The Coaching Shift is ON!

We talk a lot about the recruiting process and how you should go about it in order to make the best possible decision for you, but what happens when the coach you look in the eyes and tell, “Yes, I want to play for you,” leaves? When making the decision you have to at least consider the possibility that they may not be there when you step on campus, especially if you were an early recruit, but sometimes the coaching exits are more untimely than you imagine. 

 The past 12 months have been filled with a tremendous amount of movement among the college coaching ranks. Some departures are due to unfortunate circumstances (Clint Myers leaving Auburn and Michael Lotief being dismissed from Louisiana Lafayette), some do it for the opportunity to be closer to their hometown, others may be enticed with a bigger paycheck (with the enormous growth of softball and its presence on TV, athletic departments are beginning to go above and beyond to put a good product on the field), and many are just taking that next step up the coaching ladder.  

 Here’s the lowdown on where we are today: The big shift heard ‘round the country was Oregon head coach Mike White, who completely turned the Ducks program around in his 9 years, leaving Eugene to take over the Texas Longhorn program after the unexpected resignation of 23-year head coach Connie Clark. The Ducks administration then nabbed the 21-year University of Oklahoma assistant/associate head coach, Melyssa Lombardi as their new head coach. This trifecta of events is a perfect example of why you should never assume you won’t be the one affected by a shift. We’ve got some pretty incredible coaches into 30+ years of coaching at their respective schools and whether you want to think it or not, at some point you have to believe the clock is ticking.  

 Some other current movement happening across the country: After the abrupt firing of Missouri’s head coach, Ehren Earleywine the week before the 2018 season began, the university named assistant coach, Gina Fogue, as the interim head coach until earlier this summer they announced former Hofstra head coach, Larissa Anderson, as the new Tigers head coach. Boise State’s Cindy Malone takes the job at Central Florida replacing 18-year head coach Renee Gillispie, who takes the job at Iowa. University of Utah assistant Maggi Livreri is named new head coach of Boise State. University of Pittsburgh head coach, Holly Aprile, makes an in-conference move to Louisville.  DePaul head coach, Eugene Lenti, departs after 37 years giving way for first time head coach, and DePaul alumnus, Tracie Adix Zins.  And this is just the tip of the ice berg! 

 Regardless of whether you’re already at the school, committed, or signed, losing the coach you chose is not easy. Because there are so many circumstances surrounding each situation we can’t generalize what each athlete should do when a coach decides to leave a program. However, should a player decide to leave or de-commit, the decision should always be done ethically and professionally. Just remember, your school is attempting to make the best possible decision for the program and the coach selected wants the best situation for you and the team as well. Give them an opportunity to get to know you and to re-present you with their vision before you make your decision. At the end of the day, if the fit is not right then you move forward to correct the situation, but again, in a manner that is respectful to all parties. I would advise you to take a deep breath and don’t feel rushed to make an emotional decision. You were recruited by that school and coach because you were perceived to be a good fit not only for that program but also at that particular level of play and conference. Keep in mind, you did fall in love with the school. Be patient, be prepared, and be respectful.  

NCAA Division 1 Early Recruiting Legislation PASSES

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INDIANAPOLIS - On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, the NCAA Division I Council announced that it passed legislation establishing September 1 of a prospective student-athlete’s (“PSA’s”) junior year as the start date for all softball recruiting contact, effective immediately, pending NCAA Board of Directors approval.

This means that all recruiting communications between Division I softball coaches and PSAs and their families will be impermissible prior to September 1 of the Junior Year. 

Read the full NFCA press release here.

Is Early Recruiting Coming to an End?!

In early October 2017, the NCAA council introduced an early recruiting proposal that would re-align recruiting dates in order to help athletes make better decisions for their future. As it stands today, an athlete can make a visit to a school, benefit from athletic department perks, and verbally commit to their "dream" college all before stepping foot on their high school campus.  I'd say most everyone you ask would find this to be wrong that is, until they are the ones faced with the decision. The college coach doesn't want to lose the athlete and the athlete doesn't want to miss out on the opportunity. This is a perpetual cycle driven by competition, and maybe a little ego as well. Everyone wants it to stop but nobody wants to take a stand for fear that they'll be passed up. The NCAA has finally taken that stand. If this legislation passes it would put an end to seventh, eighth, and ninth grade verbal commitments in most sports, including softball.

A few of these changes would include:

1) Moving the date for official visits up to July 1st of the athletes junior year (previously first day of their Senior year) which would coincide with the first day of recruiting phone calls and written correspondence.

2) Prohibiting recruiting conversations with prospects at a camp or clinic until Sept. 1 of their sophomore year.

Last week Softball Nation put out an article with a more in depth description of what this change could mean for the coach and the athlete. To read the full article click here. 

Is this going to put an end to all early recruiting issues? Of course not, but I can tell you this, those in the thick of today's recruiting world will either love this or hate it. However, it better serves the interest of the athlete and will level the playing field a bit more for both college coaches and prospects.



Recruiting Action Plan Wrap-Up

I am hoping this past recruiting series has given you a little more direction as you move through the fall. My hope is you see this as a simple 4-step guide toward maximizing your recruiting experience by taking hold of the process. It may take some time to feel a rhythm but rest assured, you will get there.

Let’s review the 4 Steps one last time:

STEP 1: Do your research. Browse the NCAA website. Look up conferences and schools. Get excited about the number of colleges with softball opportunities available to you. Begin to understand your priorities as an athlete and a student so you can make the best possible educated decision for your future. Read the full STEP 1 article.  

STEP 2: Make your list. Organize your research into a document that makes sense to you and one that you can easily refer to and change when necessary. Shoot for an initial list of 50 schools but keep in mind this will be constantly changing as you move through the process. You want to be as efficient as possible but remember that the more information you include on your list the easier the communication process will be. Read the full STEP 2 article. 

STEP 3: Begin the communication process. Study the recruiting calendar and rules. Get your list into the hands of people you trust to keep an eye out on your behalf. Begin to send out short, precise emails to coaches on your list letting them know that you are interested in their program and what your upcoming schedule might be. Make sure to include all important information as well as a quick personality/skills video if possible. Read the full STEP 3 article.

STEP 4: Follow up. If a coach showed up to watch you play (or sometimes even if they didn’t) you’ll want to follow up and thank them for their time as well as make them aware of the next opportunity to see you play. The follow up might be in the form of an email or you may want to pick up the phone and make it a little more personal. If that’s the case, prepare yourself before you call. More likely than not you’ll talk to voicemail but to prevent nervous stuttering, assume the coach will answer! Be persistent but not annoying. Read the full STEP 4 article.

The more experienced you become you’ll find that the majority of your time will be spent bouncing back and forth between Steps 3 and 4. During that back and forth process you will periodically fall back into Steps 1 and 2 as new programs surface and you revise your list. Keep your expectations realistic, keep your mind open, keep working hard and the right program will come to you at the right time.

Instead of jumping into expectations for the 2018 collegiate season we are going to revisit the recruiting calendar here.

There are still 3 good weekends worth of all-event evaluation opportunities, so use this time to get a head start on your future. There’s no perfect approach to recruiting, but doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

Action Plan for Recruiting: Step 4


Hopefully you’ve had an opportunity over the last few weeks to put the first 3 steps into motion. The next steps are to perform, obviously, and then follow up where necessary. If the coaches you emailed prior to the tournament did not show up, don’t be discouraged, it’s a process. You may have caught the eye of another coach who happened to be there to watch a teammate or opponent, you’d be surprised at how many athlete’s “recruiting stories” begin that way.

Action Plan: The follow-up can be just as important as the initial contact. The coach received your email and made the time to watch you play, now it’s time to follow up. If you’ll be competing in another tournament in the near future, take this opportunity to thank them and then let them know where you will be next and that you will make sure to send your schedule when you get it.  You can send another email or maybe it’s a good time to make your first phone call. This makes the contact a little more personal and because the coach came out to watch you play, you know they have some initial interest.

I know most young athletes are nervous to make these kinds of calls; you can hide your nerves behind the computer and edit or rewrite emails but freezing when you hear the voice on the other line is a real fear. Here are some tips to consider when making these calls.

  • It’s okay to write down key points you don’t want to forget. This might sound silly, but write down the coach’s name and school so you make a genuine connection to the call and so you don’t stumble when addressing the coach. Other information to write down would be you’re upcoming schedule, any showcase camps you might be planning to attend, etc.
  • Practice before you call. Again, sounds silly and maybe a little embarrassing but you only have “one chance to make a first impression.” Call your home phone, parent’s phone or friends phone and practice leaving a message. Listen back and hear how you sound. Confident or scared? Do you sound like you’re reading your notes or having a genuine dialogue? The coach has seen you play but has never had the chance to speak with you. Give them a little insight into your personality to increase their interest.
  • ASSUME THE COACH WILL ANSWER THE PHONE. It is most likely that the coach will let an unknown number go straight to voicemail and you can move forward with your pre-performed message however, you don’t want to get caught stuttering over your words if they do decide to pick up. You can still refer back to your notes for the information you want to get across but it might be a good idea to have an opening greeting in mind in case you hear the voice on the other end.

“Hi Coach XYZ. This is Katie Smith from the So Cal Firecrackers.”

--If they initiate a conversation go with it. If you feel like you’ve hit a dead end with nothing left to say just finish with something like this—

“Well, I wanted to call and thank you (or thank you again) for taking the time to watch me this past weekend. I’ll be sure to send my next schedule and I hope to see you again soon.”

You want both emails and phone calls to show a little personality while being as short and precise as possible. Be reasonably persistent because persistence can pay off, but be aware, overly persistent can become annoying. Stay positive and you will attract the right program for you.

Hopefully you’ve found some useful information to apply to your recruiting journey this fall and beyond. Next week we will wrap up with an overview of the process and what to expect from college coaches when fall recruiting ends and they prepare for their 2018 season.



The communication process in recruiting is very complex with many different roads you can take. Throw in the NCAA Recruiting Rules for communication and things can get messy. Speaking of NCAA Recruiting Rules, let’s first understand the facts.  Quickly read this overview of communication do’s and don’ts before moving on. Remember that rules vary slightly between division.  You want to make this communication process as personal as possible between you and the college coach while also trying to open up as many opportunities as you can.

Action Plan:  First, get your list into the hands of people you trust. This could be your travel ball coach, your pitching or hitting coach, or the team’s “recruiting coordinator.”  Let me be clear, your future is in your own hands, however, if you can have a few people acting on your behalf, lending an extra set of eyes and ears, that’s obviously beneficial.  For example, if Boise State strolls up to watch one of your teammates, or even one of your opponents play, what a perfect opportunity to let them know that someone else on the field is very interested in their program. You bet they’ll keep their eye on you while they’re there!  But if nobody knows they’re on your list then you may miss those opportunities.

Second, begin to send out emails. If you do not have a direct route to the coach you’ll have to start the communication process somehow, I recommend emailing before calling. It gives the coach something they can hold on to and refer back to if necessary, especially because rules don’t allow back and forth communication until your junior year. Your email should include mostly facts and a little bit of fluff. Keep it as brief and precise as possible.

1)  Your Name, Grad year, Position, and Travel Team

2)  Your upcoming schedule if applicable (Tournament name, location, game times and fields) Don’t let a coach “guess” if they’re watching the right team, get them all the right information. Email this information early in the week, as soon as you get your schedule.

3)  Your coaches name(s) and contact information (In case college coach needs more information on you or your schedule)

1)  A little about you and what you’re looking for in a college. This is where the research you did in Steps 1 and 2 come in handy. For example: “I was immediately drawn to XYZ University because not only am I looking to major in Early Childhood Education but…” or “I have family about 30 minutes outside of the city and have followed your program for the last several years…” etc.

2)  You can also include any significant honors you’ve recently received. Avoid adding too many stats unless they are notable championship-tournament.

Finally, attach a short video. While what you have to say in the body of your email may sound interesting to the college coach, they are going to want to know if you are “worth” reaching out to contacts about, or better yet, are they going to add you to their “must-see” list. In this time of technology-at-your-fingertips, it’s easy to snap off some game footage or run the camera during part of a hitting or pitching session. If you want to take it a step further you can add a small introduction at the beginning that shows your personality and a little about yourself as an athlete. Try to keep the video length around 30-45 seconds.  If you can find a way to separate yourself from the group you will give yourself better opportunities to be seen.  Here is an example of a short but effective video:


Step 3 is titled “Beginning the Communication Process” for a reason, it is a process not a single action. Like any good relationship communication should become easier over time. Communication will flow smoother with certain schools and others will fall from your list. Be patient but be persistent.

If you are an uncommitted 2018 grad, do not panic. There are still plenty of opportunities for you. Continue with the above communication steps, broaden your list, and I would recommend searching for reputable camps specifically for those uncommitted in your grad year.



Hopefully over the last week you’ve had a chance to get a good look at what the recruiting world has to offer. Maybe it’s opened your eyes to new possibilities or maybe it confirmed what you already knew. Either way, you’re ready to move on to the next step.


By now you’ve heard that you need to “make a list” but just what should that list look like? The format of it will look different for each of you but the substance should basically be the same. A good list will take a little time but once it is created it will be easier to maintain and will keep you organized and on top of your recruiting game.

Action Plan:  Take a look at the schools you highlighted from STEP 1 and begin to put them in an order that makes sense to you, this could be alphabetical order, order by division, order of preference, etc. You want your initial list to consist of about 50 schools that spark your interest. Sound like a tall order? You can start with a smaller list of about 20 but I encourage you to make it a point to seek out and add schools consistently until you hit that 50-school mark, you will be surprised at how quickly, for a number of different reasons, schools will fall off your list.

We all have different go-to methods for documenting things. I’m a spreadsheet type of person, it’s the easiest way for me to organize my ideas. Some of you might be better at “journaling” and probably most of you are more proficient on your phones. My advice is however you decide to write this list, make sure it is a system that makes you feel organized, you can easily read, and you can easily and quickly refer back to and edit.

Don’t stop at just the school’s name, include some (or all) of the following information:

  • Name of Head Coach and Contact information (it can be found on the website or maybe you’ve had prior communication)
  • Assistant Coach Name(s) and Contact information
  • School location (if not obvious)
  • Notes section where you can write any other relevant information including camp dates, what you liked about the school, last time you emailed the coach, etc.

Here's an example of what a list could look like:

I know this looks like a lot, but recruiting can often feel overwhelming so the more organized you are the more in control you will feel. As you’re participating in tournaments or watching college softball on TV and you see a program that interests you, write it down and do your research before you add it to your list. Look long and hard at this list and get excited about the opportunities.  This process is about you and the school both finding the right fit so understand that getting to know each other takes time. Use the next several days to dive into STEP 2 and we’ll move ahead next week!


One of the most common questions when it comes to recruiting is, “Where do I begin??” How do you put that overwhelming amount of information into an action plan? Over the next few weeks we are going to map out a plan for you to follow that will hopefully put you on track to make the best possible college connections for you.


The first step towards empowering yourself in this process is to understand just how many collegiate programs are out there. It’s often hard to look beyond what we see on TV mid-May to early June but know that there is so much more that should go into you making the decision that’s right for you. Start dedicating time to learning about how widespread the game is and you might quickly realize that the right fit for you is completely different than you initially thought.

Action Plan: Google, Bing, or Yahoo-search your little heart out.  Have fun with it! Grab a highlighter or two and make that paper glow! Gather as much information as you can, highlight schools that grab your attention, and then dig a little deeper. Pay attention to trends in the schools you gravitate towards. Do they groove with you geographically? Do they have your major or area of interest?

I found this gem by searching “all colleges with softball programs” (Click here). Sounds pretty simple, right? If this isn’t indicative of how many opportunities are available to you I don’t know what is.  Take a look at the schools by state, division, etc.  If there’s a specific school that catches your eye, dive further by going to that school’s website. Look at things like what conference they’re in and who their competition is. How many are on the roster and where do the athletes hail from? How long has the coaching staff been with the program? As you dive deeper you’ll begin to answer questions you never knew you had and you’ll see what’s most important to you start to surface.

For those of you who might be a little further into the process but still exploring opportunities, you probably have a better idea of what it is you’re looking for, or the “level” you see your best fit to be at. Use the information you already have and build on that. Have you gotten some interest from a specific conference? Go to that conference website and look at EVERY school in that conference. Are you drawn to a certain region? Search other schools in that general area and their conferences. Don’t forget that there are more opportunities outside D1 that are worth looking into as well.

No matter where you are in the recruiting process, spending time researching is an important part in getting to know yourself and the process and will better equip you to move forward to the next step.  Until next time…Happy Highlighting!

Firecrackers TV Features: Hitting With A Purpose

Listen in and watch Coach Tony Rico as he talks about the importance of being productive when getting your work done in the cages and how this routine and purpose directly relates to game performance.

FirecrackersTV Features: Choosing the Right Tournament

Here are some thoughts on how to choose the right tournament. Have fun, be smart and make sure you are an appreciated customer. Beware of anyone that thinks they are bigger than all of us!! WE (softball teams across America) are the lifeblood of softball.