Parents are supposed to guide their children on the path they feel is best for their child’s development. In the case of softball parents the general feeling is getting their child into a a big college program is the best way to go and the earlier they know where they are headed the better!
Why is that better?
College coaches are forced to look for talent and build relationships with that talent at every opportunity. Sure they can limit themselves to the age groups they talk to, but if another coach is willing to play the early recruit game what does that mean for the coach who doesn’t? Can they lose their job if they don’t recruit the best athletes? Early commitments don’t help the coach who would like to do the right thing and it only benefits those willing to reach deeper and deeper into those gray areas nobody wants in the sport.
When a child commits to a big university in 7th grade what other opportunities are they throwing away? A better offer from another school? Travel ball coaches love when their athletes commit to big schools, however when one does commit why play them in tournaments and showcases any longer? Won’t they be taking up playing time for someone else the coach can say they moved up? Will specialized development enable the athlete to avoid overuse injuries (via WASHINGTON POST)? Will they sacrifice quality time with family to maintain or better athletic performance? What kind of pressure will now be on that child for 5 years from parents or even from themselves? What is the child gaining by committing early? An out of state student attending college would pay about $23,000 while in state students would pay about $9,000 (via FORBES). Let’s be honest and understand that it is rare to get a full ride to play at a big school. 15% is probably the most a program will offer, especially in someones first year (via FLOSOFTBALL). So 15% of $23,000 is $3,450 and $1,350 of $9,000. So early commitments don’t truly help the student-athlete nor the parent paying for the school nor does it come close to recouping the money spent on all the travelball activities and equipment it took to get them there!
And let’s not forget about the sport of softball itself! How discouraging is it to young athletes when they feel like they aren’t good enough because they haven’t committed by 7th/8th grade? How many of those discouraged athletes would have become great softball players had they had the proper mindset over a 3 year development span? How many softball leagues or travel teams could be formed with great talent if the families and kids knew their was an opportunity later on down the road?
Committing early does not benefit the sport, the coaches, the families or the athlete. And while the NCAA and college coaches are trying to figure out the best way they can deal with the problem familes should also do what they can to do the right thing for not just themselves but the sport as well.