Tuckahoe Sports Inc (TSI) frequently invites college coaches and other professionals to speak to its baseball and softball families. These offerings are made available to players and their parents as part of TSI’s College Development Program.
On Monday, December 17, 2019, TSI Director of Softball Operations Theresa Caraher invited JMU Softball Associate Head Coach Jennifer Herzig to speak to Lady Titans.
College Softball Advice
Q: Do colleges like JMU offer scholarships for specific positions?
A: The majority of scholarship money in Division I is earmarked for pitchers. After pitchers, we (JMU) recruit other skilled players up the middle and that are catchers, shortstops, second basemen, and center fielders. And of course, we recruit players who can flat out crush the ball.
Q: What advice do you have for pitchers?
A: Pitchers are the most recruitable and should find a travel ball team where they are regularly challenged in tournaments. A pitcher’s best friends on the team should be the other pitchers. Look for travel ball programs and schools that are committed to developing their catchers. A great catcher makes a good pitcher look even better.
Q: What advice do you have for catchers?
A: Be willing to catch any and all pitchers at any time in practice. Always be willing to work with a pitcher in the bullpen. Get extra catching instruction. It is a very skilled and critical position.
Q: What advice do you have for lefties?
A: If you are on a lefty pitcher, work with a lefty pitching instructor if possible. Good left handed pitchers are gold in softball. If you are a lefty hitter, work with a left handed hitting instructor if possible. “Do the opposite of me” doesn’t always translate well from a right handed instructor to a left handed player.
Q: What recruitment advice do you for grades in school?
A: Pay a lot of attention to your grades and test scores. You still have to get accepted into a college even if you are recruited by them.
Q: How much does the JMU team practice?
A: In-season, we practice 6 days/week (20 hrs/wk).
Q: What are your recommendations for open college camps?
A: Shop around. Not all camps are created equal. A good camp is committed to quality instruction for all participants. Staff are allowed to talk individually to players at camps (but not about their specific recruitment if a player is pre-junior year). Many third-party run camps are identical in instruction (if you see the same list of college instructors, the camp experience will be the same.)
Q: What are your thoughts on team college camps?
A: Team college camps are becoming a popular offering. Typically 4 teams attend for instruction and round-robin play – at the 14U level and up. JMU planned to do its first team camps this fall but they got postponed due to the hurricane. We will try again in 2019. Find a travel ball team that targets specific universities of interest to you. Team camps are less expensive than showcase tournaments and for the money, a more valuable experience.
Q: Are college camps more important than showcase tournaments?
A: They are both important. Attend college camps to get valuable instruction and to get noticed by specific schools. Participate in showcase tournaments to demonstrate your skills.
Q: Does the recent change in recruitment age impact attendance by college recruiters at 14U showcase tournaments?
A: Yes, we are seeing fewer college attendees for 14U level of play. It doesn’t mean a few recruiters aren’t out there or that 14U national level tournaments are no longer important for player development. But recruiter attendance is clearly shifting from 14U to 16U showcase tournaments, and that is a good thing.
Q: What level of tournament play do you need to have to play at schools like JMU?
A: If your goal is Division I, you won’t get there being tournament champions in Richmond every year. You will have to travel outside of Virginia.
Q: When should you specialize in a particular position in travel ball?
A: Pitchers need to start early. Catchers should gain experience in other positions at the 12U and 14U levels, and then focus thereafter in catching if that is their passion. All other position players should play for travel ball teams that afford them opportunities to practice and play in multiple positions.
Q: Should you try to “play up” in travel ball with your friends?
A: If your skill level (hitting, throwing, fielding, base running) is clearly a fit for the next level, you can try to “play up”. But if you are not there yet skill-wise and you will be appropriately sitting on the bench during tournament bracket play, you will be better off development-wise playing out your eligibility in your current age group (e.g. 12U).
Q: What practice advice do you have for travel ball players?
A: Invest more time in practicing, than in playing. You need to practice outside of team practices to reach a recommended combined total of 4-5 times per week of something softball-wise. But do something outside every day of the week and play more than one sport.
Q: What about social media?
A: Avoid it altogether if possible. But know this… colleges will research and review everything you share on social media (or hire a firm to do it for them) before offering you a spot on their roster.
Q: Is it ok to contact college staff directly?
A: Yes, via email is good. If a player is pre-junior year, we can’t respond to your message (but we do read them). If we already know you from camp and you are at least a HS freshman, you are welcome to tell us when and where you are playing – especially if it is a higher level sanctioned tournament (e.g. PGF). Video highlight clips are also very helpful to share via email. Share your best moment at the start of the video clip.
Q: Should you play for different travel softball programs?
A: Families that switch softball programs every year are a major red flag to colleges. But if you are noticeably the best player on your travel ball team, then find another travel ball team. You need to play with girls at your level who are developing at the same pace.
Q: What should you know about a travel softball program before joining?
A: Know what the program stands for. Is the program a family? Does the program teach fundamentals first?
Q: What should you look for in a coach?
A: Don’t play for someone you just like. Play for someone you love. At tournaments, I am shocked by how so many players are treated by their coaches (and that parents allow their daughters to be around verbally-abusive or profane coaches).
Q: Any final words of advice for parents?
A: Teach your kids to fail. Good hitters still make outs 6 out of 10 times. Teach your kids to say “please” and “thank you” (good manners are sadly a dying habit in our culture).