Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Each year college softball coaches from around the US set out to find the best fastpitch softball talent to join their teams. Our job is to help make sure players who train at The Backstop are prepared for this process, armed with knowledge and tools to succeed.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important to take steps to get yourself noticed. This year, coaches have been unable to travel. And, with cancellations of games and seasons, there have been fewer opportunities for players to get noticed. Now more than ever, the participation in coaches camps and clinics can help highlight your capabilities. Because of this, we’re hosting a College Coaches Camp this summer to provide an opportunity for local players to get face-time with coaches from the Northeast, in a time where traditional recruiting is limited.
We’ve compiled helpful information for softball players to use as a college softball recruiting resource.
College softball recruiting works off of a calendar
We’ve included an example below that shows how college softball recruiters map out the year and follow certain guidelines. There are “quiet periods” when recruiters cannot work off-campus, and contacts are limited to those within their institutions. These are similar to “dead periods” where no meetings can take place, nor contacts can be made. The goal of these “dead” and “quiet” periods is to allow players the time they need to consider their options and make their decisions.
Most of a recruiter’s work is done during Evaluation Periods. The Evaluation Period takes up the longest period throughout each year, and is designed to assess a softball player’s athletic abilities and academic potential. Finally, over the summers (in most cases) is when college softball recruiters and college softball coaches are making connections with the players they’re interested in. This period is called the “Contact Period.” During both the Contact Period and Evaluation Period, softball players hoping to play in college have the opportunity to make a great impression.
Softball recruiting rules vary by NCAA Division
If you haven’t already guessed, the most restrictive rules are the D1 NCAA softball recruiting rules. They have rules that govern when student athletes can receive communications based on what year of High School they’re in (Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior). For example:
September 1 of Junior Year:
Coaches can send athletes all forms of private electronic correspondence, including text messages, instant messages, direct messages and emails, as well as all recruiting materials. Coaches can also call athletes at this point. NO contact is permitted before this date between a college coach and the recruit, their parents, their current coaches or any other third party.
Athletes may begin taking unofficial visits and planning them with the school’s athletic department.
Athletes may begin taking official visits.
Coaches can conduct off-campus contact with athletes at their home or school.
College softball coaches can conduct off-campus communications with athletes and/or their parents no more than three times. (Except during quiet and dead periods.)
D2 NCAA softball recruiting rules are a bit more relaxed. Most contact begins in the summer of the Athlete’s Junior year. For example:
Any time: Athletes can receive brochures for camps, questionnaires, NCAA materials and non-athletic recruiting publications at any time.
June 15 after Sophomore year: Coaches may begin calling athletes. They can also conduct off-campus communications with athletes and/or their parents. At this time, athletes may start taking official visits.
July 15 before Junior year: Coaches may send athletes printed recruiting materials.
Finally, D3 NCAA softball recruiting rules are outlined here, and are the most relaxed of all:
Recruiting materials: Athletes can receive recruiting materials at any time.
Telephone calls: There is no limit on when college coaches can call athletes.
Off-campus contact: After the athlete’s sophomore year, college coaches may begin to conduct off-campus communications.
Official visits: Athletes can begin taking official visits after January 1 of their junior year.
In summary, here are some of the guiding rules of the 2020 Summer Softball Season for NCAA D1-D3:
NCAA D1 coaches cannot attend games or actively recruit until September 1st (this was just updated)
NCAA D2 can participate in clinics and camps, but cannot actively recruit.
NCAA D3 most restrictions are at the discretion of the school/area.
How can players make the most out of the college softball recruiting process?
With this info in mind, what can players do during this time to increase their odds of being recruited?
Set goals. Identify which programs you’re interested in, and which recruiters or coaches you might want to be in contact with eventually. Having clear goals will help you take the right steps to achieve them.
Make skills videos. Not only can these help you identify opportunities for growth, but you can help document skills that will be valuable to college softball programs.
Send emails. You can reach out to recruiters and coaches directly via email. We recommend doing this on your own, NOT having a parent reach out on your behalf. This shows key leadership skills they like to have on the field. Keep in mind, there are right and wrong ways to do this, so do your research. We've pulled together some of our tips for emailing college softball coaches here.
Engage on social media. If and when you post content about game footage or skills videos, tag coaches and softball programs and send videos directly to them online. Keep in mind certain privacy settings you may have on your account could limit visibility. Consider having a “public” account for this information to ensure the footage you want to be visible, is able to be seen.
Send Hittrax stats. Traditional game stats are difficult to standardize because the coaches do not know who is scoring or who the game is being played against. Bias is rampant and you could throw a no hitter against a c level or lowest level team. Hittrax stats are more standardized and apply directly to your skills. If you haven’t tried it yet, ask us about HitTrax tournaments or even using the software on your own at The Backstop.
Attend camps and clinics with coaches. This is an excellent way to get face-time with important contacts. Some camps and clinics will live stream footage for other colleges who cannot attend. This is best for softball players in high school. However, if you are younger than 8th grade you should still try to go to these clinics to get yourself accustomed to the environment and begin learning about the process early!
Remember you’re your best advocate. If you are not out there emailing, videoing, and doing your best to be noticed, there is a slim chance of it happening. 99.9% of the time a coach is not going to stumble upon on their own. Put in the work to get noticed and make your intentions known.
The college softball recruiting process is a complicated one, and it can feel overwhelming. One of our goals is to provide support, clinics and resources to players who train at The Backstop so they’re equipped to succeed in this process. We are here to help and happy to answer any questions you may have about recruiting for college softball!