Recruiting & Early Verbals

Two big issues in softball right now are recruiting and early verbals. Continuing to improve the recruiting model and getting a handle on early verbals are imperative as the sport grows and the pressure mounts on college coaches. There are some troubling numbers (seen here) on early verbals, most notably that almost half never play at the school to which they verballed or never play for the coach who recruited them.

Why is this legislation needed? The new rules will allow players to work on their grades, develop as both players and young women, and enjoy their first two years of high school without the pressures of recruiting. For the family, it will spread the experience over the course of several years alleviating some of the pressures that accompany the process. And finally it will give college coaches a chance to really recruit players, to get to know them and their families and learn who a prospect really is and what she can do at the athletic, academic, and social levels.

So what are these changes?

  1. A Prospective Student Athlete (PSA) will be defined as any student beginning her 7th grade year of education.
  2. No recruiting contact will be allowed between a PSA and a college coach until September 1st of her junior year in high school.
    - On campus visits, no contact can occur between a college coach and a player, or her family.
    - No recruiting dialogue can be held before, during, or after attendance at an institutional camp.
    - No phone calls originating from a PSA or her family can be handled by a college coach until September 1st of the junior year. Given a call by a PSA, a college coach must ask  how old the player is at the beginning of the cold call, and the coach must tell the player or her family that it is impermissible to talk if the player is younger than a junior in high school.
  3. Players who have already verballed to a school cannot have any further contact with the coaching staff until September 1st of her junior year in high school.
  4. Before September 1st of the PSA’s junior year in high school, a college coach can only express interest or disinterest to a travel ball coach or any third party.

As many of you know, my background as a coach lies in college basketball, and I made my way up thru the ranks during the tumultuous discussions between the NCAA, college programs, and the AAU. As a part of the recruiting committee, we addressed many of the issues softball is facing today. I witnessed basketball recruiting morph from a somewhat gentlemanly endeavor to a cut-throat business. Fortunately, at this point, the softball coaching community seems to be leading the way. Coaches made a clear and distinctive statement when they voted at the NFCA convention by a staggering 200-3 margin to take immediate action. Now it will be up to the NCAA to vote on their proposal and implement the legislation immediately, as the coaches have asked.

Early verbals have caused players, parents and coaches to lose sight of the magnitude of this decision. For players this might be the BIGGEST decision you will make in your entire life. It very often dictates your future....your career, your life-long friends, where you live and who you marry. We applaud this initiative and want it to pass. It is in the best interests of the student-athletes, as well as the parents, the coaches, and the game itself.


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