Firecrackers: Earning Wins On and Off the Field

FIRECRACKERS

Kyle Parmley – Fastpitch Network

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Tony Rico enjoys winning as much as the next person, but it’s simply not his only focus when he wakes up each morning.

As the President of the Firecracker Softball organization, Rico dedicates his days to the fostering of a strong culture, the development of athletes as players and people and making people happy.

And yes, the Firecrackers have done some winning along the way as well, including the 2016 PGF 18U Premier National Championship.

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Warning Parents Should Not Play The Waiting Game

Warning Parents Should Not Play The Waiting Game
Warning Parents Should Not Play The Waiting Game
Warning Parents Should Not Play The Waiting Game

A cardinal sin made by parents of young athletes hoping to play at the college level is presuming there is no harm in waiting to be recruited.

National Scouting Report scouts get glaring evidence of this each day with announcements across the country of freshman and sophomore athletes committing to colleges or coaches making scholarship offers to youngsters in the eighth, ninth or 10th grades.

Those news flashes are not imaginary. They are real indications to parents about the state of college recruiting today.

This past week, an NSR Scout, posted a story about a lacrosse player from the 2020 class committing to Penn State. Another NSR scout in Kansas City, also posted a story last week about a freshman who already has committed to play for the University of Arizona.

How did that happen? Simple. Those were not just good athletes. They were prospects known by coaches.  And athletes are not college prospects until they are actually in the recruiting process.

So, how early is early? When should your child start the process? It is not too early for your child to begin the recruiting process if scholarships are being offered by coaches in his/her sport and class.

To boil it down to the simplest denominator, here are four key reasons parents should not wait to start their athletes in the recruiting process:

  1. More white boards: Every day you wait, another athlete in your child’s class is getting noticed by a college coach. The sad thing is this: Many times athletes who go on white boards first are not as talented as your athlete. The difference? Those families did not wait and you did, which points to the irrefutable fact that there is no advantage to waiting.
  2. More evaluations: The longer your athlete is in the process, the better the chances are that he or she will be noticed and evaluated. Obviously, the more schools that evaluate your athlete, the more chances he or she has of being formally recruited.
  3. More relationships: Recruiting is all about relationships. The more time your child has to build trusting relationships with college coaches, the more offers he or she is likely to receive. This gives your athlete leverage with coaches and creates demand for his or her athletic services. So, it make sense that the longer families wait, the fewer opportunities their athletes will have to build solid relationships with coaches.
  4. More options: When families choose to wait to start the recruiting process, the fewer options they are likely to have as signing dates approach. Other prospects who started the process early will have filled the roster spots which for which your athlete may have been considered. That is a losing scenario any way you look at it.

Three Things to Consider Before You Verbally Commit

Three Things to Consider Before You Verbally Commit
Three Things to Consider Before You Verbally Commit
Three Things to Consider Before You Verbally Commit

Verbally committing to a college or university is up for debate in its relevancy and importance. However, when athletes verbally commit it does mean something and they should stay true to their word.

For many athletes and coaches, a verbal commit means something and holds some value. However, according to the NCAA, “A verbal commitment happens when a college-bound student-athlete verbally agrees to play sports for a college before he or she signs or is eligible to sign a National Letter of Intent. The commitment is not binding on the student-athlete or the school and can be made at any time.”

With a verbal commit, you only hope that a college coach or athlete will stick to their word. Since, there isn’t anything binding them to the commitment.

Unlike the NLI, verbally committing doesn’t mean you will receive that offer or an offer at all. A college coach can retract a verbal commitment or change the offer at any point. Additionally, athletes can back out at any time. Verbally committing can be a sticky situation for both athletes and college coaches.

For athletes, it’s important to know that program and university are where you want to be before you verbally commit. Here are three things to take into consideration before you verbally commit anywhere:

Are you done visiting?

Once you’ve made the decision to commit verbally to a program, it’s frowned upon to go on official or unofficial visits to other colleges. Even though you technically can, since it’s not a binding document, realize that if you choose to do that the offer you received from the other school may not be there. That may not end up being a problem for you since you’re still shopping around. If you’re considering visiting other schools, then don’t verbally commit.

Have you done all your research?

Sometimes a significant scholarship can make athletes forget about the bigger picture. Yes, we want our athletes to have scholarship money. But, it’s important to make sure the school meets your requirements (i.e. degree program, class size, location, facilities, etc.)

Have you seen all of your options?

Nowadays verbally committing happens before an athlete has a chance to see all of their options. Seriously consider if you’ve seen all your options before you verbally commit. If you do have a few years left in high school, you may have more opportunities out there. Don’t rush the recruiting process because you never know what else could be out there. Maybe you’ll receive a better offer if you wait a year and better your skills.

At first glance, it sounds like an excellent idea to commit to a college or university before you sign a National Letter of Intent. Verbally committing makes the rest of high school and the recruiting process easy much easier. In general, verbally committing means you’re going to cut all communication with other college coaches. However, it’s okay for an athlete to consider backing out of a verbal commitment if there was a coaching change.

For most athletes, the recruiting process only happens once. Don’t cut it off early if you aren’t 100% sure with your choice. Verbally committing can be a great thing but if not done or treated right it could end up not working out. If you do verbally commit somewhere stay true to your word, no one can force you to, but we highly recommend it. College athletics is a small community, and you don’t want to start your collegiate career with a bad reputation associated with your name.

How to Know if a Coach is Interested in You

How to know if a college coach is interested in you
How to know if a college coach is interested in you
How to know if a college coach is interested in you

The recruiting process is tough. It’s difficult to know if a college coach is interested in you or not

You may get personal letters from a college coach inviting you to a camp, combine, or just telling you they have received your videos. But that doesn’t show whether or not a college coach is interested in you. What a lot of athletes don’t realize is most email contact is generic.

Meaning that the contact you’re getting is because of your interest in a program.  In most situations, the contact isn’t because the college coach has an interest in you. Most of the time the response you’re getting is an automatic circuit of emails.

How to know if a College Coach is Interested?

There is only one way to know if a college coach has an interest in you and that is if they are communicating with you either by telephone or direct email. There are multiple ways for college coaches to contact an athlete by phone. Since the NCAA has restrictions on college coaches communicating with athletes, coaches have to be creative so they can talk to you without breaking the rules.

The first initial contact coaches make with you is usually through your high school or travel ball coaches. If a coach is showing interest in you, more than likely he or she has contacted someone about you.

Due to NCAA rules, college coaches have restrictions on when they can start contacting athletes. D-I coaches are not able to communicate with athletes until their junior year. However, D-II and D-III coaches can contact athletes at different times during their sophomore year of high school. So college coaches have to reach out to other people to start the process first.

From there, a college coach will pass his or her information on to your high school, travel ball coach, or scout so you can call them, which the NCAA permits.

How Can NSR Help You?

In today’s recruiting game athletes have to call coaches first. To make this easier for you, college coaches will set up times for you to call or text them so they can communicate with you about their program. But you have to contact them first to do this.

In addition to a college coach communicating with you, coaches will frequently keep up with you at tournaments, practices or games. If they aren’t able to attend, they will somehow communicate with you and ask you to keep them updated with how you performed.

However, the NCAA has restrictions on communication with prospective athletes at practices or games as well. The NCAA rule regarding contact at games or practices doesn’t allow coaches to talk with prospective student-athletes until their coach releases them. And that can’t happen until the practice or game is over. In addition to that rule, college coaches can’t call or use electronic forms of communication (i.e. texting, email, Facebook Messenger, etc.) while they at your game or practice.

College coaches communicate with lots of prospective athletes, and it can be hard to know what’s everything means. Scouts at NSR help prospects communicate with coaches and guide them on what to say throughout the recruiting process.

Sometimes a high school or travel ball coach is too busy to help athletes communicate with college coaches. That’s where our scouts come in. Our scouts are always talking with college coaches. College coaches will reach out to NSR scouts when they want to communicate with a prospect. So they can start the initial contact and set up a time for an athlete to call them.

Recruiting is a long journey. Make sure you are doing everything right, so you don’t miss out on an opportunity.

8 Bad Habits That Can Turn Off College Coaches

8 Bad Habits That Can Turn Off College Coaches
8 Bad Habits That Can Turn Off College Coaches
8 Bad Habits That Can Turn Off College Coaches

I have seen it all when it comes to scouting and recruiting. I coached college softball for over two decades in both NCAA D1 and NAIA levels, so I have a pretty good understanding of the recruiting process. As a former Power 5 head softball coach and now working as the Executive Director of Scouting for National Scouting Report the last few months, I often get asked by athletes, parents and high school coaches about college recruiting. The recruiting process can be intimidating and confusing, at times. However, that process could be over before it begins if you allow these 8 habits to be a part of who you are as a college softball prospect.

The tremendous growth of travel softball events has made identifying prospects much easier for college coaches. Prospects put on their skill set display for 6-8 weekends in the fall and an entire summer. You can see college coaches roaming from tournaments to showcases to combines. But there is a catch. Hear me softball prospects… Coaches go to events to scout athletes they already know about, not to find new ones!

At National Scouting Report  our softball scouts are all over the country tuned into what coaches are doing and how they are doing it because we go where they go and we scout the same prospects they are looking at… all prospects at every level.

Competition among college softball coaches has always been very competitive. But the current recruiting environment allows college programs, when they see their chances improving of landing one recruit over another, to turn their heads away from other athletes who are equally qualified. It is the new nature of recruiting. That puts prospects at a distinct disadvantage. Yes, there are more coaches out there recruiting. However, one small slip in skill, attitude or other key trait can slow down or stop a prospect’s opportunities to be followed, recruited and offered.

While working on this blog, I reached out to collegiate softball coaches from across the country. At every level, from Division 1 to Junior College, here is what they had to say.

Here are 8 characteristics college coaches will not tolerate from prospects:

1. POOR BODY LANGUAGE

The inability to show good body language on the diamond when things are not going well is the best way to catch the eye of a college softball coach – for the WRONG reasons. One coach said she doesn’t like “front runners” or players that are only good when things are going their way.  Another college coach, whose teams have been in the NCAA softball tournament, said “Nonverbal communication speaks about character, ”Poor body language is a red flag for me and most coaches.”

2. DISRESPECTFUL ATTITUDES

Disrespect can show up in a few ways…

Players that never say thank you

Players that are never happy for their teammates’ and their individual successes 

Players who are disrespectful to parents

Players that look in another direction while getting instructions from their coach

Players that argue with an umpire

Regardless of how manifested, when a young athlete shows even the slightest degree of disrespect, they are a “red flag” with coaches. “Red lined”, “finished” and “take a hike” are just a few comments from coaches regarding these types of athletes. Pick one or any number of other rude and disrespectful acts and you can certainly bet  you are history with those coaches.

3. TEMPER

Toss a bat, throw a glove, argue with a teammate, ignore a coach’s instructions or yell at an umpire, and you will be crossed off the list. Coaches see bad tempers as long-term fixes, and they do not have the time to be psychologists for the uncontrollable head case.

4. POOR BEHAVIOR ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media has really changed the landscape in college recruiting, especially in the last five years. An athlete’s ability to make the right decisions on their personal social media platforms is key if their desire is to play in college. One college coach said they communicate to their kids how important their social media feeds are by saying, “Don’t put anything on social media that you would not want your grandma to see.” This has really helped filter out high character players and helped coaches learn where a player’s priorities lie. Excessive retweets and posts all about themselves are a turn off to most coaches, as well as “Likes” and “Favorites” regarding inappropriate pictures and comments.

5. INABILITY TO HAVE A CONVERSATION

College Coaches want to be able to hold a conversation with you both by text and over the telephone. Unresponsive texts and phone calls leaves a college coach very concerned and left to wonder how important their institution and they are too you. One-word answers leave an impression that you don’t care or may struggle to effectively communicate to teammates, coaches and professors in college.

6. THE “ME” GIRLS

These are players that put themselves over the team. College coaches said they receive texts that say things like , “My team lost today but I went 3-4 today” or “We made three errors that cost us the game, but I made all my plays.” This simple and harmless looking text will not give a good impression to a potential college coach. Softball is a team sport and it takes everyone to “buy into” the system. Being disengaged on the bench, inattentive in team huddles or comments after a game that put blame on others are signs the player does not truly care for the team. College coaches desire players that can get along with others and make the most of the situation.

7. LAZINESS

The so-called “game” or “light switch” players are of NO use to college coaches. There are way too many other issues college coaches already have to deal with than to add a lazy player to their list. If you plan to be a college softball player, you have to prove it every time you step onto the diamond. There are too many hard-working softball prospects that are available for coaches. The last thing a college coach wants is to spend a minute considering is if the lazy player is worth the time or effort.

8. SELFISHNESS

Success in college has everything to do with teamwork. A selfish athlete will stand out very differently than the rest of their teammates.  Coaches will want nothing to do with those type of athletes. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

ARE YOU A VICTIM OF THESE HABITS?

Have a conversation with your high school or travel ball coach and ask them how they would describe you to college coach… how’s your “attitude” and what type of “effort” do you give. If you don’t agree with those comments, remember there is always some truth in every criticism. There is still time for you to change your habits, attitude and effort.

The time is NOW to focus on becoming the best teammate you can be. Be “teammate” focused rather than “me” focused. College coaches will demand that you be a great teammate first, before anything else. You cannot be a “problem” in the locker-room because it will eventually carry over to the diamond.

Drop the old and bad habits. Time for you to develop and build new ones that will allow you to stick out in a good and positive way to your teammates, coaches and the college coaches.  Remember, you are contagious… The energy you put into yourself, your team and the culture determine the quality of it. Your behavior drives your habits and your habits create your future.

You control You. You can inspire others each and every day with your habits, attitude and effort. When you do this, you will not only make yourself better, but you will also make everyone around you better – That’s the individual that every college coach wants to have in their program. Those are the type of players that contribute greatly to the success of any softball program.

7 Things I Wish I Knew About The Recruiting Process

7 Things I Wish I knew About the Recruiting Process
Recruiting doesn’t just happen…

The recruiting process is constantly changing, and the pressure college coaches and athletes go through is unreal.


Not very long ago I was a collegiate athlete. And just a few years before that, I was a high school athlete weaving my way through the recruiting process. It was very challenging. There were many times I was unsure if I’d ever find a place to play. But like all athletes, I figured if I worked hard and kept grinding, something would work out for me.
It’s kind of like the old saying, “the game will find you.” I was hoping it would happen to me. However, if I knew what I know now – about recruiting – the process would have been significantly less stressful.

Below, is a list of seven things I wish I had known about the recruiting process. Hopefully, they will give you some insight and help those who aren’t sure what to do.

The Recruiting Process: When is it Too Late?

Like all young athletes, I always wanted to play in college, but it probably wasn’t until high school that I started pursuing that dream. When I sat down my junior year and looked at schools I wanted to attend, I had no idea that most universities were way ahead. Yes, for most college coaches, recruiting classes are fill up three or four years before that class even graduates. I felt like a complete idiot emailing coaches my information and getting a response that they were already full. In the back of my mind, I probably thought the Big D-I schools like Alabama, Florida or Stanford, were the only ones that far ahead. But nope. Now, a lot of college coaches are recruiting earlier and earlier to stay competitive.

Camp Invites Mean Very Little

I remember getting countless letters or emails inviting me to prospect camps. I always wondered how that coach found me. Sometimes I even thought the letter meant they were recruiting me. But it wasn’t until I became a college athlete that I realized only a fraction of camp attendees convert to prospects. I also realized that those letters don’t mean a coach has seen you before, or that you’re even on their radar. In my four years in college, our coach watched very few prospects at our camps. I’m not saying a camp attendee never turned into a prospect, but the majority didn’t. 

Playing Well Doesn’t Mean Coaches Know

Where I wanted to attend college was far from where I lived, and with 1,500 colleges or universities, across the country, playing well in your area doesn’t mean college coaches know that. Schools close to you may know or hear about your abilities, but it doesn’t mean all college coaches will know whether you’re playing well or not. If you’re like me and have a desire to play somewhere outside of your hometown, it’s hard to accept this, but it’s true. I assumed that if my team was winning and the game stats were out there, college coaches would find me. Again, after I played in college and my teammates turned into coaches, I realized how far off that assumption was.

Attending Exposure Events Isn’t Enough

I can tell you that the number of exposure events out there has tripled since I went through the recruiting process. I attended every single camp or tournament I could when I was in high school, and going to all of those events wasn’t a bad thing. They are crucial in the recruiting process, but where I fell short was thinking that was enough. Again, I assumed that coaches would see me there and instantly remember or notice me. That wasn’t the case. There’s so much more that needs to be done to make a lasting impression and to stand out. 

Communicating With College Coaches Isn’t as Easy as You Think

Thinking back, I 100% thought that I could send an email, letter, postcard, and whatever else to a coach and be just fine. To be completely honest, those things are great. However, it’s hard to tell if coaches even read those forms of communication. College coaches receive hundreds, if not thousands, of emails or letters a day. The best way of communicating with a college coach is picking up a phone and giving he or she a call. But that wasn’t easy for me, and I know I wasn’t the only person who felt that way. It wasn’t that talking to a coach on the phone was hard. What I struggled with was mustering up the courage to talk to college coaches that I had never actually met. So, I wish I had known what to do to communicate with a coach effectively.

Your Skills Video Can Make or Break Your Recruiting

A lot of people know the basics of what to put in a video, it would have been better if I knew what specifically coaches wanted to see or know about me. Did they want something in the video that showed my personality? Does that matter? Did they want something that only displayed my skills? How much of the video should be game footage versus practice? These are just some of the things that would have been nice to know for my skills video. Think about this: for some, the skills video is the first contact they may have with a college coach. So it needs to have all of the important things displayed and be what coaches want to see as well.

I’m Not Alone

To be completely honest, a lot of the time I felt like I was on an island, alone. And now that I’ve been through it, and I got to experience it from an outsider’s perspective, I know I wasn’t alone. Yes, with recruiting you’re competing against everyone. However, most of your teammates, competitors and other athletes you meet, are at the same point you are, probably wondering the same things and not sure what to do.

These are just seven things I wish I knew, my parents knew, and my coaches knew, about the recruiting process. I got lucky when I went through the recruiting process and happened to find a place to call home for four years. Without a doubt, I  believe, if I had known half of the things I know now, I would have had significantly more options. Having options to play in college puts the ball in your court. You have the ability to leverage scholarship offers and potentially earn more money to attend a certain college or university. Don’t get me wrong, I love where I went to college, and I would never trade that experience for anything, but having options would have been nice.

National Scouting Report’s scouts know the NCAA recruiting rules and what athletes need to do to get noticed. They know the answers to these seven recruiting questions and 100 more. NSR scouts talk with college coaches daily, they work as liaisons between athletes and coaches to help the communication process. Today, it’s all about who you know that gets your foot in the door to play collegiate athletics. The recruiting process is tough, but NSR scouts can help you get to the next level. 

4 Reasons You Aren’t Being Heavily Recruited

4 Reasons You Aren't Being Heavily Recruited

 

4 Reasons You Aren't Being Heavily Recruited
4 Reasons You Aren’t Being Heavily Recruited

The college recruiting game is stacked against you. You are a first-team all-conference, Honor Roll, two-sport athlete, and everyone is telling you that you will get a scholarship. The only problem is that you haven’t heard from any college coaches and offers are already being made to athletes in your graduating class. This means you aren’t being recruited.

The reality is that only 2 percent of high school athletes receive NCAA athletic scholarships. What’s more, only 1 percent will play at the Division I level.

Here are four reasons why you may not be heavily recruited:

1. You don’t understand the process.

The first time a high school athlete goes through the recruiting process is the last time he or she will go through the process. How many days a year can a coach go out to evaluate you? When and what is contact period, dead period, quiet period? When and how many official and unofficial visits do you get? Are you up to date on all the NCAA recruiting rule changes for your sport? What and when should you email/call/text a college coach?

2. You believe your coach is doing it for you.

Here is something I heard last week from a parent, “we don’t need to worry about contacting colleges because Susan plays for the Wave and her coach is taking care of it.” Many coaches want to see their players make it to the next level, but they are not actively talking to college coaches every day. Earning a college scholarship can be life-changing. If you are not talking to college coaches, you are not being recruited.

3. You aren’t proactive.

The definition of proactive is “creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened.” Being proactive doesn’t mean showing up on the weekends to play games and expecting a coach to call you and offer you a scholarship. Most of the time college coaches are not showing up at games, tournaments, and events to find talent. College coaches come to events to evaluate the athletes they already know about. An athlete and his or her family will know if the coach is there to see them.

4. You aren’t realistic.

Being realistic about who you are as an athlete and student is probably the hardest part of the recruiting process for both the athlete, parent and even coach. So, if you are not pursuing the appropriate colleges, you are wasting your time and money going to camps or sending useless emails. Hence, why it’s imperative that athletes and parents get a real evaluation from a professional scout to fully understand where the athlete fits in the process.  Also, athletes should not waste time pursuing colleges and coaches that are not recruiting the athlete’s position, graduation class or skill set.  A professional on-the-ground scout can help prevent wasted time, effort and money for the athlete and their families.

Love for the Game Fuels Fernandez

Lisa Fernandez - Greatest Of All Time

by Kyle Parmley – Fastpitch Network

Lisa Fernandez never envisioned being as much of a homeschool teacher as she is a softball coach this spring. With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the country, the 2020 college softball season came to a grinding halt in mid-March, along with seemingly everything else. The days looked much different for the UCLA pitching coach this spring as a result.

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