March 17, 2020
Given the current events around COVID-19 – particularly in NCAA softball – we wanted to offer a few videos and posts over the next few days to help high school student-athletes navigate this time in their recruiting – starting today with outlining some of the changes and what they mean for you as a softball player.
With the disruption to the college and high school spring sports seasons, we know that a lot of things are up in the air right now, and a lot of people are impacted – including us: we’re all working remotely for the time being to do our part to help our community and flatten the curve.
But even (and especially) during this time, we want to make sure that student-athletes have the best advice on how to navigate this moving forward in their recruiting. Today, we’ll talk tactically about what the changes to NCAA seasons and recruiting calendars are so far, and what they mean specifically for softball players. Later this week, we’ll provide tips, tactics and strategies for student-athletes to best adapt to continue making strides in their recruiting, and then we’ll be talking through some of the potential second-order effects of this interruption to the season and recruiting calendar, including ramifications to eligibility, roster sizes, etc. – and what they mean to you in your recruiting process.
First, as I’m sure you’ve all seen, the college softball season and all NCAA postseason play has been cancelled due to concerns about the coronavirus. Along with this, the NCAA has also implemented a “Dead Period” from now until April 15th across all sports, which limits the types of recruiting activities that coaches are allowed to do. So: what is a Dead Period, and what does this mean?
From the NCAA website: “During a dead period a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with college-bound student-athletes or their parents, and may not watch student-athletes compete or visit their high schools. Coaches may write and telephone student-athletes or their parents during a dead period.”
Let’s unpack this a little bit, starting with isn’t allowed during this Dead Period. This is fairly straightforward and also very related to the spread of coronavirus – coaches cannot have in-person or face-to-face recruiting contacts of any kind, including scouting, on-campus official and unofficial visits, going to visit a student-athlete’s home, attending a high school game or practice. They can’t come see you in person and they can’t interact with you face-to-face for the time being – meant to limit and cut off in-person touchpoints that could have health ramifications for coaches, players and universities.
But there are also plenty of recruiting activities that are allowed – so what can I be doing as a student-athlete to continue to advance my recruiting? What can college coaches be doing during this time to continue their recruiting efforts?
As it says explicitly: emails, phone calls (both to a coach and from a coach) and correspondence with age-appropriate prospective student-athletes may take place. For prospective student-athletes in softball, this means that if you’ve completed September 1st of your junior year of high school, you can have these types of communications with college coaches. If you’re in the class of 2021, this is a great time to reach out to coaches and to start making some inroads with your communication. We’ll touch a bit more on the details of this communication and how to best use it in the next post – but the key thing to take away here is that coaches can still communicate with you, and that now is the time to be proactive. Don’t let this disruption stop your recruiting efforts in their tracks.
If you’re a current sophomore or freshman who’s looking to get ahead in the recruiting process, this doesn’t mean that you can’t email or communicate with college coaches – it just means that they’re limited in what they’re able to communicate or send back. You can still send them your latest softball video or academic transcript, but what you’ll get back in writing will be a form letter indicating that they can’t have “recruiting-specific conversations” with you until September 1st of your junior year, and then likely giving you some information about their school’s prospect camp this summer or fall. This doesn’t mean that coaches aren’t going to use what you send to them – they still can watch the video, look at the transcript, file your email away for future follow-up – but Division 1 coaches are limited in the types of communication that they can have with you prior to that September 1st date, so the email that you receive back will be copy-pasted language.
With this definition of the new Dead Period set, the question that we’re now getting from student-athletes and parents attending our events is what is the specific and actual impact on the softball recruiting process for these programs and for me as a ballplayer?
Remembering that these programs were in-season – and would have been in season until mid or even late May – it was already very difficult for most of these coaching staffs to hit the recruiting trail in the spring. This window from now through May 25 is listed as an “Evaluation Period” for softball on the typical NCAA recruiting calendar, meaning that college coaches would have been allowed to have face-to-face interactions on their own college campus, and to go off campus to scout scholastic practices and games – meaning competitions associated with a player’s high school team (though they were not able to have direct, face-to-face interaction off of their own campus).
Although these coaches were allowed to scout off-campus, the reality for most programs is that they don’t have too much opportunity to do so, since they’re busy involved with the day-to-day hands-on of running their programs – in the spring they’re coaching their players, traveling almost every weekend for conference series and doing everything else that it takes to run a great college softball program.
For softball players in particular, yes, there are going to be recruiting ramifications for your process from this disruption, but we also want to assure ballplayers that right now, you’re not missing out on key face-to-face exposure windows.
That covers the tactical changes to the recruiting calendar – up next in the coming days is our “Dead Period Recruiting Tips”, covering how to manage your recruiting in the midst of this disruption: what are my next steps? What can I do right now in my recruiting with a cancelled high school season and a travel ball season that may be in jeopardy to start the summer? How can I engage with coaches at programs I’m interested in whose seasons have been cancelled?
If you have any questions about this post, or about the upcoming content, please feel free to contact us or drop it in the comments and we can make sure that you’re covered.
Phone: (202) 715-6654 — as I said, we’re working remotely for the time being, but our team is equipped to get back to you as soon as possible with the right answer to make sure that you’re set with the next steps in your recruiting.