Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series of articles on the many forces pressuring some of the top underclassmen girl athletes to make college commitments.
They had bought the book for $34.95, for in the brochure it read, “If you’re dreaming about playing college softball, this is the resource you must have!” Bud Huey got it mostly for the list in the back with the mailing address and email of all 1,200 college softball coaches. Somewhere among that list, he thought, was a coach who would want his daughter.
Last summer, Huey and his daughter, Katherine, a then-rising sophomore and standout pitcher at South Forsyth High School, used the list to execute their plan before it was too late.
Katherine needed a skills video, so they paid $250 to have a videographer record her pitching from multiple angles and published it on YouTube. They wanted to stand out in the recruiting process, so they mailed a postcard to 125 coaches in three separate waves: the first as an introduction with Katherine’s accomplishments and contact information printed on the back; the second as an invitation that included Katherine’s summer schedule; and the last as a thank you note to any who had come to watch her play.
“It was an attention-getter to say, ‘Hey, here I am. Look at me,’” Bud said.
The Hueys were willing to do whatever it took, understanding the pressure from college coaches on top high school female athletes to decide their future earlier and earlier because of forces that have changed women’s college recruiting among non-revenue generating programs: constrained financial resources, limited scholarships and a smaller talent pool.
Those forces have swept through Forsyth County in recent years, even recent weeks. Just this past Monday, Lambert rising sophomore Landyn White verbally committed to play lacrosse at Virginia Tech before she’s ever played a minute on the Lady Longhorns’ varsity team. That made three verbal commitments by female underclassmen athletes in the county this summer to Division I programs, joining West Forsyth softball player Alana Frye (Kennesaw State) and South volleyball player Shea McNamara (Auburn).
At least six more made college commitments during the 2014-15 school year, among them West Forsyth softball player Bailley Concatto (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), Lambert girls soccer player Maddie Eddleman (Vermont), Lambert softball player Marissa Guimbarda (Furman) and West Forsyth girls soccer players Carsen Parker and Brooke Pirkle, who committed to Arkansas together on the same day.
Katherine made her commitment on Oct. 1, but only after a string of fortuitous connections.
At a college skills camp in Vero Beach, Fla., she caught the eye of Eileen Hannigan, a coach with the New Jersey Intensity travel softball organization’s 16-Under team that culls players from states all over the South to compete in showcases. She wanted to play in the Independence Day Tournament in July, the biggest showcase event in the country, and Hannigan’s Intensity team had a spot on their roster.
Katherine turned heads by pitching against and defeating one of California’s top travel teams. Specifically, Purdue noticed. They were watching the Intensity closely, for two girls on the team had already committed to the Boilermakers. The normal protocol ensued: Katherine visited the campus, met the coaches, watched a football game and received a scholarship offer. Days later, she committed.
At the time Katherine committed, she was more than two years away from being able to sign a National Letter of Intent (NLIs), the legally binding document that turns a verbal commitment into an official contract. Huey couldn’t drive. She’d barely thought about what she might study. But, the Hueys feared, if she waited until then it might already be too late.
“There’s a part of you that’s glad the process is over,” Bud said. “There’s still the anxious part of it from the standpoint of it’s not done until they physically sign that NLI.”