College Profile: UC Riverside

The University that invented fruit sold as the “Cutie”

UC Riverside Head Coach Nikki Palmer tells us what athletes can expect when they play in her program.


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

New Rules Help Yale, Ivy League Schools

“Change your life with the education you can get”

Yale Softball’s Head Coach talks about how the new rules help her recruiting.  She also reveals what her school needs to see before they commit players to the softball team.



See also:

Screen Shot 2017-07-06 at 1.43.19 PM      Harvard Softball’s Jenny Allard talks about the players she recruits to her program

NU Thumbnail  College Profile:  Northwestern University’s Kate Drohan wants players to be  bold and courageous.

Carol Hutchins    Michigan’s Coach Carol Hutchins: Standing out above the rest

“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.


New NCAA Rules Take Effect

The NCAA confirms that new rules restricting recruiting conversations are now in effect. Their confirmation comes after the conclusion of the Division I Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Effective immediately will are provisions to ban recruiting before a Prospective Student-Athlete’s (PSA) junior year of high school and restrictions on game tickets.

Rules that move forward official visits to the PSA’s Junior year take effect on August 1, according to Michelle Hosick of the NCAA.

The move is designed to bring an end to colleges recruiting young men and women, some as early as the 6th grade.

What do you think of the new rules?  Take our poll

What comes next for softball and many other sports is unknown but we can look to lacrosse as an example.  The sport enacted similar recruiting rules last year. 

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.

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.

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.


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.

“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.

You Don’t Need to be the ‘Spotlight Kid’ to be Recruited

“Do you really have eight pitchers? or do you really have two and the rest are kind of iffy?”

We caught up with University of San Diego Asst. Coach Danielle O’Toole during practice.  She explains what makes her and her fellow coaches stay and watch recruits play, even if they’re not the ‘Star’ player on their team.

O’Toole also talked about something that she notices on the recruiting trail.  “Do you really have eight pitches? or do you have two good ones and the rest are iffy?”  She explains how she worked to improve her multiple pitches.

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This is the 2nd part of our interview with O’Toole.  Check out part one of her interview where she talks about how she was recruited and the unnamed school withdrew their commitment.

Coach O’Toole pitches for USA Softball and the Chicago Bandits.  She was hired as an Assistant Coach in Fall 2017 at the University of San Diego.  She was also the University of Arizona’s ace pitcher.