Kara O’Riley started pursuing college softball during her junior year of high school, when she realized she loved the game too much to give it up during college.
Using CaptainU and the help of her coaches, family and colleagues, Kara is now playing the game she loves at a university.
“The biggest thing I love about softball is how complicated it can be. Softball is a game of minor adjustments, skill, and hard work. It takes years of grounders, pitching, front toss, and fly balls for a player to truly be successful.”
Read Kara’s story to find out more about how she improved her athletic skills, corresponded with college coaches, determined which school was best for her and how she overall took her softball game to the next level to become a successful collegiate athlete.
College freshman, Pitcher and 3rd base
When did you start playing your sport? How did you decide to play your sport as opposed to another?
I started playing softball at age 6. My mom played softball throughout her life and my dad played baseball, so naturally it was something they’d get me into. I immediately fell in love with the game and started to find success. I played town league and tournament ball throughout my junior high and high school years. It was fun and something I felt I was good at and something that came relatively naturally to me. I had both my parents to coach me, so I was never on my own trying to perfect my game. I tried many other sports, but none seemed as enjoyable or as fitting for me as softball did. I stuck with it and have been playing ever since.
What do you like most about your sport?
The biggest thing I love about softball is how complicated it can be. Not too many people can pick up a bat for the first time and do well. Softball is a game of minor adjustments, skill, and hard work. It takes years of grounders, pitching, front toss, and fly balls for a player to truly be successful. It is definitely a game that one has to work at. I’ve also always loved the relationships that form with teammates and have made some of my best friendships through it. My teams throughout the years have been fairly successful and I think one of the many reasons was the fact that we generally got along and loved being around each other. I can always trust my teammates and knowing I have them behind me makes it easier for me to do my job.
What are the biggest obstacles in your sport that you’ve overcome? How did you overcome it?
I’d say that for me the biggest obstacles I’ve overcome in softball would be hitting slumps and proving people wrong. Getting into a hitting slump is horrible. Hitting is one of my strengths and not being able to perform is frustrating. It takes hours in the cages and a confidence boost. Most the time after hard work and devotion I’m back doing what I do best. I’ve played on many successful teams. Being a younger player on these teams, I know what it is like when teams graduate older players and the younger girls must step up. One year we lost an amazing pitcher and honestly some people did not know where our season would take us the next year. As it turns out my classmates and I had a very good year. We played with heart and we left everything out on the field, proving to people that we were meant to take over that team.
What are the biggest obstacles in the recruitment process that you’ve encountered and/or overcome? How did you overcome it (if you did yet?)
I think my biggest fear throughout the recruitment process was worrying how the coach would be able to decide whether or not I was a fit player for their team and whether or not they needed the skills I could offer.I always worried that maybe I’d be recruited and then the coach would decide she would not need me and I would be stuck. That is why CaptainU was so helpful. I was able to put up stats, videos, recommendations, and general information about myself. Now I knew that if a coach was truly interested they could visit my page and decide whether or not I would be of value to them. I felt that a coach should be honest to the player on whether or not they would be a good fit for their team, and CaptainU made that more of a possibility because now the coach could understand way more about the player.
How do you balance being a good athlete with being a good student?
I find I work better during softball season because I have set deadlines, such as knowing I have to finish homework before practice. It is definitely more difficult, but it is nothing anyone can’t handle. If you have to miss a class I find it is important to contact your professor and stay on top of assignments. Falling behind in a class is never fun, so keeping up with assignments makes being a student athlete way easier. I also believe that catching up on your sleep is hugely important for student athletes. Practices are gonna drain you and you are going to want to sleep in class but if you are smart about getting work done and going to bed at a reasonable time then you will feel much better.
When did you realize you wanted to play college sports?
During my junior year I did debate whether or not I wanted to go to a big state school or whether I wanted to go to a smaller school and play softball. I think I knew the answer all along, and quickly decided that I could not just stop playing a game that I loved so much. I then had decide where I wanted to look, what level of play I was looking for, and what kind of program I wanted to be a part of. I looked at many, many different schools and narrowed my decisions down to a few select schools. I then contacted multiple coaches and used CaptainU to gain other’s attention. After doing all of this I knew I had made the right decision. After playing softball for over ten years, I realized I would be completely lost without having softball at school. I also knew this would be a perfect opportunity to gain a new group of friends.
Where did you first turn for recruitment tools, platforms, strategies, etc.?
My parents and I started off simply emailing coaches but then found that sometimes this was unreliable and that they either would not get back to us or they were slow to reply. We struggled finding new ways to work through the stressful recruitment process. That is when someone recommended CaptainU to us. We quickly began to fill out the page. We added all my stats, emailed former coaches for references, and began shooting videos at games. This made the process so much easier and way less stressful. You could tell when a coach had visited your page and then maybe you’d get a message from them letting you know they were interested. This definitely took the guessing out of whether or not a coach was interested.
What things have worked and what things haven’t/didn’t work when trying to get in touch with coaches?
Simply emailing coaches worked to an extent. Yes, you would get their attention but they really would not be able to learn too much about you as a person or player. My parents and I discovered CaptainU and this made our lives so much easier. CaptainU gave me the opportunity to message coaches and they could visit my page to learn information about me. CaptainU tracked who visited your site, possibly showing who has interest. The only difficulties I truly hit were when coaches did not reply to emails.
How was your family involved & how was this helpful?
My family was working with me the entire time, I do not know if I could have done it without them. They helped me gather stats, proofread my information, and helped me manage my profile. They brought me to meetings and helped me make some important decisions. They never expressed their opinions on schools and coaches, leaving me to decide whether a school and program was fit for me. They came to all my games and supported me when I had college coaches looking on. My family was there for me throughout the entire recruiting process and I am so grateful for that!
What tools, platforms, strategies did you use throughout the whole process?
For primary contact with a coach I would start of an email explaining who I was, where I was from, my talents as a softball player, and I would add a link to my CaptainU profile. I would then look at my profile to see if they visited my site and wait for a reply email. If they did not seem interested I would drop the school and move on. If they did seem interested I would so some more research on the school and eventually plan a time to visit the college and the coach. I believe that staying over at a school was really helpful. Staying with the team showed me the personalities of the team and whether or not I would be happy attending the university. From there I simply had to make my decision on where to go.
What worked best for you on CaptainU / what was your favorite CaptainU tool?
During the recruitment process I used all the tools that CaptainU provided me with. I wrote out general information about myself, gathered stats from old teams and past seasons, collected references from coaches, and made videos of my pitching, fielding and hitting. Every single one of these tools worked in my favor. They helped show a well-rounded image of me and provided a coach with everything they could need. I would say that my favorite CaptainU tool would be the information the player can write down. I really enjoy that I could tell a coach not only my softball information, but also the things I like and the kind of person I am.
What would be three recommendations you have to athletes trying to play in college?
My three recommendations to future college athletes:
1) Start the recruitment process early. Do not wait around.
2) Use your teammates as another group of friends to be able to turn to during good times and bad.
3) Have fun. Make sure that the sport is still enjoyable and that its still the same game you fell in love with years ago. If it is not fun anymore is it really worth it?
Finally, what are your goals for the coming year in your sport? How are you currently doing in your sport? Have you been recruited yet?
I currently play for Salve Regina University, a small D3 school in Newport, Rhode Island. I am doing okay right now but there is always room to improve. This year I would like to keep my starting position at third and become a better third baseman everyday. I would love to get some innings in on the mound and I would also be happy raising my batting average. I hope to achieve my goals throughout the season and improve to move onto a bigger and better sophomore season.
Want to take your game to the next level and play in college? Get started with a CaptainU profile today!