DURING YOUR COLLEGE SEARCH

                                                                                           by Catharine Aradi

No athlete wants to miss a season due to an injury.  But injuries are a real part of the game, and they are sometimes unavoidable.  Regardless of the cause—-freak accident or overuse—-a serious injury can bring your college search to a crashing halt. 

It goes without saying that players should try to stay in shape. Knowing how to take care of your body is as critical as knowing how to use it on the field.   Occasional time off is also important. If you're playing summer and fall travel ball and spring high school ball, it's not going to hurt you to take a few weeks off during the winter.  Use that time to take care of any minor injuries and to work on your conditioning.  Your body will thank you!

But what if something does happen?  How might an injury like a torn ACL or a shoulder problem impact your chances of being recruited?  While there's no easy answer to this, the news certainly isn't all bad.  For example, in the past, knee surgery might have ended your athletic career.   But with current surgical techniques, most of these injuries don't scare coaches away anymore. 

There are some key factors that can help you determine if your injury will hurt your chances for a scholarship.  The first, obviously, is how serious the injury is.  If you tear a muscle or damage a knee, it may well require surgery and extensive rehabilitation.  In this case, be sure you find a doctor who is a sports medicine expert and who has a good reputation for successfully treating your specific type of injury.  If you want to convince a college coach that you're healthy and ready to play, you'll need solid documentation that the prognosis for your recovery is a good one.

Another factor will be your own commitment to recovery.  Rehab often takes tremendous dedication and determination.  It will test how serious you really are about playing softball in college.  If you can't handle the hours of therapy, the struggle to gain even a little ground, and the awareness of your own limitations, then collegiate softball may not be in your future.

The biggest factor in how much of an impact your injury has on your recruiting may be the timing.  If your injury happens when you’re a sophomore, and you are back on the field at 100% within the year, there's no reason you shouldn't move forward with finding a college team.  You'll still be within the "window of opportunity" for contacting coaches, being seen over your junior to senior summer, etc.  Don't hide your injury from coaches, and be sure you have medical documentation available so that coaches can be assured you're fully recovered. 

You may find some coaches shy away from recruiting you.  But that can happen to any athlete for all kinds of reasons.  Just deal with it and move on to another school.  For the most part, you should be able to conduct a thorough and aggressive college search with the same results you might have expected before you were injured.

Junior year injuries may complicate things a little more, but planning ahead will provide you with some "insurance."  If you've managed to send out your skills video and your introductory packets before you get hurt, you can continue to write coaches, let them know your prognosis for a complete recovery, and show them what kind of player you are via your video.  You might have to contact more schools, but if your doctor says you'll play again, and you stick with both your rehab and your college search, you should find a team to recruit you.

I have seen players miss a key season and still find a college to play for because they had their video ready for any coach who would look at it, and they didn't give up.  A player who is hurt in the fall or winter of her senior year may have a harder time finding a college coach who will guarantee her spot on the team.  But if you have your video, you can keep coaches interested.  You might have to pick a college where you can walk on.  Then, if you continue your rehab at the college and work out with the team, you may be able to earn a spot--and possibly some scholarship money--by your second year there.

Injuries are, at best, character builders.  But they don't have to mean it's all over.  If you still really want to play college softball, don't give up!  Use the time you're not on the field to write and call college coaches. Prove to them how badly you want to play at that level.  Players who are injured and then recover often take that commitment with them out to the softball field and become stronger for it.  An injury can test everything about you--as a person and an athlete.  But if you are one of the lucky ones who can come back, that process will have prepared you better than almost anything else to compete at the college level!