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Five Tips For Deciding If Division 1 Softball Is For You

base Photo by Brian Bahr_Getty Images.jpg
(Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

I remember when I was growing up and watching the Women’s College World Series on television. The top Division 1 programs in the country, such as Oklahoma, Florida, Michigan, Alabama and UCLA, were always battling it out for the title. I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, I can’t wait to play for a top-tier D1 program.”

I’m sure many other little girls over the years have experienced that same feeling. We saw the bright lights, slick uniforms, publicity players got and big college campuses that come along with the D1 lifestyle and thought it was definitely for us. However, only a very small percentage of youth softball players go on to play at the D1 level, and those who play will tell you it’s not always as easy as it looks on TV.

Below are five tips to help you determine if Division 1 softball is the right fit for you.

Jala Wright is a junior pitcher for Duke University and an intern for Softball America. Wright transferred to Duke following her freshman season at Michigan State University.

It's Truly A Grind

Most travel ball players think they play or work hard when they are in high school. But as soon as they step on their college campus, they realize that they haven't even scratched the surface of how hard they are about to work over the next four years. Everyone is great at the Division 1 level, so what are you going to do to separate yourself? Grind! You must perform in front of your coaches and teammates, while also being willing to commit to doing extra work behind the scenes when no one is watching. There will be weeks of continuous grinding, but you have to put your mind, body and soul into everything you do at the Division 1 level, even when you feel exhausted.

It’s A Full-Time Job

Division 1 softball is a business. We, as players, are given scholarships and walk-on opportunities to help a program become the best it can be. You may be promoted to an everyday starter or captain, or be demoted to a bench player. In both roles, you must put the team first. The coaches know what’s best for the program and you may or may not like that, but just like with a regular job, the boss calls the shots.

Moreover, it’s pretty much a year-round commitment. Do you want a true fall, winter, spring or summer break? Then Division 1 softball probably won't be the best fit for you.

It's Probably The Most Intense Thing You'll Do

Each team at the Division 1 level is competitive. No team will lay down and not compete. Everyone wants to win a conference title and advance to the Women's College World Series, and as a result, many programs are willing to do whatever it takes to win. There will be times when you feel pressure to perform and live up to expectations on the field, in the classroom and in the weight room. You will have to learn to become level-headed in the many pressure-packed and intense situations you'll face.

You Have To Be A Student Too

Unfortunately, many Division 1 programs won't allow you to pursue certain majors because of the time they require of you. Engineering, the sciences and the pre-med path are some of the most difficult majors to pursue as a Division 1 student-athlete. For those majors, there are often many hours required of you outside the classroom and it's often too tough to fit them into your schedule as a Division 1 softball player. Regardless of the major you pursue, you have to remember that you are a student first and then an athlete, so prioritize what is best for you in the long run after college softball ends.

You Need To Be Passionate About Softball

Your mental health, relationships, lifestyle, body and love for the game will be tested daily as a Division 1 softball player. Do you think you will still love the game when you go 1-for-10 during a weekend road trip, make multiple errors or get benched? Through all the breakdowns and tough moments, will you still have a passion for the game? If the answer is no, then Division 1 softball may not be right for you, but if the answer is yes, you may just have what it takes to play at the Division 1 level.

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