By Garland Cooper
I recently attended the NFCA National Convention in New Orleans, the annual gathering of the Who’s Who in softball. Next College Student Athlete (NCSA) spoke at the Grassroots Seminar for travel and high school coaches. We were followed by a panel of college coaches comprised of coaches from every division and junior colleges. The coaches shared some important thoughts and advice. Here are a few of their key takeaways.
Don’t specialize in one sport too early
Coaches agreed they all see too many kids with over-use injuries. There is no need to play competitive softball year-round through high school, and the college coaches preached that travel/high school coaches should encourage players to participate in other sports during the off season. One coach mentioned she occasionally travels to high schools to watch prospects compete in their second sport. In these situations, she looks for mental toughness, how the player relates to teammates, awareness, and athleticism.
Parents should love and support their kids…not try and solve their problems
Several coaches told stories of parents who would jump in and try to “fix” a tough situation for their student-athlete, which often lead to a more troublesome situation. If your student-athlete calls home and is upset about something that happened with their coach, parents should be a sounding board and support their child, and should not side with their student-athlete listing all the reasons the coach is unfair or incompetent. Love and support will empower the student-athlete to work through the situation on their own, and will also enable the coach to do their job without distraction.
Student-athletes must find the RIGHT college fit
Travel/high school coaches and parents should remember every student-athlete is unique, and they need to find the college that will best suit their wants and needs. Kids should pick a school where they would feel at home even if they were to suffer a career-ending injury. Coaches and parents should help their kids find the school that is the best fit for them, which likely is not the school with the best name brand.
Verified measurable stats are a must
The Division I coach joked about a travel coach who told her that a girl was “fast as heck.” What does that really mean?! College coaches rely on verified measurable data, and they also want to see more video. Coaches do not have time or budget to travel to as many games or practices as they would like, so skills videos are essential.
Be tough and understand the game
All the coaches echoed the fact that too many high school and even college players today lack the mental toughness needed to be a great athlete. They also would like to see higher softball IQs. These are traits that can be developed at an early age. You never know what may set an athlete apart from her competition. It may not be her home to first time, but perhaps her reaction to a strikeout.