With the recent announcement of new legislation involving D1 Softball recruiting, Cheri Naudin, founder of Collegiate Sports Advocate, and Erin Sykes, former Division 1 player and coach, break down what this new rule means and the positive and negative effects this will have on players, their families, and coaches. Although they were a little surprised about how stringent NCAA went to overcorrect, both are in agreement that the development of the players are going to be benefited in this situation. The stickiness with the teams that can get players to the next level will be better, the coaches will dive in a little deeper, and the good clubs will rise.
It’s been awhile since we’ve done a show, but so many of those young athletes I work with are softball players. Many of them, especially their parents, have been reaching out to me trying to get a better grasp, a better understanding of the decision that was made at the NCAA Division 1 Level softball. What were some of the changes and how it was going to impact in terms of the recruiting and the commitment process? How’s that going to impact their players? That’s not my specialty. I don’t have all the answers. I can help them how to work with the stress around it. Hadn’t had some more up my alley, but what I decided to do was call a special additional Full Force Live podcast.
I’ll bring in my very dear friends from CSA, which is the Collegiate Sports Advocates, the Founder, Cheri Naudin, as well as one of our advocates, Erin Sykes, who was a former Division 1 player and a Division 1 coach in her own right, and to bring them in here and have them answer my questions, breakdown what these new rules mean, what are the positives, what are the negatives, what are some specific situations that’s going to help us as parents or as players to make the best decisions possible in these next couple of years, so that we can enjoy and live our best life both on and off the field. I’m very excited to bring you this special edition podcast. I’m excited to have Cheri and Erin on. They’re two of my favorite ladies on this planet and it’s a great show. I hope you enjoy. I hope you get the quality information that you need going to the next couple years.
Listen to the podcast here:
CSA On Changes Of D1 Softball Recruiting
Cheri, I’m happy to have you on here. I know the NCAA made their new rule when it came to the recruiting process for softball players. Can you expand on that and teach me a little bit more about what that’s about?
First of all, we’re excited because the NCAA has finally addressed some of the dysfunction that was going on in softball specifically, which was a lot of early recruiting. When we say early recruiting, we’re talking sixth graders, seventh graders, and a handful of eighth graders across the country that had made verbal commitments to major universities. It sounds so preposterous to those of us who are adults who’ve been through the student-athlete experience in college life. Making a decision like that so young and not understanding what the outcome or the issues that they might face along the way. Number one, we’re very happy about it. We were a little surprised how stringent they went to overcorrect. It’s an overcorrection at this point because what they’re now going to have to do is fit 347,000 registered high school softball players into a three-season recruiting period in order for them to find the fit. There’s a lot of positives and negatives.
What’s the fit?
The fit is an individual path. Each kid has got to decide independently not only of softball but of their academic fit and what the outcome that they’re looking for for the next 40 years. So many families and parents get caught up into the flag that they’re going to sit behind on signing day versus the degree that they’re going to get on graduation day.
I’m trying to think back to my days of what I wanted to do when I was in eighth grade. I can’t possibly imagine making a decision at that point. What are the positives of this decision for not only the families but coaches as well? Erin, what are your thoughts on it?
Some of the positives that I see are that we’re going to get back to a state where these athletes are going to be able to compete. I won’t say that they’re going to be stress alleviated, but they’re going to go back to playing the game harder with less focus on who’s coming to watch me play and things like that. As far as the coaches go, the positives are that they get to sit back and evaluate talent over a period of essentially years with some of these kids. They’re going to get an opportunity to watch them grow and develop or not grow and develop. That’s a couple of things that I see.
How about you, Cheri? What are the positives?
It solves a lot of the issues that’s going on in Travel Ball. There’s been an epidemic of verbal and vanish where they verbal on the team that showcase them the best and was competing at the top layer of the sport, but once they made the verbal, they would say, “I think I’ll stay closer to home and not have to travel so much and not have to pay for the expensive tournaments to compete.” What they sacrificed was playing against the level of play that they were going to face when they got to college. When they get there, they weren’t ready to play. There was a little bench sitting going on, little expectations unmet when they got there.
I hadn’t thought about that. You’re talking about the development of the players are going to be benefited in this situation.
I truly believe that the benefit will be there. The stickiness with their team that can get them to that level will be better. The coaches will dive in a little deeper, even though they have great relationships with the legacy club owners. The good clubs will rise in this and the clubs that are out there playing softball but not necessarily college-bound will struggle getting some of their kid’s committed.
Erin, do you see the same thing where they’re going to go out there and keep continuing to play against the tougher talent and be more prepared when college days come?
The opportunity to slack off of the development after you have verbaled early is a big thing. You see kids that have a high level of skill, they verbal. They decide that they don’t have to tour the country and play high-level talent. They’re going to stay closer to home and their skills diminish while other student-athletes are continuing to pour into their development. I know a great deal of coaches at a high-level that often talk about getting these kids in as freshmen and they literally don’t know the game. They spend time having to teach things to these kids that they just got overlooked because we’ve focused so hard on showcasing.
I’m glad you guys brought that up because I know with the work that I do, and the coach did with young athletes is I get so excited. I’m so happy. I’m so proud when they get that commitment, but at the same time, it’s like the next day I’m like, “Now it’s time to become a college player.” To hear you bringing up that, that’s cool. Erin, what are some of the negatives or potential negatives from this decision?
I personally dislike the lack of communication that is going to take place. There’s already, in place, limited communications depending on your graduation year. What we have been able to know through the process is where these student-athletes fit. It’s going to be a disadvantage to some that had the opportunity to learn at what level they could play. They’re going to face some heartbreak figuring out that they can’t play at that high-level Division 1 where in the past, the heartbreak was for a little bit of time and then they got to readjust their recruitment plan and look elsewhere. You’re going to see a lot of kids that don’t know where they fit in this process and come September 1st of their junior year because of their lack of knowledge and realization into what transpires with recruiting, they’re going to be brokenhearted.
You’re talking about a whole different level of stress put on an athlete as a junior, who not only is getting ready to spread their wings and leave home and complete high school. Now, you’re throwing in additional stress with athletics of, “What do I do now?” That’s the part of this that I dislike. My heart goes out to some of these student-athletes because you like the little bit of limited communication you get right now. That’s going to be one of the big disadvantages to what we see.
Cheri, what are the potential negatives here?
A lot of what I was seeing on social media is everybody was cheering and I equate it to when a government rolls out a proposition. They say, “For the Clean Air Act because everybody wants clean air,” but they don’t read the details under the proposition about what it’s going to do and they’re not necessarily knowledgeable enough to understand how it is individually will affect their child. What I was saying out there is the one percenters, they’re going to be fine. Those top-level athletes that are getting recruited early, that are what this rule was made about to slow them down, that’s a handful. In fact, on one list I looked at, it was only 62 kids in the class of 22 and 23 and a fraction of 21 that were affected by this decision.
They’re making a rule change so far to the other side to overcorrect it that the actual reality is those same people that aren’t the one percenters, they are going to be put in a worse situation. Now, they’re only going to have their junior fall season, their junior/senior season and their senior fall season because our summer season doesn’t start until they graduate their senior year. I equate it and we’ve done a lot of work with football. It’s going to be very much like football. When football gets their recruiting day in February and the guy holds up five hats and picks the one, then the cascading effect goes down. All of a sudden in April, you have the guys that we’re hoping for a deal and opportunity finally sink in and realize that they’re probably going to be better off going where their academics take them and their skill set takes them, which is typically into a different division that they were unwilling to look at at the time they probably should’ve looked at it.
Erin, what does this mean in terms of the Travel Ball teams, some of the tournaments, the showcases, and the camps?
You’re going to see an influx of tournaments and showcases because as we approach that junior year deadline, at that point, they’re only going to have three recruiting calendars to make a decision. I don’t foresee any changes coming as far as the level of evaluation that these coaches are doing. You’re going to continue to see them evaluating young athletes. They want to flag these gifted, talented athletes as early as possible. The advantage is all theirs because they’re going to be able to track these athletes over an extended period of time to watch their development, see their personalities on the field, how coachable they are, and things like that.
I don’t foresee any of that changing at all. You’re going to continue to see those high-level coaches at your second year twelves, first year fourteens. You’re 1% athlete is still going to be your 1% athlete. That’s not going to change. I don’t see an equalization of the playing field in that regard. They’re going to continue to watch for high caliber kids and continue to track them and their progress through the sport up until that day. What I foresee is that September 1st becomes a day of, “We have been following you for X amount of months and years. This is the offer that we’d like to place on your table.” Unfortunately, these kids are going to be placed with a deadline to make that commitment. Whereas now, there’s not necessarily a deadline for them. It works out a little bit better in my opinion.
The rule is going to counter-effect some of the coaches also. They’re going to have to work a lot harder. They’re going to have a hard time figuring out who’s on their list and who’s going to accept. If you walk up to a high-level team, you’ll see the same three or five kids that stand out and just go, “Wow.” Every big school coach says, “I want that kid.” They’re going to have to decide how much time they’re going to be able to spend on officials. Those coaches are going to want to have an indication of, “Where do I sit on that list? Am I going to be that kid’s first pick, second pick?” They’re going to have 100, 200, maybe even 500 candidates deep and then they’re going to have to sort out and figure out who commits and who doesn’t. I laughed about it saying, “It’s going to be like Fantasy Football. Maybe we should start a league of fantasy softball.”
If I’m the father of a fourteen-year old softball player, what does that mean for her at this stage?
You’re going to have to focus on talent. You’re going to have to spend your money instead of going to camps that you want play for, spend your money on development, talent playing the game. There was an SEC coach that I spoke with that said, “I would rather see the kids practicing solid talent and how to play softball three weekends a month and play one relevant game a month.” That’s how I grew up playing and raising our kids is. We played friendlies and then we would practice. We would reevaluate that play and say, “Coach, do you mind if we redo that over and re-simulate it so that we get it right?”
You’re practicing in that forum rather than going out every weekend and playing five games a day. It means nothing and you’re not growing them. A centerfielder, how often does she get the ball? That’s great advice to a fourteen-year old family. Spend more time developing talent, getting better athletic condition. At CSA, we give them an athletic plan and an athletic meal plan. We’re finding a lot of these kids are spending more time feeding their fun rather than fueling their bodies. A lot of that development needs to change and get real serious about what it means to be a colligate athlete.
Erin, same questions.
Definitely, you need to be focusing on skill and learning the game. The best advice that I can give a fourteen- year old athlete is to start the process. That’s the best information I can give you. There are steps that can be taken to make this process go a little smoother and more to your advantage if you are educated on what that means. There’s a lot to be done behind-the-scenes to set you up for success. We haven’t done a whole lot of talking about it on this podcast yet, but this rule only affects Division 1 athletes. You’ve got four other layers of this game whose rules have not changed and you’re going to be able to get more feedback from those four areas. If you’re putting all your eggs in one basket for Division 1, you’ve already lost the battle. There’s only going to be a handful of those athletes that went out and it’s safe to say that we already know who those athletes are.
Cheri, what is going to be the role of the third party in this new decision?
There’s been a lot of discussion about it, but the way I read the rule was clearly there will be no longer a third-party Travel Ball coach, high school coach, a recruiting firm agent. None of that is going to be allowed in the recruiting discussions until junior year in September. It also backed it up with a question was answered on the NFCA press release of what does that really mean? There’s still evaluation. There’s still the conversations. There will still be tours at camps. There will still be ways to evaluate whether you can play at that level or whether that coach thinks you can play at that level. That evaluation will still be happening. Unless the family has a Travel Ball coach that’s had a long legacy of trust and credibility with the college coaches, they’re going to struggle getting that feedback to understand where they can play.
The mistakes being made there is people are listening and saying no third-party interaction. That means as the recruiting talks until the junior year. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to be providing feedback and getting evaluations from the coaches saying how that child played. Plus, where a third party recruiting firm like ours, and we call ourselves an advocate rather than a recruiter because we do so much more in the process. Where we come into play as somebody like Erin with a background that’s, that’s been a college coach and has been a college player and myself being in softball for over twenty years and our team of talented advocates, we’ve got the experience and the knowledge to understand the layer that that child can play. That’s always the part that the parents struggle. I was a parent once. I had a hard time understanding why my daughter didn’t make Team USA. When you look at it outside of being the parent, you understand it. You see it. You know where they fit. That’s the difficult part for the parents.
Erin, anything to add to that?
In regard to what Cheri and I and our team of advocates do, that is where we have our success. We are able to get that feedback and 90% of the feedback we receive is evaluation feedback. Is this a player that can play at your level? Coaches say yes and no. We take that information back to our players to help develop the journey that they’re on, whether it’s D1, D2, NAIA or JuCo. We’re in connection with all these coaches and we receive this feedback regularly to be able to get our kids on the path to their fit. We take into account things outside of softball. When I sit down with my student-athletes and we’re talking about the fit for them, I’m talking about, “How far away you want to be from home? How big of a classroom setting are you comfortable in? How serious are you about softball?” There’s college softball programs in this country that are more serious than others. If you want to go to college and study certain things, you’ve got to know if you can play ball at that collage and study this. I go as in depth with my student-athletes. It’s safe to say for all of our advocates that we try to get down to the bones of finding that fit and what that means for our kids and our families.
Cheri, as a parent, what do we do now?
It depends individually where the kid is in the path. Are they committed now? Are they verbal now? Are they uncommitted? Do they have visits and interest in their back pocket? How do we get through all those questions? Especially for the younger ones, the 21s, 22s, and 23s, where we lose out, we’re not going to know who is committed, but the college coaches are clearly going to identify the players and evaluate the players and they’re going to have to listen to the nonverbal cues. How much is that coach coming around and visiting and watching and interacting? How well are they playing compare to the other kids that might have been already previously committed there? A lot more self-evaluation, if they’re taking it alone on the journey.
Where I feel the worst and I’m so compelled to share this message out to the public is I’m worried about the other 99 percenters that may not get that offer on September 1st or have the choice to do their unofficials on that date. I’m worried about where they’re going to fit at the end of the card shuffler, the cascading dominos. I see domino effect quite often in my head and those are the ones I worry the most about. I would appeal to the parents. If your child wants to be a student-athlete in college, get help now. Get a trusted advisor. Find that person that’s credible in the business of it and put your trust in him. It’s probably the most emotional decision other than buying a home that I’ve ever been through, which is selecting your children’s college destination and hoping for the best outcome.
Erin, any add-ons?
If you’re going to go at it alone, I appeal to you to get as much education from a trusted, reliable source as possible. Know that there are a team of great advocates out there who are in this for the right reason to share our backgrounds in education, in this game, specifically in this process with you to help you better navigate the journey for your kid. People always ask me, “When it’s too early to start?” I don’t know that there is a ‘too early’. It depends on your child’s needs. This business is about relationships. As a child, I think back to everyone who helped me get to where I am today, and it started at softball camps when I was eight years old. There were foundational relationships built at eight years old that I still carry with me today.
As you go through this journey, I don’t want to say it’s all about who you know, but in a way, it is. Who have you built relationships with? College coaches are more apt to stop by a field when they recognize that a player that’s been consistently at their camps. In that regard, you’ve got to set yourself up for success and failing to prepare is indeed preparing to fail. Take the steps necessary to put yourself at least on the right starting path. If you are completely clueless, reach out to somebody and get some knowledge. There is a ton of misconception out there in regard to softball and recruiting and how this works. Our job as advocates is to share the truth with you. We pride ourselves on the truthfulness. I told someone, “The truth hurts.” We’re going to be truthful with you and it hurts for a minute, but it hurts a whole lot less to hear it now than it does to hear it on September1st.
The truth hurts, but the truth will also set you free. I appreciate you both taking the time and definitely informing me and the audience on this new decision. I want to thank you both for being on the show. If anyone has any questions, how do they get in touch with CSA, Cheri?
www.CollegiateSportsAdvocate.com. We’d love to hear from you.
Go and follow them on social media outlets. They’re always providing such tremendous value. That’s what’s always gravitated me towards them. I’ve learned so much over the last couple years of following their stuff and beautiful hearts, beautiful souls. They definitely want to go out there and help everybody. I’m all about that too so I respect and appreciate it.
Any other questions, comments, criticism or sarcastic remarks for me, feel free to reach out at Info@JasonBottsPeakState.com. Until then, aim high, swing hard, and smile often.