How to Play for a D1 College Softball Team

“My daughter is going to play D1 softball!”

“D1 softball or nothing!”

“We will not settle for anything less than a full ride D1 scholarship offer!”

As a parent and a coach I have heard quotes like these time and time again. While it is always nice to set the bar high, anyone who knows about success will tell you that in order to be successful you have to 1. give yourself the best opportunity to reach your goal and 2. be flexible in how you go about achieving that goal.

Let’s first talk about the goal. Why Division 1? Does the school even matter or is it the ‘prestige’ of competing at that particular level? Have you even thought about the fact that most D1 programs will limit the majors and classes you can take in order to play for them? Are you willing to sacrifice the reason you are going to school in the first place, to gain a lifelong career in your chosen field, for 4 years of competitive softball? I am not against anyone aiming for that level however most that do have no clue about what it takes to get there let alone be successful there, both on and off the field. So in regards to the goal lets make sure the schools you are looking at are the best fit for you and that you are the best fit for them!

If you don’t make a Division 1 program are you not going to attend college?

Without rewriting the entire idea I would like to direct you to this page about softball college scholarships. Basically it has information on the availability of scholarships offers and the total amount of softball players in both high school and at the different levels of college (D1, D2, etc). To summarize it states that there are 370,000+ high school softball players. There are only about 31,000 college softball players. Of those 31,000 only about 6,000 play D1 softball.

Those numbers are not meant to discourage you. The more you know what you are up against the better chance you have at accomplishing your goal.

Now not all 6,000 D1 softball players have full rides. In fact it is customary for college coaches to split up scholarship offers, especially to freshman, to help maximize their chances at retaining good players and keeping a deep bench. If you take into consideration the average college softball roster size is 21 players and then understand they can only offer 12 full scholarships you’ll start to get a better understanding of how difficult it is to get a full ride.

Let’s break it down one more step. College softball programs do not need 21 new softball players every year. Let’s say, on average, a team needs to replace their graduating seniors every year. If we assume that the team is made up evenly off each class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) we can expect at least 1/4 of the team will need to be replaced. That gives us, on average, about 5 spots to fill every year. There are 295 D1 softball teams which means there are possibly 1,475 positions to fill every year at that level.

What type of athlete is the coach looking for? Speedy? Powerful? Pitcher? Catcher?

If you haven’t figured it out by now I will lay it on you. Making a D1 team at all let alone with a full ride scholarship is a very limiting goal. It is also something you cannot control. As an athlete you can be a great center-fielder, and the D1 coaches will tell you you are if that is so, and you still won’t make it because the need for a great center-fielder may not be there. And even if they want you what are the chances they have enough scholarship money to offer you?

While not impossible the limiting factors that are beyond your control to make a D1 team with a full ride are overwhelming. In fact limiting yourself to D1 schools at all is not how you get into a D1 school in the first place!

The more competition there is for your abilities the better chance you will get at being offered a scholarship to the school of your choice. If you only have one school on your radar then you give that school all the power. If you have multiple offers from multiple schools that D1 coach will have to compete with those schools for your abilities if they want you. Any recruiting service or website will tell you the same thing. The more offers you get the better position you are in to go to the school you want to go to.

So goal #1 should not be to play at a Division 1 program. Goal #1 should be gaining as many offers as you can from many schools to increase the chance that your chosen D1 school will offer you not only a position but some sort of scholarship money as well. Those schools should also be a good fit for your academic/career goals because goal #1b (and really it should be #1) is to have high academics so you get the majority of your financial aid from the much bigger pot of academic financial aid out there than from the limited pot of athletic aid.

This goal puts you on a much more attainable path of success. First you are getting your academics in order which matters more to college coaches because they only have so much money to give and, in the game of life, is what you will rely on for the other 80 years of your life beyond softball. Second you are leaving yourself open to all the other possibilities out there you may not have known about! There are many stories of college athletes taking a paid trip to a school they never thought about attending, but by the end of the visit they new that is where they belong!

So remember on your journey to playing D1 college softball 1. give yourself the best opportunity to reach your goal and 2. be flexible in how you go about achieving that goal. You may just achieve something you never thought was possible!

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