Division III Softball Can Be a Great Experience

Coach Judy Gabriel says many players will end up playing Division II or III.  She believes many people don’t consider it because they just don’t have enough information about those schools.  She made the comments at a combined camp with Harvard University and Macalester College at Aurora Sports Park during the TCS Colorado Sparkler College Camp Sunday.

Watch this video for what she has to say about playing and being a student at Macalester College.


College Profile:  Northwestern University’s Coach wants you to be bold and courageous

New Rules Help Yale, Ivy League Schools

Harvard: Pursuing Excellence in Academics and Softball

My Favorite CO Sparkler Memories

Janie Takeda-Reed was at Christopher Fields in Denver warming up for the Scrap Yard Fastpitch game.  The former Oregon and current Team USA Outfielder shared her best memories about being in Colorado for the Sparkler/Fireworks Tournament.

They weren’t about what happened on the softball field!

Let’s Make Showcasing More Affordable

It’s imperative that we not allow parents to stress financially

We caught up with Firecrackers President Tony Rico at the 2018 Colorado Sparkler.  He’s in the process of making changes in his organization that he hopes will help the sport of softball in the future.  One of his objectives is to make it less expensive for families to showcase and develop their kid s.

For many parents, that will come as a great relief at a time when many organizations are asking for more money.  Here’s why he and some of his colleagues are moving in that direction.


Travel Ball Travel Tip: A Quick Way to Earn Free Flights

Travel Ball Eats: You had me at Churro Ice Cream Sandwich

Travel Ball Eats: You had me at Churro Ice Cream Sandwich

A great place to eat while in Denver for the Colorado Sparkler

The Churro Ice Cream Sandwich… It’s what I used to convince our group to go the restaurant and it did not disappoint.  It is truly spectacular with the flavors of cinnamon, sugar, caramel at the bottom of the plate mixed the vanilla bean ice cream.  It was just majestic.   By the way we were the first ones to arrive on Saturday evening and they ran out so go early. 

Churro Ice Cream Sandwich

But there’s so much more….

First off, you have to want to eat or try Asian food and flavors, and be a little adventurous if you want more than just dessert.  


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Some of us ordered the Lao Wang beer, a local lager which, as of publishing this article, we heard the brewers had shut down. But it was a great bear with the flavor of an IPA without the bitterness.  We hope the brewing of this beer resumes!


Steamed Buns with your choice of braised pork, pork belly or duck confit were very enticing.  We chose the pork belly (duh) and it was great.  Bones did a good job replicating the consistency of the Asian Steamed Bun, but added a little more flavor with less fluffiness.


Few places offer Bone Marrow.  The marrow was spiced with a caramelized onion and bacon seasoning which gave it a bright flavor.  The crispy toast was a perfect compliment.


The Tropical Shrimp Ceviche was excellent.  The mango and pineapple flavors brightened the dish.

Main Course


Much of the menu consists of soup noodles: ramen, udon, soba, etc.  One of the most popular among our party was the Wagyu Beef Ramen.  Wagyu is beef that has a lot of marbling that is genetic to the kind of cow, bred a specific way and offers increased omega-3 and -6 fatty acids.  There was a tasty broth with mushrooms, shallots and you can add an egg for $2.  It was wonderful.


There was also high praise for the Braised Pork Udon.  Tasty broth, flavorful pork and satisfying noodles.


The Yellowtail Tuna Soba is a cornucopia of flavors in a bowl.  Fish spiced with chili sauce, cucumbers and carrots, pickled ginger, avocado on cold soba noodles combined to create a wonderful bowl of joy and happiness, especially on a warm summer day.



The churro ice cream sandwich needs no more discussion.  But the ice cream was pure yum.  We had coffee, caramel and the swirl.  The flavors popped.



As dessert was brought out, staff also handed out shots of their homemade sake, which was refreshing and alcoholic.  Always a good combo.

Unfortunately, all this goodness does not come cheap.  But Chef Frank Bonanno has created a menu that inspires and awakens the senses.

“When I Walked on Campus, I knew this is where I wanted to be”

   High School Senior Paige Barth shares her recruiting story.

Senior Paige Barth is headed to San Diego State University this fall.  The utility player who is a Utility Player and plays for Firecrackers Brashear in Southern California, talked about her recruiting experience.


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.




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.






Top 10 Questions to Ask Yourself before Your Daughter Plays Travel Ball

“Are you ready for your daughter to compete for her spot?”


  1. Do you really want your daughter to face extremely tough competition?  Some kids and parents crave competition and a higher level of play.  Others don’t.  In travel softball, you will likely face teams who will have no qualms about putting 15 to 20 runs on you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  It is a humbling experience that can help teams grow and be stronger.  It can also be devastating for those whose egos bruise easily.
  2. Are you ready to have your daughter to compete for her spot? Unless you or your friend are coaching the team, your daughter will likely have to earn her spot on the mound, in the lineup or any spot on the field, including the outfield.  Many coaches just keep it very simple.  They want to win.  And they’re going to (ideally) put players in the best spots that help the team win.  That could mean the bench for some players.  Yes, some coaches may get worn down after persistent begging, pleading, angry text messages, etc.  But she’ll have to compete for her spot on better teams.
  3. Are you ready to put over 20,000 miles on my car per year? They don’t call it “TRAVEL” Ball for nothing.  That lease for 12,000 miles/year just isn’t going to cut it.   You may have to travel further for practices, ‘friendlies’, batting cages, fitness workouts and, of course, tournaments which can cross many state lines.
  4.  Are you ready to spend $3,000 to $10,000 on dues, tournaments, hotels, meals, socks, jerseys, cleats, bats, bows, gloves, etc in a year?  The $200 you spent on a season of recreational softball will merely pay for one month of dues.  Depending on what club you join, it may be over $200 a month.  Depending on the level of your team, you may travel all over the country playing softball tournaments.  While that may sound really cool, the cool factor stops when you get your credit card bill.  Then you can add up all the expenses of flights, airport meals, trips to Starbucks, room service and the list goes on.  You club team may require you to buy specials socks for cancer awareness month or require you to pay a penalty for tardiness.  It all adds up.
  5. Are you ready to fundraise for the team to try and offset those costs?  Get ready to start trying to raise money for the team to pay for some of the travel, meals and other items that come with running a team.  You may find yourself hosting several teams on the weekend, requiring you to work the snack bar, drag the fields and take out the trash.  You may even start spamming family members and friends with emails begging for money.
  6. Are you willing to have your daughter give up all other sports for softball?  Your daughter may have played soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the spring.  You can kiss that goodbye with most travel ball teams.  Between travel ball, school, homework, other family obligations and life in general, there may not enough time in the week or energy in your kid’s body to handle another sport.
  7. Are you ready to spend a lot of time with people who are absolute strangers?  While Rec Softball allowed you to be on the same team with a neighbor or your daughter’s childhood friend, this may not be the case in travel ball.  She may join a team where she does not know a single person.  She and you will be spending lots of time with her teammates and parents.
  8. Are you ready to give up your weekends?  Maybe you liked Sunday brunch with your friends and family.  Gardening can be incredibly satisfying.   College and NFL games are fun to watch on weekends.  Maybe you can just watch the highlights on ESPN after you get home.
  9. Are you ready to join legions of other parents who obsess about their kids playing in college?  Maybe that’s not the goal.  Maybe you just want her to learn and compete at the next level.  But there will be many parents who are laser focused on getting their kid to college on a softball scholarship.  They might make you and your daughter obsess about it too.
  10. Are you ready to give your daughter what could be the greatest experience of her life, playing the sport she loves, making new lifelong friends and learning life lessons along the way?  Yes, it can be amazing.

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.