Opinion: The New Transfer Process Is Good For College Softball
Whenever people ask me how I feel about the transfer portal and the new transfer rule, I hesitate to answer.
From an outsider’s perspective, I can guess how it looks and know what many people think: “Student-athletes who transfer are just unhappy with their playing time and have no perseverance to stick it out and earn a spot, right?” “What are they being taught about loyalty and commitment if they just get to leave?” “These kids are just downright selfish. They have no idea what dedication and hard work are.”
I’ve seen countless anecdotes such as these on Twitter and popular softball blogs alike. But these assumptions aren't always accurate.
In the fall of 2015, I made one of the most well-thought-out, scariest and fulfilling decisions of my life thus far. I decided to request my release from Cal State Northridge, and shortly thereafter, transferred to UC Berkeley to continue my academic and athletic careers.
However, my transfer process looked a bit different than that of someone who might be going through it now. With the implementation of the new transfer rule this past October, NCAA D-I student-athletes no longer have to get permission from their current school to contact other coaches, but instead, only need to give notification of their desire to transfer before they are put into a national transfer database that allows them to contact and/or be contacted by other coaches.
This new system has taken the softball world by storm, leading to an unprecedented number of transfers since October. The program that has been most affected by the new rule, to date, is undoubtedly Oregon, which saw nearly half of its 2018 roster appear on the transfer portal last season.
While these specific transfers were largely due to a coaching change that occurred last summer, the mass exodus at Oregon shows how the new rule gives student-athletes the power to transfer like never before.
Under the old rule, student-athletes were almost contractually obligated to remain at their schools. They could be denied permission to contact other coaches by their current head coach and/or athletic director. Student-athletes would then be forced to appeal the request denial in order to move forward. This seldom occurred, but was quite a hassle for student-athletes when it did.
The new rule allows for a greater sense of authority over one’s future, and I think that’s definitely something positive. Though some people view the surge of student-athletes looking to transfer as a negative aspect of college softball today, it makes me hopeful that current and future collegiate student-athletes will not only get the chance to find more suitable schools for them, but that they will also have a slowed-down recruiting process.
With the turnover rate being what it is now, college coaches will be forced to do a more thorough character check during the recruitment of student-athletes, and it will likely take longer to make decisions on scholarship offers because of it. This could prove to be very good for the sport in the long run because of the effect it will have on the heavily-debated early recruiting process.
Back in 2015, I wasn’t the typical transfer by any means. While most transfers were usually student-athletes who were looking to transfer at the end of a season in May or June because of insufficient playing time and/or reduction of scholarship money, I had had a successful freshman season, saw a lot of playing time and most notably, requested to transfer mid-semester in September.
Former Cal All-American Chelsea Spencer Named Program's Head Coach
Chelsea Spencer is the new head coach of the Cal softball program.
I wasn’t leaving because of playing time, money or coaches. I just wasn’t happy with the overall experience I was having at the school I was at. I figured if I had the opportunity to change my situation, I might as well go for it.
When I was transferring, the protocol was that I had to meet with my head coach and the athletic director in order to explain to them that I was unhappy at the school and was requesting permission to contact other schools. It was a daunting process.
Immediately following the announcement of my transfer, I was met with plenty of mixed opinions—some good, but most negative. I read the blogs, heard the gossip and rumors and experienced the awkward encounters with people who were displeased with my decision. People began questioning my dedication, perseverance and loyalty.
While I was feeling overjoyed about the possibilities that were ahead for me, I was also being condemned by former teammates, coaches and fans for doing what was best for me. Initially, I felt very uneasy about it, but ultimately, I knew that I had made the best choice for me and my family, and that was what mattered most.
So, whenever I hear news about other collegiate student-athletes looking to transfer, I empathize with them because I know how tough it can be. Looking back on my career at Cal, I know I made the right decision. Going to college in my hometown was the most ideal situation I could have ever imagined, and it was an opportunity I simply could not pass up.
There were many people who did not agree with my decision, some of whom the situation still does not sit well with. But ultimately, that doesn’t matter because the choice was mine. I always think of it like this: College is supposed to be four or five of the best years of your life. If people think that transferring to better your state of mind, happiness and inner peace is selfish, then so be it.