Locker Room Talk had the pleasure of interviewing standout softball coach, Bob Hartness. Coach Hartness gives a lot of great insight into how softball recruits can make themselves standout and exactly what college softball coaches are looking for.
Can you give us some background on how you got into coaching softball?
I had coached numerous other sports, and when my daughter was seven, she wanted to play softball. Three days later, she was on a travel ball team in Wichita Falls, Texas. Within a month, I became the head coach of that travel program and we spent the next 14 years together playing a game we both enjoy.
What makes the recruiting experience different for softball compared to other sports?
You must start extremely early. Softball coaches, especially at the D1 level program, are looking four to five years in advance. There are some colleges that have committed players right out of middle school. In addition, over the years, the colleges have lost recruiting days because of budget constraints. I remember when they had 25 to 30 days a year and they could travel the continent in search of their next superstar. However, with only limited days now, athletes who are interested in playing with certain programs need to go to their camps and get noticed, and make sure your travel ball program is going to the right tournaments (Boulder, Colorado in July, Demarini in Chicago during the summer, Ronald McDonald in Texas…just to name a few).
What do you look for in a good player?
Athleticism is a must…just pure natural ability to play the game. Attitude is equally important…having a positive outlook in all things will help guide you to a better person and ballplayer. And last, the athlete must be coachable. Every coach has their own game plan and their own skill sets that make their program uniquely great. The player must buy-in and make personal changes as necessary to meet the processes and standards of that coach and program.
How early do you need to start thinking about scholarships?
As early as possible. As stated before, colleges are looking early. Annual budgets are no longer the standard – they have been added to the 5 or 6 year budget plan, especially in sports, and more specifically, softball.
What do you find are the 3 most important things when going through the recruiting process for a softball player?
Do you think Locker Room Talk is a valuable resource for high school student-athletes and parents?
How do you think student-athletes and families can best use Locker Room Talk?
Having a centralized location to find data, procedures, and processes.
What advice would you give an upcoming softball player that is looking to play in college?
Hits to book hard, and treat each time you are on the field as your opportunity to get better. A great coach always looks for ways to improve each player, and a great player always looks for ways to improve.
What advice would you give their parents?
Support your athlete as much as possible. Playing a sport is not cheap and is very time consuming with growing pressures. Playing “a” sport as many years as possible is the first step, and then comes the travel, camp expenses, college visits, etc. Support them as much as possible.
How can a player get recognized by college coaches?
Be “the” player. You must stand out as one of the best with a constant winning attitude. Colleges are all about winning! They are not in the business to hand out trophies, let everyone play, share field time, etc. They will recruit players who are the best at what they do and that will help them win a championship.
What do you think the most important aspects of being on a college team are?
Professional opportunities! Being a member of a sports team teaches you aspects of life that a classroom cannot. Teamwork, commitment, socialization, better fitness, etc. Once you finish a few years with a college sports program, you begin to stand out among others who do not.
We always do one fun question — If you were stranded in a locker room for 5 years and could only bring 3 people, who would they be and why?
When doing research in the recruiting process for my daughter I came across the LRT Sports website. I was immediately intrigued as this was another dimension of the recruiting process that many people don't even consider. My daughter and I could "short list" schools based on the education she was looking for, as well as the opportunity to play her sport. LRT Sports not only gave us pertinent information into the recruiting process with different interviews of coaches and players, it also gave us insight into current and/or former players' opinions on the coach of that school in her sport. We could use this information to re-prioritize my daughters list of schools based on this feedback. I have many friends that are, or will be, going through this process shortly and I highly recommend using LRT Sports as part of anyone's recruiting process.
The college process presents a myriad of challenges. Factor in athletics and it becomes even more daunting. Now, add the fact that you have zero experience with sports. What is a the mother of a college bound student-athlete to do? LRT Sports has truly lived up to its promise. It has kept "the college recruiting process honest and easy by providing first hand information about coaches, schools and the recruiting process." Their interviews with current students, coaches, and professional athletes have provided realistic guidance. I am much more informed because of LRT Sports! The coach ratings are the most helpful. LRT Sports interviews allow us to hear from students as to how the adults are impacting not only their athletic experience but also how they are helping to shape their adult self.
The C.A.L.C. was thrilled to have Keirsten Sires come and speak to us on multiple topics relevant to high school athletics today, including recruiting. Keirsten reached all of our students and left them with great strategies that will not only help on the fields, courts, and mats, but also in the game of recruiting. She was a true professional and delivered a wonderful message.
Now that the recruiting process and the related stress is over, I wanted to thank you for your guidance. You did so much more than we had expected. Once you started the process by matching the best academic schools first, not the best sport programs, I knew you were the one. The way you laid out a timeline of contacting coaches, visits, and camps completely took any guesswork out of the plan for us. All of the student athletes that you put us in touch with gave us a look from the inside, and made us more comfortable knowing what was coming. Finally, using your website as a resource for knowing what to expect from different coaches based on former recruit reviews gave my son confidence before our meetings. There is no way we could have figured this out on our own, you really put us in a great position when decision time came.
I think hearing from other athletes is very beneficial. To be able to learn from people’s mistakes, and to be able to have access to those voices is really helpful; especially voices that have been there and done that. It’s very important for people to have access to information that could benefit them, and in this case there are many voices that can help the next wave of athletes.
If you have something that’s going to spell [the recruiting process] out for you… it’s so valuable. I think what everyone at LRT Sports is doing to spread the word and help advocate and educate athletes on the recruitment process is incredible.
Without question would have used LRT Sports. It would have probably been one of the most valuable tools that I could have had. If you want to know what these coaches are really like then I think this is the best tool out there. I’m really glad you are allowing recruits to have a resource like this moving forward.