Most parents worry about how they're going to send their children tocollege in this era of spiraling costs. If you've got a daughter, there's hope for a free ride or at least a partial scholarship.
Whatyou have to do is get your daughter to take up softball, preferably windmill pitching, get her involved with a good summer program, and she will have a shot to save you a lot of money.
There are far more opportunities for scholarships for girl athletes in softball than in any other sport. Softball has become the scholarship sport for girls.
Each spring, the number of county girls receiving softball scholarships keeps increasing, and the parade has started, with two girls signing this week.
Jen Bostak of Old Mill won a scholarship to LaSalle University, and Stacey Jordan of Glen Burnie got a scholarship to St. Andrew's University, a National Association of Independent Athletics (NAIA) school in Laurinburg, N.C.
Bostak and Jordan are both pitchers who hit well and play other positions, but it's their windmilling that drew the attention of college scouts.
There are several other county girls, including flame-throwers Kim Sheridan of Archbishop Spalding and Karen Hay of North County, who should soon follow suit and accept scholarships.
Their ability to run the softball to home plate with great velocity and at the same time fashion a change-up to keep the hitters off balance should get them scholarship opportunities.
So, the big question is how do the girls put themselves in position to earn those scholarships? What arethe steps to softball success and opportunity?
Well, it's very simple, and the method keeps the girls coming. The line keeps getting longer.
The first thing dad has got to do is find out when and where the off-season fall and winter pitching clinics are being held. Windmill pitching guru Jack Crandell started the clinics about 10 years ago, and there is no question the program has become the premiere instructional clinic for all youth sports.
Crandell and the likes of Paul Tewey, Joe Cunningham, Tom Conley and Ron Schelhouse have turnedthe weekend pitching clinics into arguably the most worthwhile instructional programs of their kind. Girls come from all over the metro area to learn the art of windmilling, and we haven't found any disappointed students.
One can readily see the results at the state tournaments, where Anne Arundel County dominates. Last year, Chesapeake in4A and Northeast in Class 2A repeated as state champions.
In The Baltimore Sun's first Top 15 list this spring, Anne Arundel boasted the first seven teams: (1) Chesapeake; (2) North County; (3) Spalding;(4) Severna Park; (5) Old Mill; (6) Northeast and (7) Glen Burnie.
Is that a statement of quality or what?
Nearly all the girls wholead these top teams started at a young age and eventually progressed with a degree from the "University of Crandell."
After being introduced to the clinic and proper technique, dad or mom should find their daughter a place to play in the summer. As the girls get older, it's important to be selective about where they play.
It's best forthose who want to pursue a college softball career to hook up with asummer team that plays a lot and travels to out-of-town tournaments.
"There is no question that summer softball is where the girls getnoticed and seen," said Stacey Jordan's dad, Ed. "St. Andrew's saw Stacey a couple of years ago in a tournament in New Jersey while she was pitching for the Riviera Beach Spirit."
The Spirit is one of the better softball programs in the area, and each summer the teams travel to out-of-state tournaments.
"No doubt about it," said Mr. Jordan. "The Spirit won a national qualifier in Philadelphia and went tothe nationals in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Stacey was seen by a lot of college coaches.
"Stacey and some of her teammates were fortunate enough to play in National Tournaments in 16-and-under and 18-and-under (divisions) last summer."
St. Andrew's lured Jordan by telling her she would step in and pitch as a freshman. They were able to make such a promise because they had seen quite a bit of the young lady in very competitive situations.
It's rare that college coaches get to see the girls in the spring with their high school teams because they have games themselves. Also, in most college softball programs, there is very little expense money for recruiting.
As a result, the recruiting is done in the summer when coaches flock to state, regional and national tournaments. It's the best way to recruit, becausethe talent-seekers get to see the girls under pressure playing against the caliber of players they will face in the college ranks.
Maryland has an impeccable reputation in girls and women's softball these days and the focal point is Anne Arundel County. Crandell can take a bow for that.
It was Crandell and Conley who started it all withtheir Tangerine Machine team that, unfortunately, closed camp this year. The two softball fanatics decided to take a break and not field a team this summer.