My daughter played travel softball at a high level and I remember being very excited when I heard we were going to be playing in college showcases. These showcases are talked about as a place where college coaches stand around with scholarship offers in their hand, waiting to pounce on any athlete with a pulse.
The First College Showcase Tournament
We made our team profile sheets. We made our individual player profile sheets. The design was on point. Our logo popped. Our sponsors were proudly displayed. We had a file box separated by colored tabs with players names on them. We had a good team that could compete on the field. We had sweet uniforms. We had matching shirts and hats for all of the parents. We were big time. We were going to go and get some of those scholarships for our girls. Right?
The first college showcase we attended, I sat in stunned envy of the coaches who were on the outside of the fence and the colleges they were talking to. Why were none of them grabbing the coaches from our team? We were winning games, cheering hard, and showing our team spirit in the stands. What were we doing wrong? The answer….. doing all of that instead of talking is what we were doing wrong. I realized quickly and probably too late (for that tournament anyway) what needed to happen. Someone needed to speak to the coaches directly, honestly, and to give them what they asked to see.
The rest of the showcases
The next college showcase we played in, I decided to be the person to step up and do the talking. I remember the first tournament like it was yesterday. We were in Las Vegas and relegated to the less than desirable fields where lesser known programs are sent to toil with each other. After watching some of my colleagues work the stands, I had some idea of what I hoped to accomplish, establish contact.
The tournament started early Saturday and we were beating every team that stepped on the field and by large margins. This is important because if you are stinking it up on the field, the coaches will not stay long. At this particular showcase, college coaches were put in a rotation and forced to come to the fields every 20-30 minutes. When coaches came around, I approached them with our team profile sheet, handed it to them, asked what they were looking for, and then offered up players our team had to offer. This particular day, we ended up playing a late game and couldn’t break a tie in a killer matchup. After 3 innings with a California tiebreaker, all of the coaches in the park were now watching our game. If you were to ask anyone there they’d say there was no less than 20 and possibly more than 30 coaches at the game by the 9th inning.
Put in work before you go
Let me take a step back…. the above actually happened and it was bonkers, but the thing I failed to mention was the work I put in before we even got to the tournament. I needed to know more about the girls. Several had played for me when I had coached before. Those girls I know plenty about, but the ones I hadn’t coached went through a short but thorough interview with me. What are your grades like? This is the question every coach should ask because if you are carrying a girl on your team that has a 2.0 GPA, chances are, college softball is going to start at the junior or community college level. Would you like to attend a big school or would you like to attend a small school? Big city or little town? What do you want to be when you grow up? Have you taken the SAT? ACT? What was your score? Are you in any clubs? What other hobbies do you have other than softball? Religion important (your welcome Christian schools) Once you have these answers, you can at least be honest with coaches and what interests them. I then went to the tournament website and collected the names and email addresses of every coach. I then sent an email to them announcing our presence at the tournament we knew they were coming to. I created the Softball Bound app because of this experience actually.
Now, back to the tournament and how it went down. A coach walks up and has the school name on everything he or she is carrying. Easy to spot. Because of my email research I knew almost all of the schools just by seeing the acronyms for it, luckily for you, just buy Softball Bound and you can save a lot of time. BC, Boston College. NDSU, North Dakota State University. MIT. What? They play softball? Yes they do. I know them all and some I even know the names of the coaches.
The first thing I say is something I think will be funny to show I am not trying to be pushy but instead helpful. “Hey Coach, my name is Ryan and I represent the coaches on the outside of the fence. They don’t let me on the field anymore” I’d say.. Then “I don’t want to hover over you but here is a team profile sheet for our team, if you have any questions please let me know. I will be over there sipping my Big Gulp and hoping you come and ask me about someone”. Occasionally, based on the non-verbal feedback I received, I would go further with the conversation. It seriously is about 75/25. 75% of the coaches want to talk or already watched the video of one of our girls and knows who they want to see. If they are engaged, I will say something like…. What are you out here looking for? When they answer, and this is important, be truthful. If they say they are looking for 2020 graduates who play middle infield or pitch, don’t push your 3rd baseman who graduates this year. If you don’t have what they are looking for, just say so. Also, understand what they are looking for out of the gate.
One of the big answers you will get from college coaches is “athletes, I am looking for athletes”. That is the answer I love. What graduation year? I will ask. Once I know that information I can speak about every girl on our team.
That’s how it worked. I spoke to 50 schools and our girls were talked to. They started receiving letters. They started getting invited to camps for the schools. Now, several of our girls will be playing college softball. Some because of our effort, others because of their great parents and coaches. It’s been a journey and since I enjoy people (surprise, but college coaches are people too) I am developing great relationships with teams and schools. Skyler played with us and she is doing great in athletics and academics (proud of you kid)
RELEASE | Skyler Ramos Joins Iowa State’s 2017 Class
— Cyclone Softball (@CycloneSB) April 17, 2017
Now that I have written about our experience I will close that part with the following.
DOs while at Softball College Showcase Tournaments
- Do find someone who isn’t selfish and only wants to talk about their kid.
- Do find someone who values relationships, it’s what makes the difference in the long run.
- Do allow that person to help you, even as a parent.
- Do walk over to the dugout and tell the coach who the colleges are interested in. Most times in these tournaments we have the ability to put the same girl up to bat three times in the inning.
- Do understand that it’s a showcase. None of them are worried about bad calls, close plays, or whether Susie struck out. They are looking for something completely different and if you don’t get that, then you will have a hard time.
- Do have a website. Here is the one used by our team. https://victorysoftball.org/
Don’ts while at Softball College Showcase Tournaments
- DON’T sit behind home plate and in front of the team profile sheets. EVERY college coach hates this. It’s a showcase and they want to watch your kids. Seriously, not one of them cares about the winner of this particular game so get out of their way.
- Don’t allow the parent who constantly talks about his kid like they are the next coming of Crystl Bustos or Babe Ruth be the person to represent your team.
- Don’t give a coach something they didn’t ask for. They need a center fielder and you offer up a catcher. Not a good look.
- Don’t promote your kid over all other kids. I try to make it a rule that no coach will even know which kid is mine unless they are interested.
- Don’t let parents dictate the job you do for their kids. Some will feel their kid is not being talked to because of something you are not saying or doing. Do your best and be fair. Do the best you can to know the players and be honest. If the coaches like the kid they are going to talk to them regardless. Just be fair.
Founder of AllTeamz.com. I am an avid softball fan, coach, and parent. I am an advocate for young women in sports, not just softball. I can likely help your athlete do all kinds of things, including send emails to coaches, and help you find resources you didn’t even know existed.