The first thing I would encourage peope to do is quit listening to other parents, and even some coaches, at the ballpark. IMO, the parent knowledge is severely lacking....even parents of committed or scholarship kids. I heard a parent who has a hs sophomore and a scholarship sophomore tell another parent to "Quit worrying, this process isn't that hard. The colleges will find her." What he failed to disclose about his college kid was she was playing for a smaller school, had played for one of the top travel teams around here, and her travel ball coach worked his tail off.
Take the bull by the horns and learn the process yourself. It should be a joint effort between your kid and her coach, with a little of you for guidance.
Start with Cathi Aradi's book first, but do everything about a year and a half earlier.
Your second step should be the NCAA's website. On the left tool bar, go to "Academics & Athletes" then click "Eligibility and Recruiting". Go through that, with particular attention to the College Bound Student Athlete brochure. Know the recruiting calendar.
Next, cruise websites like UCS (Ultimate College Softball- check out the forum) and SPY softball. You will find that some of the posters at UCS are parents of college's brightest stars playing. They are extremely helpful and supportive. It will take you weeks to sift through all the info, but is worth the time. Every once in a while, check out ESPN Rise's blog for softball.
Beware of scouting sites ("Get seen by hundreds of college coaches here!"), where you put your kids profile and video on the web for coach viewing. Do your homework and make sure you are getting the bang for your buck. This is one area I would get parent feedback.
If your kid is interested in a particular college, hopefully several, research those schools and see where they are recruiting their prospects from. What states? Do they recruit from the same teams? What showcases/tournaments do they scout? Do they only have 5'10"+ kids as P, C, and SS and your kid is a 5'4" pitcher? Academics, class size, and majors should be researched too if she already knows what direction she wants to go.
Recruiting truly is a part-time job, but don't do all the work for her. She will feel much more accomplishment when the deal is done if she was the pilot and you were the co-pilot just giving her direction.
I could go on and on (can you believe it ), but starting with the above will trigger you to look at other sites and give you idea's.
Listen to everyone, but verify everything. Happy hunting!
Most of the college exposure camps dd has gone to now have a separate hour dedicated to recruiting - parents invited to stay and campers/parents invited to ask questions. Texas' comment about starting early right on the mark. Larry Ray (Arizona) told us that most teams choose their lineups now 2 years in advance and that we should start marketing our daughters at Freshman year. I thought we were early being there in 8th grade but we saw that we're exactly where we need to be as far as getting information and finding out how this process works.
After coaching college softball for 9 years I would strongly suggest that you do not use a recruiting service or attend the exposure camps.
Ask your daughter where SHE wants to go and what is important to her in a university. (i.e., major, location, dorms, class size, facility, team history, etc.) Rank her preferences and then find universities that fit her wishes. Then email those schools directly and set up an unofficial visit.
I would be happy to give my opinion to any question you might have about this. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I have to disagree when it comes to Aradi. College sports exposure in TX does a good job too. I don't think you will find anyone in the game speak poorly of Aradi. At the very least, get her book your first time through the process.
I agree completely with Jen, but be ready for some unpleasant realities. The first colleges on my daughter's list do not have softball programs (well known ACC schools). I still believe she is doing the right thing. Colleges offer a wealth of other opportunities that can replace the time and effort of softball. I prefer she choose a school for academics to help her enjoy her lifelong work. Softball ends abruptly after those four years of school.
Certainly it's about the education. One thing I tell kids to ask themselves is, if you fell down the steps the first day of college and could never play again, would you still stay at that school. If the answer is yes, then she is probably in the right place. As to going it on your own, I highly suggest the families doing this for the first time buy Aradi's book. Gold information for cheap. Read it early. Years early. If following it doesn't seem daunting, great. My experience is first timers are more comfortable with some hand holding.