I have been asked numerous questions such as, “How did you get to FSU? What set you apart from other recruits? What would you do differently if you were to be recruited again?” and lastly, “What should I focus on after I get recruited?” I have thought a lot about these questions and hope to write this blog to help middle school and high school athletes that are in the midst of their recruiting process or about to go off to college.
The path that eventually took me to FSU started because I played on a competitive travel ball team with other players that were both committed and signed with Florida State. Since I played with girls already signed and committed, other coaches would come to my travel ball games to watch my teammates play, and in those visits, I gained a little attention from the coaches as well. If you aren’t necessarily a top recruit, and it’s okay to admit that, not a lot of us are, the people you play with and the team you play on can assist you a lot throughout the recruiting process. I played with some of the best players in the country that ended up at schools like FSU, UF, Auburn, LSU, and many other major Division I and Division II programs. Another fantastic way to get seen and begin or extend your recruiting process is to attend camps at the schools you are interested in. Coaches love seeing prospects they might potentially recruit at their camps because it gives them an opportunity to work with the players individually, see how coachable they are, and how quickly they can make adjustments when practicing. Camps are also important because it reinforces your interest in a program. After attending a couple camps, there is the potential to evaluate your interaction with the coaches as well. You will probably have a good idea by then if they are willing to invest their time in coaching and teaching you, which will in turn display their interest in possibly recruiting you. Camps are a great opportunity for athletes and their families to evaluate schools and coaches for themselves. If you do not relate to, understand, or care for the way a coach carries his or her self or the way they teach, you can then put that school lower on your priority list. I committed to Florida State after I participated in their winter camp my junior year of high school. This, along with summer camps seem to be a great time for coaches to critically evaluate and offer players.
Something I have learned throughout my own recruiting process and even still as a teammate and current player at the collegiate level is that every person’s process is different. Everyone you end up playing with will have gotten to your school in a different route than you did. Learn to embrace the pressure and the joy of the process because one day it will pay off.
The qualities that set you apart from other recruits are your work ethic, being coachable, the way you respond to failure, your game skill, and you just being yourself. A coach wants to invest in a player they know is going to work their hardest for the team. They want someone who is a go-getter on and off the field because if you put the time in, the results will eventually come. Being coachable is a huge factor into the recruiting process because a coach wants to learn if a player will and can respond to their coaching methods and knowledge. The way you respond to failure in a game setting is crucial to the outlook of recruits because our game is full of failure, and if you put your head down after a tough at-bat or after an error, you are ultimately taking away from your team and from your next opportunity to succeed. Learn to face the failure head on and make an adjustment your next at bat. That is how you grow. Game skill goes into the last category as well because you tend to play instinctively in games, and coaches enjoy seeing what game knowledge you already have. Lastly, being yourself is the most important aspect in your recruiting process. If you stay true to who you are, you will have a good chance at ending up at the best school for you.
If I were to go back and do my recruiting process again, I would go to winter and summer camps at an earlier age. When I was recruited, it wasn’t as common to commit at a younger age, as we see it becoming more prevalent nowadays. My biggest piece of advice I can give you young players wanting to get recruited by schools, is to go to their camps over and over and continue working with the coaches and players and introduce yourself. It is more likely that a coach might remember you more so after you have a conversation with them. Communicate with the coaches when you work with them at different stations throughout camp, pick their brain, ask questions, and don’t be afraid to tell them you are very interested in coming to their school. I am a firm believer that if you go about your recruiting process honestly and openly, you will make the best decision for your education and your career in the end.
Going off the last topic, choosing a school to attend and play at is a big decision. Many people might dream of playing at the Division I level, however, it is not for everyone. It is crucial to have someone you can trust (besides a parent or family member) evaluate your skill, honestly. This will give you a realistic idea of a program you may best fit. Parents can be blinded by how much they love you to be able to determine if you, their baby girl and pride and joy, are capable of playing at a certain level. I have found it best to just eliminate them from the process of evaluating your skill and to get a coach to do so. If your goal is to play at the Division I level, maybe you begin at a junior college and work your way there after a year or two of growth. Maybe your dream is to play at a Division II school or an Ivy League school which is equally as awesome and special. Not everyone’s goal is the same and that is okay, each person’s path is unique for their life. Each Division will give you a unique experience of a collegiate career.
An important topic that I don’t think is discussed enough is what players should focus on before they arrive on their college campus. First, fundamentals are huge. Catch and throw will always be the main component of the game along with hitting and base-running. Never outgrow fundamental work because it will always show up, no matter the level you are playing in, and often times, that fundamental work is what makes teams great. Secondly, learn as much as you can about the game. When you get into college, you will be playing with and against some of the best in the game. Talk to your coaches and find out some of the concepts they teach. Learn cuts and relays, learn mindsets and how they approach at bats, find out their core values, the things they take a lot of pride in as a program. Familiarize yourself as much as you can with the way your future team will play the game. Travel ball has become so competitive in the recruiting process that often times coaches don’t have time to teach the game as much because they are doing their best to talk to college coaches and get their girls recruited. Take it upon yourself as a recruit and a player to take your game to the next level. The more you can learn when you are younger, the more it will pay off in the long run.
The last component I want to emphasize is to focus on is taking care of your body, both on and off the field. The way you train will help you remain healthy and competitive. Fuel your body with the proper food to avoid injury, soreness, and overall exhaustion and inability to perform. Workout, run, lift, stretch; do what you have to do to ensure that you are healthy and able to compete.
Everyone has their own journey and I am a firm believer that in the end, people will end up exactly where they are meant to be if they put their mind to it and work hard for it. If you want to play badly enough, there is a place for every young athlete to compete and earn their degree, regardless of the Division they choose. No one person’s path is greater than another’s. Trust the process and understand that the recruiting process is not always easy, but is always worth it in the end. Once you are fortunate enough to commit or sign to a program, keep working. Never become complacent. Continue bettering yourself and moving forward. The game continually gets better, quicker, and more competitive, so make sure that you always give yourself the best opportunity to be the best player you can.