Michelle Gascoigne on How Many Pitches You Need

Also: Young players need to compete in the dugout

Michelle Gascoigne joined the Northwestern Softball Pitching staff in 2015 as an assistant coach.  The question she gets a lot is “How many pitches should young players have as they enter their recruiting years?”

Here she answers the question and gives advice to young players about improving and how to practice.


As a pitcher in Oklahoma, she combined with classmate Keilani Ricketts to form the best pitching duo in the nation that season, leading the Sooners to the Women’s College World Series championship game where Gascoigne threw a three-hit shutout to secure the national title for OU.

What’s Allowed and Not Allowed with the New Rules?

Examples of conversations with club coaches that follow and break the rules…

With many questions about new recruiting rules, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) refers to an NCAA document from July 13, 2017 that pertains to Lacrosse.  Here are excerpts of the document which is an Educational Column:

Question No. 1: What is a coach permitted to say if a prospective student-athlete initiates a call or contact with an institution’s coach prior to September 1 of the prospective student-athlete’s junior year?

Answer: The coach may not engage in any recruiting conversations. However, the coach may confirm the prospective student-athlete’s age, explain the recruiting rules and then must end the call or contact.

Question No. 2: During an institutional camp or clinic, may a coach have recruiting conversations with a lacrosse prospective student-athlete prior to September 1 of his or her junior year?

Answer:  No.

Question No. 3:  During an institutional camp or clinic, may a coach provide a campus tour to a lacrosse prospective student-athlete prior to September 1 of his or her junior year?

Answer:  Yes. A campus tour would be permissible; however, no recruiting conversations may occur.

Question No. 4:  During an institutional camp or clinic, may a coach provide an informational session about the recruiting process and the student-athlete experience to a lacrosse prospective student-athlete prior to September 1 of his or her junior year?

Answer: Yes. A general informational session would be permissible; however, no institution specific information may occur at these informational sessions. Recruiting conversations are not permissible.

Question No. 5: May an institution’s coach send recruiting messages through a prospective student athlete’s high school/club coach or another third party?

Answer:  No. If a coach cannot contact a prospective student-athlete directly, then he or she cannot send recruiting messages indirectly through a high school/club coach or another third party.

Question No. 6:  May an institution’s coach have evaluative conversations (e.g., regarding athletics ability) with a prospective student-athlete’s high school/club coach before September 1 of the prospective student-athlete’s junior year?

Answer: Yes. However, these conversations should not be used to indirectly send recruiting messages (e.g., verbal offer of aid) to a prospective student-athlete.

Examples of permissible evaluative conversation topics with a high school/club coach:

  • High school/club coach’s evaluation of the prospective student-athlete’s academics, athletic skills, speed, agility, personality, character, work ethic, coachability, etc.
  • Institution’s coach expression of general interest in the prospective student-athlete (e.g., We are interested in [name]).

Examples of impermissible evaluative conversation topics with a high school/club coach:

  • Confirming if the prospective student-athlete is on institution’s recruiting list, including his or her ranking on that list (e.g., “PSA is on our A-list/B-List”, “PSA is a top [#] prospect for us”, “PSA is our top goalie prospect”, etc.).
  • Institution’s coach providing an evaluation of the prospective student-athlete to the high school/club coach.
  • Requesting the high school/club coach tell the prospective student-athlete to:
    1. Send transcripts, report cards and/or scores to the college coach and/or staff; and/or
    2. Attend a camp where their college coach and/or staff will be present.
  • Asking if the prospective student-athlete is interested in the school, including the level of interest.
  • Any discussion with high school/club coach of potential financial aid or athletic scholarship offers.
  • Setting up future phone calls or visits for the prospective student-athlete.

Question No. 7:  May a college coach have an evaluative conversation with a high school/club coach with the prospective student-athlete listening to the conversation?

Answer:   No. This would be using a high school/club coach to circumvent the recruiting rule prohibiting contact with a prospective student athlete until September 1 of junior year.

Question No. 8:  May an institution’s coach ask a high school/club coach to inform his or her team of the recruiting legislation?

Answer:  Yes.

Question No. 9:  Are institution’s coaches still permitted to make calls related to camps and clinics logistics prior to September 1 of the prospective student-athlete’s junior year?

Answer:  Yes. The content of the calls must be limited to camp logistics and may not include recruiting content.

Question No. 10: May a younger sibling (a prospective student-athlete who is not yet a junior) accompany an older sibling on an unofficial or official visit?

Answer:  Yes, provided no recruiting conversation occurs with the younger sibling.

Notice about Educational Columns: Educational columns and hot topics are intended to assist the membership with the correct application of legislation and/or interpretations by providing clarifications, reminders and examples. They are based on legislation and official and staff interpretations applicable at the time of publication. Therefore, educational columns and hot topics are binding to the extent that the legislation and interpretations on which they are based remain applicable. Educational columns are posted on a regular basis to address a variety of issues and hot topics are posted as necessary in order to address timely issues.

New Recruiting Rules Likely Effective on April 24

The NCAA’s Division I Council voted to end early recruiting.  The new rules do not take effect until its is approved by the Division I Board of Directors at their meeting on April 24.   This means college coaches have until the approval to make verbal commitments.

        The council approved recommendations from the Student Athlete Experience Committee to:

  1.  Prohibit recruiting conversations between a college coach and Prospective Student Athlete (PSA) and their family before September 1 of the PSA’s junior year of high school
  2. Prohibit colleges from providing game tickets to prospects before Sept 1 of their sophomore year
  3. Move official visits to Sept. 1 of the PSA’s junior year instead of their Senior year

     The NCAA states that this will follow a recruiting model that resembles the schedule other students follow when choosing where to go to college.   The move intends to bring an end to college coaches in softball and other D1 college sports recruiting athletes at a young age, some as early as sixth grade.

“These changes will improve the recruiting experience for prospective student-athletes and coaches and lead to better decision-making,” said Blake James, Council chair and Miami (Florida) director of athletics. “Ultimately, a better recruiting process will improve the college experience for Division I student-athletes.”

    Phone calls are also off limits. “The new rules prevent phone calls between coaches and recruits until Sept. 1 of the prospective student-athlete’s junior year and allow off-campus recruiting contact to begin the same date,” states Michell Hosick, Associate Director of Public and Media Relations at the NCAA.

   Recruiting conversations through a third party are considered contact.  “According to the Division I Recruiting Guide, the passing of notes or orally relaying information to a PSA by a third party on behalf of an school’s staff member counts as a contact” stated Hosick.




Coach Hutch: I Pray Every Day that It Goes Through

University of Michigan Head Coach Carol Hutchins weighs in before a critical vote by the NCAA Division I Council on new rules to restrict early recruiting.

Some other recruiting related topics:

What happened after lacrosse banned early recruiting?

How do travel coaches feel about the potential rule change?



NCAA Rule Changes – What changed for Lacrosse

“The burden has been lifted off parents and how much they need to travel…”

From what we’ve heard through several different grapevines, changes to NCAA rules for recruiting in most sports will change in April.  The Division I council meets April 16 and 17 to vote on whether to ban recruiting contact and unofficial visits before a student-athlete’s junior year of high school.  By most predictions this is going to pass easily and will be effective immediately.

How that affects recruiting in softball or any other sport is unknown but we can look to rule changes for lacrosse and how the landscape evolved.  The changes experienced in the sport could be a guide for many others.

One of the most interesting developments after the rule changes was the increase in switched commitments.  This is where students had originally committed to a school and then switched to a different school.  “Because it was less worth while to watch the younger recruits, coaches refocused on 2018’s and started poaching committed players”, said Terry Foy, Publisher at Inside Lacrosse.  Foy said with 71 D1 men’s lacrosse programs and roughly 700 players, 55 prospective student athletes switched their commitments.

NCAA rules were changed in April of 2017 and the full effects with data may not be felt until the next few years.  But in conversations with families, Foy said parents were relieved.  “The burden was lifted off parents on how much they needed to travel going into their freshman year… especially for families with multiple kids,” he said.   Foy pointed out that 9th grade lacrosse players stopped attending the large club team tournaments because they started associating with the younger age groups.

Foy believes this was a good process for college coaches and administrators to come together in an organized way and do what many believed was best for the sport.  “Being able execute the process was great for lacrosse,” said Fox.

Softball Nation called numerous Lacrosse Coaches and organizations on the East Coast, Midwest and Southern California but calls were not returned.

Lakeshore Lacrosse based in the Chicago Metropolitan Area said the changes made things easier on kids and parents.  “There is more time and less pressure because they have 1-2 years of grades and classes to help guide their college search which is much more than earlier,” said Michelle Sebastian, Director of Coaching.

Sebastion said her club didn’t see any switching of commitments in players.  The new rules also afforded recruiters time to better assess players after competing in high school and club.

And she said there’s not drop-off in interest in the sport.  “Their summers aren’t as full at such an early age trying to visit schools every weekend,” said Sebastion.

On a more personal level, Alex Walling, a 2019 women’s lacrosse player said she feels it’s a race to get recruited since the beginning of her junior year.  “I feel rushed because before the rule change, college coaches tried to recruit as many girls in my grade as possible,” said Alex.  “And now it’s a rush to find colleges that haven’t closed their 2019 recruiting class.”

Her father, Steve said they received an offer from school before the recruiting rules took effect last year, but it wasn’t the right school for his daughter.  “I wonder how much money I would have saved traveling around the country going to all these tournaments if we committed then,” he said.






“Always be yourself and be the best ‘you’ you can.”

2019 pitcher shares her recruiting experience

2019 Pitcher Sydnie Wimpee is headed to Purdue.  In this video, she tells us how Purdue coaches discovered her and why she chose the school over others.

She also gives some advice to young players who want to play softball in college, the most important thing they can can do in the recruiting process.

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NCAA Committee Supports Recruiting Ban Until Junior Year

The change matches recommendations from the NFCA

A key NCAA Committee has changed its recommendation, now urging a ban on recruiting contact until a student-athlete’s junior year of high school.  The previous recommendation would have allowed the first recruiting contact in their sophomore year.

The new recommendation came from the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee in a January meeting.  The NCAA said the committee recommended the changes after considering feedback from NCAA surveys in the fall of 2017 from student-athletes, conferences, coaches associations, governing bodies and other athletic associations.  This matches the recommendation from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) released just before that meeting.

“What I’ve appreciated about this process is we have got a room full of people who are very interested in bettering the student-athlete experience,” said Justin Sell, chair of the committee and athletics director at South Dakota State.  He also said the changes were designed to strike the right balance, allowing prospective student-athletes time and opportunity to evaluate schools and choose a program that meets their academic and athletic goals.

If the Division I Council adopts the recommendations, the proposal will look like this according to the NCAA:

  • Unofficial visits, which now have no restrictions on their dates for most sports, would not be permitted until Sept. 1 of prospective student-athletes’ junior year. This change aims to encourage the decision-making process for both prospective student-athletes and colleges and universities to occur at a time when academic and athletic preparedness can be more accurately considered.
  • A coach or school would not be able to engage in recruiting conversations with a prospective student-athlete at an athletic camp or clinic until Sept. 1 of the student’s junior year in high school. Additionally, the committee noted all participating athletes should have a uniform camp or clinic experience, and coaches should not be able to pull aside prospects for recruiting conversations or activities until their junior year in high school.
  • Official visits, now prohibited until prospective student-athletes’ senior year of high school, would be allowed to begin Sept. 1 in their junior year. Today, these visits are often made after a student already has committed to a particular school, preventing the official visit from being part of the decision-making process. The change aims to emphasize the official visit in the recruiting process and better align them with the timing of visits taken by the general student body.

The Division I council will meet in April and is expected to vote on the matter.  The NCAA did not mention whether there were proposed changes for the rules to take effect immediately or with the original proposal of September 1 of 2018.

“The Thing that Drives Me Nuts is…”

UC Riverside Head Softball Coach Nikki Palmer talks recruiting and the thing that frustrates her about some athletes who attend her camps. She also talks about early recruiting and the need for change.

She also has advice for youth coaches about how to keep kids motivated.

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Coach Palmer was named head coach at UC Riverside in 2016.  Palmer served as Head Coach at Utah Valley for three seasons. She made history during her first season , leading them to the WAC Tournament Championship.  It was Utah Valley’s first postseason berth for any sport in the school’s NCAA era.

Palmer played softball at UC San Diego and is a Southern California native.

D1 Coaches Want Recruiting to Start Later than NCAA Proposal

“The biggest problem facing college softball today is early recruiting, but it is not going to change unless the coaches and the NCAA work together to make it change.”

Division I Softball Coaches are calling for all recruiting contact for student-athletes to begin at the start of the junior year of high school.  This is a contrast to the proposed legislation before the NCAA Division I Council that would allow recruiting conversations to begin at the beginning of a student-athlete’s sophomore year of high school.

The response is from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) whose Division I membership submitted the comments to  the NCAA on the proposed changes to the rules, which include:

  • No recruiting conversations with Prospective Student-Athlete’s (PSA’s) until September 1 of their sophomore year of high school
  • No game tickets to PSA’s until September 1 of the PSA’s sophomore year of high school
  • Official visits moved to September 1 of the PSA’s junior year of high school

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The rule essentially allows verbal commitment of athletes at the beginning of their sophomore year of high school.  Currently, there are no restrictions.

The NCAA Division I council is scheduled to vote on the legislation in April 2018.

In its statement, the NFCA felt that there are loopholes in the current recommendations before the Division I Council from the Student Athlete Experience Committee (SAEC).

“The SAEC did not address incoming telephone calls,” the release stated.  “This means that recruiting communication initiated by telephone from a PSA to a collegiate coach remains permissible at any point in time.”

The NFCA’s statement praised the legislation adopted by Lacrosse which sets September 1 of the junior year as the start date for all recruiting contact, citing that the “‘bright line’ for all recruiting contact at a later more appropriate age for PSA’s (prospective student athletes) as exactly what was needed to address the problem of early recruiting.”

The issue was vigorously discussed at the NFCA’s National Convention in December.  The group states that a follow-up survey revealed that 80% of D1 coaches support Sept. 1 of the Junior year as the start of recruiting contact.  84% of coaches favored the structure of the lacrosse proposal over the SAEC proposal.

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NFCA President and University of Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly expressed the need for action in the statement, “The biggest problem facing college softball today is early recruiting, but it is not going to change unless the coaches and the NCAA work together to make it change.”

Travel Coaches Weigh-In on Proposed Recruiting Changes

“Some kids know what they want and some kids get to college and still don’t know what to do.”

Travel Softball Coaches may have the best guess at what might happen if rules are changed by the NCAA when they vote on rules that seek to end early recruiting.   They are the facilitators of recruiting and often need to balance the needs of college coaches, their travel organizations, athletes and their families.  We asked what they thought of the proposed legislation to end early recruiting and what it could mean for travel softball.

Coaches Interviewed:  Mike Stith, Batbusters; Bruce Richardson, SoCal Athletics; Sean Brashear, Firecrackers;

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Firecrackers Coach Sean Brashear said the new legislation is a good idea.  He believes early recruiting takes away from development.  “Those years should be focused on the development of these girls as players and people,” he said.

Batbuster’s Coach Mike Stith also endorses the idea of ending early recruiting.  He believes there’s a 98% chance of a yes vote on the new rules.  He feels that early recruiting is hurting the sport.  “There’s been a huge decline in the level of coaching and development at the younger ages,” he said. “Parents are in a hurry to get in front of colleges.  They’re missing instruction time. These rules will benefit the sport from the grass roots.

But SoCal Athletics Coach Bruce Richardson is on the fence about the proposed rules.  “Who’s to say what’s the right age to be recruited?” he asked.  “Some kids know what they want and some kids get to college and they still don’t know what to do.”

Will it work to curb early recruiting?

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Richardson said he was skeptical about whether the new legislation would be effective or needed.  He believes there will likely be away to get around them.  “I have many conversations with coaches.  We can figure a way to get a message to everybody.  There’s ways around everything,” he said.  He also questioned the inclination to over-regulate the recruiting process.

Richardson also questioned the wisdom of allowing recruiting conversations in the sophomore year of high school.  “How is it ok to recruit a 15 year-old and not a 13 year-old?” he said. “And parents don’t really have to buy into all this recruiting stuff.”  He said it was the responsibility of the parents to make the decision with their daughter and not just say ‘It’s what my daughter wants’.

Stith also believes people will figure out ways to get around the rules.  But he also wants people not to lose perspective of what the rules mean.  “The number of schools and scholarships are a finite number,” he said, referring to the idea that top scholarships will still go to top players.

So how might travel softball change if the news rules are enacted?

Brashear expects there may be few showcase events for 12u and 14U players.  “I would like to see us have more time to practice and develop our team so we can prepare them for high school and college,” he said.

He also believes College Coaches will be able to make more informed decisions about the players they recruit since committing a 7th or 8th grader can be risky. “They’re banking on the fact that she’s going to continue to grow as an athlete, person and a student,” he said, referring to the idea that some players may peak early but their progress could level out in the high school years.

If the rule changes are enacted Richardson said there may be unexpected consequences that are anybody’s guess.  “Sometimes you have to let it sink in after rule changes to see how this would affect me or the our kids, he said. “It’s hard to judge until you live it a little bit.”

Stith believes one group clearly benefits.  “Some of the late bloomers are going to have a chance to compete,” he said.