Welcome to Interview #64.
I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NCAA Division 1 Softball Coach of Bryant University, Shayne Lotito.
Head coach Shayne Lotito has been at the helm of the Bryant University softball program for five seasons. Coach Lotito has extensive experience coaching and recruiting to Division 1 programs. She has been the head softball coach at Bryant for four years. Before that she was an assistant at Boston College. Coach Lotito has a Master’s of Education from Boston University.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen?
In order to get on a coaches radar, a high school athlete should have researched the schools they are interested in, and have a decent knowledge about the program and its accomplishments.
They then need to reach out to the coach themselves, not their parents, but on their own to introduce themselves either via phone, email or both.
Make emails personal, include specifics to that program or coach, your Year of Graduation, positions, team, coach’s information, game schedule and a video. Make the emails brief to the point and again make them PERSONAL.
Once you have reached out continue to do so when you have something to share; not necessarily every day, but you need to be somewhat persistent.
A phone call also goes a long way. It is an intimidating process, but a young athlete being able to pick up the phone and carry on a good conversation with a coach is a quality that will in the least pique our interest.
In addition, you need to get in front of the coach for face time; attend the universities camps, camps the coach might be working at, and continue to update game schedules and invite the coach to come watch.
These are all ways to get our attention but it will ultimately be your performance, execution, and character on the field and in the classroom that will keep our attention.
You have a lot of very talented athletes who come to your program. What is the difference between the players who have a successful college career and those who don’t?
I believe that it comes down to character, discipline, and self-regulation.
When students arrive on campus they are all on an equal playing field, however as the year progresses certain decisions help continue their success or not.
A student athlete enters college with a lot of responsibility and expectations to uphold, but they also have a perceived freedom all of the sudden. They do not have their parents there every night to ensure homework is done or set a bed time, it is completely up to them.
Players that are successful understand that self-regulation is a key component to their success, they are pro-active in class and with homework, they are able to time manage and say no to the distractions college has to offer. All things that are very difficult to do when your best friend is begging you to go out to a party with her on a Tuesday night and you know all your friends are going to be there. However hard it is, those successful players are able to stay the course and focus on the preparation.
That doesn’t mean they do not have fun but they understand there is a time and place, and that work and training come first then they can be rewarded with the fun as well as a chance for a Championship.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster and what is allowed by the NCAA Division 1?
Well the NCAA allows for 12 full scholarships for a softball program, however not all universities are fully funded. I know some D1 universities that have 1 scholarship and some that have 12 scholarships. It is not consistent within conferences either, some teams may have 6 and their conference opponents might have 12.
It makes it difficult to compete, but as a coach you cannot use that as a crutch. You need to find other ways regardless. We for example, are not fully funded and there is not one player on our roster that has a full athletic scholarship. It is divided up among as many as possible.
In addition, we use a lot of academic support to help us supplement for the lack of athletic money, which makes it crucial that we recruit players that have strong academics, honors/AP courses, and good test scores. We also have players that are key to our programs success that are not on athletic scholarship at all, but that does not take away their worth to me or the other coaches.
What else is important to affording college besides the “athletic scholarship”?
I think the next financial avenue to venture down is academics. It is an option to add to financial packages and it is very attainable. It puts you in a position where you can earn additional support through the amount of work the athlete is willing to put in. It forces athletes to focus on their schooling, which is important for their continued success in college. We not only want good grades and high academic classes for financial assistance, but also to show coaches and universities they can be successful in the classroom once higher expectations are put on them.
Your roster is indeed national. You have young ladies on your roster who come from coast to coast. Could you talk about what recruits should think about before committing to going to school a long way from home? What are some of the benefits and struggles which come from being a 1000 miles or more from home?
We recruit all over the country like most other universities.
As you are looking at schools and considering your next steps there are a few things you should look for.
- Know the surrounding area of the schools you are looking into. Are they rural, suburban, city, etc? Think about what you want and expect for your college experience.
- Make sure they have what you want to study or what you think you want to study because at the end of the day you are going to college to set you up for a possible career.
- The size of the school and classrooms. Are you looking for an SEC Football school or a mid-major? Can you learn in a lecture environment or do you need more one on one attention from professors to be successful.
Then when you narrow your choices down visit them and while you are there ask yourself, without softball (if you couldn’t play) would this still be a place you feel at home?
Once all those questions are answered then you need to turn your attention to the softball program.
- Do you like the coach?
- Have you seen them coach in a game?
- Could you play for them? Are they a style of coaching you will be successful under?
If these questions are a no you really need to understand the next four years would be hard.
- What about the team?
They will be your built in family for the next 4 years and hopefully life long friends. I went across the country and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got to have a completely new experience with new people in a new city and I fell in love with it, so much that I never left.
However, I know others who went far from home and were very homesick, were not having success because the distractions of wanting to go home, and ultimately transferred.
Please understand that homesickness is normal. Every teammate of yours has had it, even the kids that live locally. This transition is hard, but it’s an opportunity to see another part of the country and 4 years is a blink in the perspective of your whole life. Your family will always be there waiting for you at the end of 4 years to welcome you home or support you from afar whatever you choose.
It is a chance not many get to have and I believe everyone should explore and go outside their comfort zone.
How do college coaches and teammates help each other with student athletes who are far from home?
One of the best things about being on a team in college is that when you leave home and head to a new place you have a family there willing and waiting to take you in! Upperclassmen help the freshman transition and find their way around and support them when they miss home. It is difficult sometimes to get home for a weekend or a holiday break and that’s where the team will take you in to their homes and their families so that you are not alone.
Coaches are always there for you to express your homesickness and will help you through it. Trust me, we see it every year, all year. I’m not sure about other universities but we hold an Easter brunch for kids that were not able to get home for the long weekend, so they still have a sense of family and enjoying the holiday festivities. Regardless of what you will need, you have at least 20 sisters and 4 built in parents to help you through it!
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
To be there to support their children. I will have a relationship with the parents and I am always a phone call away to talk about your daughter and her well-being or grades. Softball is not a subject I am willing to discuss with parents. That subject is to be discussed between myself and the player.
The parent should come along and see the campus their kids will be spending the next 4 years at, and ask the questions they need answered like financial aid and academic support. They also should get to know the coaches because they will be leaving their child with them for 4 years.
When it comes to contacting coaches they should not be involved. The player should have their own email, write their own emails, make the phone calls and not have a script from the parents. They should have a list of questions they want answered when making a decision about their future.
What effect does social media have on your recruiting? Can you talk about players who you have either stopped recruiting or become more interested in based on their social media use?
Something I wish kids knew was that social media is their brand. What they put out is how they are perceived to be, whether it’s true or not. First impressions are important and I 100 % look at their social media. Kids need to understand that running this program is our job, our livelihood, and a reflection of us. So who we bring into the program is going to be players we believe will reflect us in a positive professional way.
If your social media is not positive and professional, I will be concerned that you will not be someone who will represent the program or the university the way we would like.
I will pull an offer from a player if she has anything inappropriate on her social media, because future Bulldogs are also a representation of myself, the team, the program, and the university. So I hope that players make better decisions when posting things for the world to see. If you even hesitate a little because you think it could be perceived negatively do not put it up.
It goes the opposite way as well. We love to see players expressing their love for the game, practicing, reaching out to the community for charity or volunteer. We love when our players post about their great accomplishments, those all reflect the core values of this program and we like to highlight those!
What is the role of the athletic training staff with your team and athletes? How do trainers interact and benefit your program?
Our athletic trainer is there for our team throughout the year. They are there to help maintain high performance, help rehab any injuries, help handle any unfortunate injury that may happen in training, practice, games, etc. They are supportive and do everything they can to make sure the players are healthy throughout the season. They travel with us and are available throughout the week at home to help the girls reach their maximum potential.
Can you share a story or two about how playing on a college team has affected former players in their lives after graduation?
My current assistant; she played for me my first year. She was a captain, SS, 3rd batter, and a record holder at Bryant to this day. Her leadership skills did not end on the field. She was an ambassador for the admissions building providing tours for potential future students, or helping current freshman learn their way around the campus. She was extremely out going and a huge reason why we were so successful that year.
After she graduated she received the graduate assistant position with PC Softball and got into their teaching master’s program. As a young assistant who had learned so much about leadership on the field, she did a great job taking initiative and learning quickly while with the PC softball program.
When my assistant position open I knew she would be the best option for the program. She brings that passion she had on the field to the office every day and then into practice with the players. I think her experience on the softball field has helped her be so successful in her current position.
What advice do you have for recruits on how to prepare for their freshmen year in a college softball program? What are typical things you wish incoming freshmen realized or knew before they arrived on campus?
When preparing for your freshman year you need to understand that there is a lot of work, high expectations, and strict standards. You will be tired. You will be homesick. It will be hard.
If you are not coming to play collegiate ball because you love the game but rather because it is paying for school, than D1 is not for you. However, if you love the game with all your heart and you are willing to grind every day to earn an opportunity to play for a championship then every minute of the preparation and hard work is worth it.
I only ask that before you get to school you make sure you are going to play for the right reasons. Prepare yourself to make sacrifices, self-regulate and have a lot of discipline.
Make sure you do the workouts you get from your university. They are not a suggestion. You will quickly realize if you do the work, it will be a lot easier than if you do not. If you stay ahead of homework and classwork you will not be too overwhelmed. Do not put it off because you think you have a ton of time to do it later.
Bonus Question: Is there anything important that you would like to share directly with high school athletes or softball players in particular as they navigate the recruiting process?
I want you to know there is a place for all of you at one of the levels of collegiate ball. Do not feel pressured to commit if it does not feel right. It needs to be right for you, so wait if you want to wait. The worst thing you could do is commit to a place because you were scared if you didn’t you would not have a place. In the end you will just hurt yourself and ultimately the program when you decide not to play anymore.
Again make the best decision for you and your family when you are ready!
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