I am pleased to share with you the wisdom of NJCAA Softball Coach of Glen Oaks Community College, Tom Muckel.
We can’t all play D1, but I firmly believe there is a place for everyone who wants to put in the work and play their game. Whether it is finances, grades, or a family situation requiring a student to stay close to home, there are good reasons to consider spending time in a Junior College program before transferring to a four year school. But attending a community college does not mean the end of an athlete’s career, you can still play the sport you love.
As an introduction to Junior College athletics today I feature Tom Muckel, Head Softball coach at Glen Oaks Community College, in Centreville, Michigan. Coach Muckel has been coaching softball and baseball for 30 years. Over the years he has helped a lot of players transition to the collegiate level, both as a youth coach and a college coach.
How do you find players for your team? What type of student and athlete do you focus on?
I go to as many High School games as I can. I also go to as many travel ball tournaments as I can. I look for players that have good attitudes and hustle. They need to be good students too.
Why do you think athletes should consider a NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association)? What are the benefits of an NJCAA school specifically?
I look at the Junior College as a place for the student athlete to go and get 2 years of college at far less cost than a 4 year school. It also helps them to get playing time right away. After 2 years can then transfer to a 4 year school.
What can or should high school athletes do from their end to get on your radar screen?
The best thing a student can do is contact the college coach and let them know they are interested in playing for their program.
If a softball player personally contacts you by phone or email, what will you do next?
I will set up a college visit. If it is during their high school season or travel ball season I will go watch them play.
Could you share, in whatever detail you are comfortable, what the athletic scholarship break down looks like on your roster?
Being a small college we only get $9500 for the whole team. The breakdown is 0 to $1500 per player. The amount of financial aid a player receives depends on their ability and other financial aid they get in from the college and federal assistance.
What is the role of the parent in the recruiting process?
The biggest role of the parent is to be there for the player, and make sure the player is following up on any phone calls or emails.
What does the off season, fall season and summer look like for a NJCAA softball player?
Once the season is finished most of my players play travel ball. The players that don’t play travel ball will work out a couple of times a week on their own. We start practicing and playing fall ball August 10th. We can have 10 play dates during the fall season. During our down time from November until January, the girls will work out on their own 3-4 times a week.
How does your school help players transition to a four year college? When looking at a 2 year school, what are some questions student athletes should ask regarding the help they will receive to get into a four year school and continue playing?
As a coach of a 2 year school I make contacts with as many 4 year schools as I can. If a player has a certain school that they want to go to, I will make contact with the coach and keep them updated with stats and how the player is doing. A player needs to make sure that the classes that she takes at a 2 year school will transfer to a 4 year school. They should also contact the 4 year coach and let them know they are interested in their program. Out of the seven that I will be losing after this coming year 5 will be going on to four year schools.
How do academics and athletics fit together?
Academics is top priority. We stress academics first and then softball second. We also do progress reports every 4 weeks to make sure the students are keeping up with their studies.
What are some myths or misconceptions about junior colleges?
Many people believe it is a bad thing to play for a Jr. College. It’s not! You can get 2 years of schooling for a lot less money than at a 4 year school. And you get playing time right away.
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 would like the student to know not to pass over a Junior college in the recruiting process. It is a good way to get two years at a lesser cost and get playing time right away.
Before coaching at Glen Oaks, Coach Muckel was president of Constantine Little League for 20 years, and sat on the District 15 Little League board for 25 years. He has coached summer baseball for 30 years, and summer softball for 6 years. Coach Muckel has also coached Varsity Baseball at White Pigeon High School for two years and JV baseball at Clay High School for two years.
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