choices. What should we do?

 

If you have not heard from the coach in a while it may mean they have filled their need. Most coaches will tell you they have moved on but some will not.  The best thing to do,as the parent, is call the coach directly. I suggest the parent rather than the player as this is late in the recruiting process and I believe players get overwhelmed by the recruiting experience. Since this is a school she is very interested in, I think the parent makes the call and finds out if the coach is still interested. As a parent they can judge the coach’s  interest level. Just be honest with the coach and say you have not heard from them in a while and you are trying to narrow down your daughter’s choices and want to see where she stands with that coach at that school. My feeling is you do not want to wonder and should go directly to the source for closure.

 

Questions #2

We have 3 or 4 college coaches who have been contacting my daughter that she is interested in attending. The schools have not discussed scholarships. What is the correct best way to bring this up to the coach?

 

Again, I think the money issue needs to be addressed by the parent. As I always say, “your daughter is going to school but your money is too”! As a college coach, I felt it was important to have the money conversation with the parent. Kids do not understand long term debt and loans yet. They are caught up in the recruiting experience. I think the parent puts in a call to the coach and asks in a polite and unassuming way about the financial plan the coach has for their daughter.  Try to sound like you are not demanding a scholarship but rather trying to plan financially for the family. Often times the coach will ask if financial aid will be an option for the family. Be honest with the coach if you think you will qualify but if a coach is talking financial aid only then in a way he/she is giving you a clue to their interest level. As a recruit, if the coach is offering a scholarship of any kind then you are higher on their list of recruits than someone they are just talking to about financial aid.

I believe, it is important for the player to continually work the recruiting process and talk to coaches but I also believe parents have to take a role. When it comes to money parents should be involved. The later it is in the recruiting process the more it is “Ok” if a parent has a question to call the coach. Coaches understand that this is a family decision and parents will be involved. Rule of thumb, as a parent if you have a question – ask it. Phrase it in a polite way but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call the coach. You are trusting your daughter to this person for 4 years so you should be able to call them.

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Do I need a skills video?

Do I Need A Skills Video?

By Kim Gwydir - Former Division 1 College Softball Coach

And Founder of FPOS

I am often asked “Does my daughter need a softball skills video?” or better   ”My travel coach says I do not need one”.

 

As a former NCAA D1 and D2 coach I used video as a key component of my recruiting process. Video helped me decide who I would spend travel funds and valuable recruiting time on to see play live at a tournament.  There were a few times in my coaching career where I offered a scholarship solely based on video because I liked what I saw but was not able  to see the player live. So, based on my experience let me give you some tips about skills videos.

So who needs a skills video?

 

It is actually easier to explain who does not need the video. If you are a Sophomore in high school and college coaches, representing schools that interest your daughter are already making it known that they have you on their list  (they can legally do this by talking to your coach and asking them to relay that information to you) then you may not need a video.

 

I used to say if you want to go to college locally that you do not need a skills video but I have changed my mind. Having a short inexpensive video like the “mini skills” that FPOS does at all our recruiting camps is a very helpful tool to send to local colleges.  This gives them the opportunity to evaluate you before they come to watch you play in a tournament. Also, a short highlight video that you can produce yourself would be acceptable for this type of situation. Doing an expensive, edited skills video may not be necessary in this case. A shorter, less expensive video can help do the job and  bring the coach of the local school to attend the event and watch you play.  Additionally,  they may have already seen you the year before or they have heard of you already through the local media.

 

Here are some keys

 

1. The farther away from your home you are looking at colleges – the more important the skills video.

 

2. If you believe yourself to be a “blue chip” talent then you will need a skills video earlier in the recruiting cycle. Recruiting is happening earlier and earlier – it is not unheard of for a college coach to get a verbal commitment from a 10th grader – this means they identified their talent in the 9th grade! In this situation, it is important to get a skills video to college coaches early so they can identify you and make arrangements to see you live.

 

3.  Many college coaches, as well as myself, suggest a few short videos instead of one long one. A skills video and a highlight clip are ideal. I did a blog article earlier this year about an iPhone app called iMovie that lets you create an edited video using footage taken using your iPhone. This is an easy inexpensive way to create great highlight video.

 

If you have not already selected list of colleges to target by the end of your sophomore year it is extremely important to get a quality video done at the end of the summer before your junior year of high school. It is highly suggested that you update this video as your skills improve. An inexpensive way to get a quality video is at an FPOS recruiting camp as all of our recruiting camp events include some type of video.

 

If you have any questions that we I can help you with, contact me at info@fastpitchonlineshowcases.com.

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She has a dream…..

This is a familiar story – a high school player has a dream to go to college away from home – far, far away from home – and her travel team does not leave the immediate area. What does she do? Is her dream even a possibility? The answer is yes but it will require some extraordinary effort on her part. Keep in mind a college coach wants to see a player perform before they recruit them. If your team is not playing in a tournament in the area of your dream school what can you do?

 

Step one in this process is to get good video done on your softball player. A quality edited skills video is a great introduction to any college. But in this case, we need to go further; you should consider creating game highlight videos as well. In a past article we explained how to use your iphone and a $5 app to create a highlight video. However you do it, getting game highlights will help a college coach who will not see you play often (if ever)  to feel more comfortable making an assessment of your skills.

 

Step two and here is the hard part – if your team does not play in a tournament in the area of your dream school then look to be a guest player on a team that is playing in a tournament in that area. Many of the top showcase tournaments provide a “players looking for a team” service where players provide their name to a list and teams in the tournament can contact them to play for the weekend. An example of this is the TCS Rising Stars Tournaments in Davie, FL. If your dream is to play softball at a college in Florida then it may be worth the cost of travel to get there and play. If you do take this leap then make sure you contact colleges ahead of time and tell them you are coming and who you are playing for and your dream to play softball in that area. Send them video ahead of time as well so they can see if you will fit their recruiting needs.

 

A good rule of recruiting is the farther you want to go from home the sooner you need to think about the recruiting process. Be proactive and don’t be afraid to dream. Just be willing to put the work in ahead of time.

 

For more information on recruiting – go to www.FastpitchOnlineShowcase.com

 

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And we are off….

Welcome to the start of another college softball season! This is always an exciting time as college teams get to see what they really have and we as fans get to watch the drama unfold. If you are a young softball player looking to play college softball or the parent of one, this is the time to learn about what is out there in the college softball world.

 

When I ask players around the country what they know about the top teams in college softball, I usually hear about the D1 teams who played in the previous College World Series and this is understandable. The ESPN coverage at the softball College World Series is outstanding and usually this is the only college ball young players ever see. But there is so much more out there. Players and their parents need to get educated about the many options for college softball.

 

Great resources

 

A great chat room for college softball with many passionate and knowledgeable people is www.ultimatecollegesoftball.com. Check it out as it is a fun read and you can learn a lot about softball programs from around the country from a unique perspective.

 

If you don’t have the time to look up every Division 1 program on the internet but want to see what is going on check out www.spysoftball.com. Rayburn Hess does a great service to the softball community by posting a collective report on softball happenings.

 

Who is on top?

 

You can also check out the softball polls – they have them for Division 1 and Division 2 and Division 3 as well as Junior College and NAIA. Check out www.NFCA.org website under polls for great information – they also have a TV schedule of upcoming games!

 

There is so much more out in the college softball world then the teams you see in the College World Series. In Division 1 there is such a diversity of funding so you do have a case of the “have” and “have nots”. In general, if a college has big time football then they have big time finances and with Title IX the women’s sports benefit. This means more money for travel, equipment and better facilities. Within Division 1 you see some teams who have to fundraise for trips and even some teams who do not have the full complement of scholarships or even full time coaching staffs. So even though teams are classified as Division 1, it does not mean they are all equal.

 

In addition to Division 1 there is great softball being played at the Division 2 level. I had the pleasure of coaching softball at C.W. Post College on Long Island and it is a great place to go to school and they have great softball.  We would play D1 teams and from a softball perspective were as good if not better. What C.W. Post offered was a different student experience. My players could join a sorority or a club in addition to playing softball. When I coached D1 there was little time for players to do things like that. For example, at C.W. Post I had an outstanding pitcher who could easily have played D1 but she loved horses and our school had a stable on campus and she joined and competed on the equestrian team when not in season for softball. She loved it. The players at D2 have a different experience and for many it is a better fit. As I always tell people – softball is one piece of the college puzzle and how big of a piece depends on the player.

 

In addition to D1 and D2 you have great schools at the D3 level. There are also softball opportunities at the Junior College level and in the NAIA (we will feature these in a later article).

 

Take some time in the next few months to go and see a college softball game at a local college. See different schools in different divisions and build that knowledge base of what is out there. Take the team out to a game – if you call ahead many colleges will work out a team discount on admission and many of the non D1 schools do not even charge.  By going to different types of schools and watching them play and seeing the campus you are helping your young softball players increase their knowledge of what is out there so when the time comes to start looking at colleges for themselves they already have a starting point.

 

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The “safety school” – no college wants to be it, but all college bound players should have one.

By: Kim Gwydir – Founder FPOS and former D1 coach

 

Recently I was counseling a high school junior. She is a very good pitcher with great grades in school. She has been working on the college recruiting process and selecting her 20 schools to correspond with on a regular basis. I asked her “What is your safety school?” and I got a blank look back. I then explained that a safety school is a school you can clearly afford, can expect to be admitted to and you would be socially OK with going to. The safety school is not the dream school but it is a fallback position where you can get a degree and not go in the poor house.

 

All too often the “tail wags the dog” in the recruiting process. We think softball first and then academics and finances after. I am not saying a player should not dream and consider schools that are a reach for them financially, academically or athletically. What I am saying, though, is that there should be a balance in your list.

 

What is an example of a dream school? Often in the northeast players dream of going down south to Florida and playing in warm weather but the reality is if their travel team never goes to that area. The result is college coaches from the south will never get a chance to see them play and therefore the chance of getting recruited by those schools is minimal. If you want to play in a different area than you live then you need to get to recruiting opportunities in the area you want to go to school in – plain and simple.

 

The dream schools on your list need to be balanced with “safety” type schools. An example of a safety school could be a state school in your area where there is tuition breaks for in state students or special academic assistance programs, maybe a school you would consider walking on at. In Florida, parents have the opportunity to get “Florida prepaid” tuition for their children and pay into a college fund whereby tuition is extremely affordable by the time their children are ready to go. State schools in Florida are great safety schools for state residents. Other examples of safety schools can be Junior Colleges. I have written about considering Junior Colleges as an option for the first two years in past newsletter articles. The truth is committing to a Junior College does not preclude you from taking an award to a four year school if one comes available. That is one of the many difficulties facing JC coaches – they have a commitment from a good player but lose them when a four year school snaps them up late.

 

When I said “no college wants to be a safety school” I meant that most college coaches don’t want to think you settled for them. Coaches are competitive and have egos and don’t want to be considered your second choice but from the player perspective you need these fall back positions. Dream BIG and have your “reach” colleges on your list. Make every effort to make them happen financially, academically and athletically but when decision time comes that dream school may not fit your family financially or maybe they are not interested athletically. The old saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is very true in this case. Have options and make the best decision academically, athletically, financially and socially for your future.

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What are you doing to get better?

This time of year is the “off-season” for softball or at least it should be.  Being from Florida, it seems like there is never an off season for softball. There is a “Snowball Tournament” (great name for a tournament in Florida by the way) and in the Northeast I see players in indoor leagues and tournaments in domes.  While playing is good – are softball games the only thing or the best thing to be doing this time of year?

The reality is; you cannot be at your peak all year long. There needs to be a time of year when players can work on their game without the pressure of having to be at their peak. When learning a new skill or changing an existing muscle memory, there is a transition phase and the player can feel very uncomfortable during this period and therefore not confident. I find that players are sometimes reluctant to change how they do things because they are afraid of “looking bad”.

Players need time to work on their game and be OK with being a little uncomfortable. This time of year is really the only practical time to do it. I am also a proponent of playing other sports in the off season. Young players (younger than high school juniors) can especially benefit from cross training in other sports. Basketball is a great sport to help players learn to be explosive with their lower body. High school players can also benefit from doing some serious weight training with a trained professional. A stronger player is a better player and less likely to get hurt.

Parents and players need to keep things in perspective – playing game after game after game is not the way to get better. Players need time to hone their skills and get stronger. Take the “off-season” to really work on your game. Give players a break! I am not saying, “Don’t play in the winter”, but ask yourself what you are expecting or trying to get out of it. I have seen some great winter hitting leagues where the emphasis is on getting players a lot of at bats in a minimum time. Not only are the players getting a chance to take swings, but it is a little different, and I think this keeps it interesting for the players.

You hear about and worry about “burn-out” with players. I think burn out comes from playing game after game and not getting any better. Find a good instructor and go into the off season with a plan to improve your skills or find a good trainer and spend the winter getting stronger. How do you know if you have a good instructor? I tell parents there are two tests:  Do their players get better? Do they produce consistently good players?  Parents and coaches need to keep off season games and leagues in perspective.  Have a plan and remember that a little down time is not necessarily a bad thing.

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