This weekend was eye-opening for us as parents of a couple of softball players. I had signed up my daughter who will be a freshman this year into this Stanford Advance/Elite softball camp. As usual, I had no idea what this camp was about as we have never done this before. I mainly signed her up because she took a break from playing travel ball this summer and she wanted to keep her skills up so she can play high school ball in the spring.
Little did we know how many kids come to these camps. 76 + another parent next to me was counting as the kids walked in. It may be more for all I know. Kids came all the way from Los Angeles, Texas, Washington State, Colorado, New York or some other state from the east coast. A lot of them were talking about just having played at the PGF tournament in Southern CA and then doing this camp right after. Many kids had their team jerseys.
This was a 2 day action packed camp. Day one was from 9am to 6pm and Day 2 was 8am to 1pm. On the first day, the kids all stood around in a circle and were supposed to learn something memorable about the girl standing next to her and introduce her to everyone. The parents were a little further away from the group and so I couldn’t hear much of what they were saying but I know that my 14-year-old daughter was the next one to be introduced and all of a sudden the entire group of girls and coaches just burst out in laughter. I was wondering what did she say that made the entire team laugh! My daughter is the “poodle girl” since she said that she had poodles that were brothers who had 2 different moms but same dad and born on the same day. Yes that is very true and one coach thought that was scandalous 😉
Well I was glad they got a kick out of that. Jokes aside, we as parents were impressed with the amount of information the coaches provided for both kids and parents. Everyday the coaches split the girls up into 3 to 4 groups and went through hitting, fielding, sliding and game scenarios. My daughter was really impressed with how nice the coaches and the Stanford players were. The coaches included Head coach Rachel Hanson, Assistant coaches Megan Langenfeld and Dorian Shaw and volunteer assistant coach Jo Koons. I noticed the coaches stop and correct the players if they noticed they were not doing something correctly.
My daughter was proud when Coach Dorian commented that she has an “amazing swing”. I think that made her day. The kids also made friends and the entire atmosphere was very nice and fun. The best part of the camp was the Q&A session. I am going to list some of the things that I learnt from these sessions.
Surprising one was that verbal commitments are being made to players for the class of 2018 and 2019. They already have identified who these players are and the head coach said that the top 25 schools were giving verbal commitments to players as young as 8th grade. She mentioned the system is broken but they have to make the best of it and they are competing for the same pool of players that the other top 25 schools are competing. That is a little insane but I was glad they were very honest about the process.
That doesn’t mean there is no hope for the older girls she said since verbal commitments are not set in stone and change if the kids don’t get good grades or not of good character or if they don’t continue to develop into the high-caliber player.
Once they have identified the players they are interested in the coaches get to watch these players at the big tournaments in So. Cal like the PGF and the one in Colorado where all the coaches from near and far come to recruit. They also have relations with a few travel ball coaches that send their best players with top grades their way.
They also said they like the players making the effort to get in touch with the coaches instead of the parents. But they are not allowed to usually talk to the players off campus. They can’t email back or call back if you leave a message. They also mentioned not to waste money on services that do a package for your daughter and email to the coaches. That these services usually spam the coaches emails and the emails just get deleted.
The kids asked questions about ACT and SAT scores and Coach Hanson mentioned that the score of at least 28 on ACT and 650 or above on SAT are the minimum but that doesn’t mean that is enough score to get into Stanford. Essays are essential. The encouraged the girls to push themselves at school and take as many AP classes as they can and play other sports in addition to softball at their high schools. This makes for a well-rounded player who is not burnt out from just playing softball.
Among the thousands of girls playing softball every year in the US, the number of kids that these elite schools actually recruit are usually 4 or 5 in each of the top 25 school, so folks be realistic about getting into these schools. And have a talk with your kids that there are plenty of other great schools in the US with some great softball programs if they have their hearts set on playing at college level.
As for us, we were appreciative of all the information we got but honestly my daughter went to camp to get warmed up after a summer off and what better way to do it than go to Stanford University which is just 15 to 20 mins from our home. She was glad to go to camp and very happy to know that she was still good enough to play with all these amazing players who had come to camp and she is very proud of what Coach Dorian said about her “amazing swing”. Thanks Coach, you made the camp worth it for her.
I would really encourage interested softball players to sign up for these camps if you are in the area. It will be an awesome experience. Coach Hanson and all the assistant coaches were very approachable and very straight forward in their answers.
Good luck to all the girls who want to play at college level. If there is a will there is a way! Go for it if it is YOUR dream and not that of your parents 😉