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What It's Like To Go From The NCAA To JUCO To NAIA Level

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(Photos courtesy of Kaylie Kaufman)

Kaylie Kaufman has had quite the journey in college softball. Currently a junior at NAIA school Columbia College in Columbia, Mo., Kaufman has now been on a college softball team at three different collegiate levels.

She started out at Lindenwood University, a four-year NCAA Division II program in St. Charles, Mo., before transferring to Jefferson College, a junior college in Hillsboro, Mo., ahead of her jump to Columbia College.

With two years left to play college softball, Kaufman looks forward to the opportunity she has ahead of her at Columbia College and hopes that other softball players can learn from her non-linear path in college softball.

See below for Kaufman's full interview with Softball America.

Softball America: Why did you decide to attend a JUCO?

Kaylie Kaufman: I knew going to a JUCO would fine-tune my softball skills. At that time, leaving a four-year university, I really wanted to focus on my athletic development as well as work on the recruiting process again, which made Jefferson College the best fit for me.

SA: What experiences did you have at Jefferson College that you think were beneficial to your college career?

KK: I felt as though there was an emphasis on the small details of my game. I knew that it was going to be a good position to put myself in before I found a four-year home. Going to a JUCO was in my best interest because I didn’t entirely know what I wanted to do academically, so I was able to get my general education classes out of the way. This also allowed me to take the time to figure out what degree I wanted to pursue.

SA: What was the most recent recruiting process like for you?

KK: The recruiting process during COVID-19 was not easy. I was unable to visit coaches and showcase my skills as I was able to before. I was no longer able to get on campuses and go talk to coaches personally or even go watch their teams play games. They also could not see recent stats since our games were canceled. It required a lot more networking than a regular recruiting process would have.

SA: Why did you ultimately decide to attend an NAIA school?

KK: I love the small school atmosphere. I knew an NAIA would be beneficial in the sense that I would grow academically and athletically in my best interest.

SA: What benefits do you think NAIA schools have?

KK: Most NAIAs are smaller schools compared to NCAAs. I think that is a huge advantage to me personally, as I wanted to play at a competitive level and also have the small classroom atmosphere that I prefer.

SA: What has been your favorite part of having experiences at multiple schools?

KK: The experiences have been amazing. I’ve developed many long-lasting relationships from each of the schools that I’ve been at. I also feel like I am at an advantage having multiple coaches' feedback and just being able to develop my game with a broader knowledge base.

SA: What advice do you have for student-athletes thinking about attending a JUCO?

KK: JUCO is an absolutely great route. Especially if you might not have the experience in the recruiting process or the grades to excel at a four-year school. I think especially if you want to develop as a player, it’s a great place to start. I would recommend a JUCO to anyone.

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