There are a lot of obstacles a high school athlete must push through — juggling school and athletics, the pressure of getting into college and, for many, holding down a part-time job.
Another task some high school athletes have to learn to navigate is their college recruitment. For the top athletes, it can be as early as 13 or 14 years old they start hearing from college coaches. Normally, athletes are sophomores and juniors when they start receiving college letters.
Recruitment can be difficult and hard to navigate at a young age. A lot of athletes turn to their coaches for guidance.
For athletes, the main thing is making sure they pick the school want to attend. College is a great time in a person’s life and the right — or wrong — school can make or break the experience.
Jordyn Bahl from Papillion-La Vista is the top-rated player in the country for softball in the 2021 recruiting class. She originally committed to Nebraska, then reopened her recruitment and last September committed to Oklahoma to continue her softball career.
“My advice to other girls who will be going through the recruiting process would be, don’t let the stress of getting noticed or preforming in front of coaches change your reason for playing the game,” Bahl said. “Never play for the coaches in the stands, scholarship money or to have perfect performances. Play because you love the game in itself and would still love it even if the stands were empty.
“Keeping your eyes on this will help keep you positive, loving your teammates and those that help you grow in your game, and being super competitive. Character and how you compete are just as important to coaches as skill, so treat your parents, teammates, coaches and the game with respect.”
Social media is a big part of the recruitment process for many athletes, and in a lot of instances, it is a negative tool that athletes must navigate.
Twitter in particular is putting a closer eye on recruits and making them more accessible to fans and unfortunately, trolls.
“There are pros and cons to the usage of social media in the recruiting process,” Bahl said. “A pro is that it is a good way to reach out to schools through email or recruiting sites, and you can get to know a little more about school’s by following their players accounts. This is something I did, and it helped me get an inside look on the culture and character of the programs.
“A downside of social media in recruiting is that often it allows other people’s opinions to come into play when it comes to choosing a school, especially if the player posts their offers. When this happens, picking a school can be made about things other than what is best for the individual.”
Papillion-La Vista softball coach Todd Peterson coaches one of the top teams in the country and in addition to Bahl, has seen many of his players go through the recruitment process.
“The first thing I tell them is to take their time and do their research,” Peterson said. “They should look at all the factors of the places they are looking at and might go play. I tell them just because there is information out there find out the institutions that have the programs they want to go into and what they want to major in.
“I tell them to research the rosters in terms of what they have and classes and things like that. They can’t have a lot of contact with the coaches, but they can go to their camps and that type of stuff to get a feel if they a fit with the coaching staff.
“I also tell them to think about where they are willing to go in terms of distance, whether they want to stay around the area or that might not be a concern for them.
“I’ll offer it if they ask me if they want feedback on what level they can potentially play, things of that nature. Then what I do is offer up the coaches I know so if there are specific coaches they want me to reach out to for them then I will do that, as well.”
As for social media . . .
“I try to find what’s good about it and I have a hard time,” Peterson said. “I think it’s too much. There is so much self-promotion out there and a lot of the kids are pressured to do it.”
“That’s why I think it’s so important that the people they trust tell them that it’s their process and no one else’s. They can’t compare themselves against someone based on where they are going.
“I do think they have a lot of peer pressure and social media pressure that has a lot of influence on them. I think it is hard for them to zone some of that out so they look at it for what’s best for them.”
Bahl said she turned to familiar faces for advice and support throughout her recruitment.
“When I needed advice, I went to my parents and brothers,” Bahl said. “The people that know me the best, know where I would fit in, and that want the best for me. I also talked a lot with my summer and high school coaches, along with my pitching coach. The process would have been a train wreck without them.”