How Can I Get Recruited? What Can a Parent do to Help: Advice/Tips from UNC Commit Aubrey Wurst
Team NC – Hinde and University of North Carolina commit:
We recently had the chance to catch up with nationally ranked 2024 Top 100 Right-Handed Pitcher (RHP) Aubrey Wurst (Team NC – Hinde and University of North Carolina commit) to get an update on what she’s been up to. We discussed her college decision, the recruiting process, what advice she can give to 2025’s who are now beginning a very important year from a recruiting standpoint, and how her journey over the past year has affected her.
Q: Aubrey, first off, congrats on the UNC commitment. Can you tell us why you ultimately decided to be a Tar Heel and commit to UNC and Coach Papa?
A: First, I want to just say that I feel so fortunate to call myself a Tar Heel. Being able to attend such an amazing university while competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) is a dream come true. I started attending camps at UNC over a year ago and from the first day I stepped on campus, I fell in love with it. Coach P (UNC Head Coach Donna Papa) always says “there’s just something special about this place.” I’ve seen Chapel Hill during all 4 seasons, even in a hurricane during my recruiting visit, and she’s right. No matter what the weather, it’s just special there.
As far as committing, my parents told me years ago that if possible, I should use softball to help me get into the best college I can. During my recruiting process, one coach said to me “you are making a forty year decision.” That stuck in my mind. Coach Dobbins (UNC Associate Head Coach / Pitching) told me to “pick a school that you would be happy to be at if you weren’t playing softball.”
Over the past year or so, I was able to develop a strong relationship with Coach Dobbins at camps. On my recruiting visit, Coach P toured the media school with me. I want to study media and broadcasting and I started to “geek out” when I saw how amazing Hussman is (UNC Hussman School of Journalism). Although I had gotten to know Coach P at camps, during the hour or so tour I got to really talk to her on a more personal level. I went back to the hotel that night and looked at my parents and said “if they offer me tomorrow, this is where I want to go to college.” It just felt right. It felt like home. The school, the coaches, the players, everything about UNC felt right. That next day when I was sitting in the Anderson Stadium softball conference room across the table from Coach P, Coach Dobbins, and Coach Fale (UNC Assistant Coach Fale Aviu) and they told me that they wanted me to play softball at Carolina, I started to tear up. UNC has always been my dream school. Once I composed myself, I told them I was going to be a Tar Heel! It felt so good saying those words!
Aubrey and Coach Donna Papa embracing after her commitment
Q: Tell us about the past year. You’ve been through a lot to get to this point. How much does your commitment mean to you considering what you’ve been through?
A: I still wake up some days and say “is this for real?” It’s hard to believe that so much has happened in less than a year. I experienced some of the lowest lows with my surgery in March, and then pushing so hard to recover enough to compete this summer in travel ball was a major challenge. I questioned myself plenty of times. When I had my surgery I didn’t know what the future would hold. Would I be able to play again? If so, would I be able to compete at a high level again? Mentally, it was a roller coaster. Through it all, there are a few people who I owe so much to other than my parents, who are amazing. One in particular is Coach Kama Norton (@CoachKama on Twitter). She was so important, and still is, in helping me to grow mentally. She was a shoulder for me to cry on when times were hard, and gave me valuable advice through the recruiting process.
The other person is my pitching coach JoAnn Ferrieri (@rhinosb21 on Twitter). She literally knows everything about me at this point. She helped me so much to become the pitcher I am today and she is there for me whenever I need her. She helped me to get back as quickly as I did post-surgery. I’m so thankful for her. I consider both of these people close friends now.
So, to answer your question. I went through the lowest of lows and then the highest of highs (my commitment) and through it all it has made me a better person. It’s helped me in softball. Especially as a pitcher, I know things will go bad at times. But the focus is always on the next pitch, the next opportunity, the next game. My commitment to UNC is a dream come true! For a little while I wasn’t sure if that moment would ever be a possibility. But it means so much to me to say I’m a Tar Heel!
Q: Tell us a little bit about your experience with the recruiting process?
A: Wow, I’m not even sure where to begin. On August 31st, I had butterflies all day. I didn’t know if I would be able to sleep. I had some friends that were planning to stay up until after midnight, but it was a school night, and I knew I had to get up early because I’m an anchor on my school’s morning news broadcast so I have to be in earlier than everyone else. I tweeted mentioning I was going to bed and if I was fortunate to hear from any coaches I would get back to them in the morning.
I woke up Sept 1 and I had emails and texts from a bunch of coaches. Over the next month, I had to coordinate phone calls, Zoom calls, campus visits, etc. The process was stressful at times and amazing at others. At the end of the day, it ended like a fairytale for me!
Aubrey with parents Rich and Catherine prior to the UNC vs Virginia Tech football game October 1st, 2022
Q: What advice can you give to the 2025’s who are just beginning what is considered to be a really important year from a softball standpoint?
A: Wow, that’s a great question and I’m going to give you a long answer if that’s ok. I think that there is so much that goes into being recruited. And to be honest, I would say a lot of it is not actually playing softball so I’m going to try to break it down by topic.
First, and the most important thing, make sure you are working hard in school! Grades matter so much! If you have good grades, it opens up so many more opportunities for you at the next level. I heard from a lot of schools I had hoped to hear from, but I got a call from an Ivy League school as well. I was shocked. But that opportunity isn’t there if you aren’t studying and taking your schoolwork just as serious or more serious than softball. At the end of the day you are looking for your perfect fit, and the more options you have, the more the likelihood of finding that perfect fit!
Next, if you don’t have a Twitter account, get one set up immediately. Twitter was probably one of the most important recruiting tools I used. Make sure you list your travel team name, high school you attend, your position, your grad year, and your GPA if possible in your bio. I personally added a link to my YouTube account that is dedicated to softball videos so coaches could simply click the link and they could see me throw! If you are involved in community service, if you are working out in the gym, receiving academic awards/accomplishments through school, tweet about them. Coaches want to know if they recruit you, they would be getting a kid who is committed to being a student-athlete, and who is ready for the challenges of college life while playing a sport. They want to know as much about you as possible as a person, and they want to be confident in the person they are recruiting.
And speaking of social media, don’t be stupid! Don’t tweet or snap or put anything on social media that represents you in a bad way. College coaches don’t need problems. So don’t be dumb. Make good decisions and be a good person. Bad decisions are an easy way to get a college coach to move on to the next kid. If you really think about the numbers, I think something like 5% of high school softball players get to play at the next level. As my dad would tell me, it’s “rare air.” Don’t mess up an amazing opportunity by making bad choices.
Make a Plan:
I would say you need to have a plan. My pitching coach always tells me “don’t just go throw, have a plan of what you want to accomplish every time you throw a bullpen.” I think the same can be applied to recruiting. Make a plan of attack. That starts with giving some real thought to what you want to study in college. Knowing that I wanted to get into broadcasting, my mom and I sat down over a year ago and researched the best schools in the country for broadcast journalism. We then compared them to what they offered from a softball standpoint. We came up with a list of 30-35 schools that I felt I would be happy attending and playing softball at. When you make this list, you also have to be realistic about your softball abilities. Ask your coaches or other coaches to be honest with you about where they see you playing at the next level. It’s not always an easy conversation but that will help you to narrow down the list of schools to focus on.
Also, your list should include programs at all levels. Don’t focus on D1 or Power 5 only. A few of my top schools that I was considering were not Power 5 schools. But they were great for my major and I liked the campus, the coaches, and the feel of the college!
Once you have your list, the hard work starts. First, make sure you do some research on the coaches and the programs, and start following them all on Twitter. Then, start sending emails! For me, it was at times hard to commit to reaching out to coaches consistently when there were so many other things going on in my life. Writing emails (good ones) takes time. But I did it consistently. Make sure you are sending coaches highlight videos from tournaments (mine were always a max of 1 minute), updates on your grades, workouts, etc. Personalize the emails. They need to be addressed to the coaches by name, and they can’t be generic. No coach wants to get an email that makes it obvious you just sent the same thing to 30 other schools. Tell them why you are interested in their school. Talk about the field of study they offer that you plan to major in. Congratulate them on a big series win the prior weekend. Whatever you need to do to make it personal. I would always try to email coaches on Mondays especially in season because they weren’t traveling, and I thought they would be more likely to open my email.
Coaches get thousands of emails a week. Until you build a relationship with a coach, put your name, height, weight, and something else about you in the subject line that will grab their attention. When you make a highlight video, put the best hit, pitches, or defensive plays in the first 10 seconds of the video. If you can get a coach to open your video, you want them to see your best immediately. You need to get them to want to follow you and keep watching you.
Camps, Camps, Camps:
When I met with my future coaches at UNC, they looked at me and the first thing they said was “thank you for continuing to come back here and come to camps. You made us take notice of you and you got us to come watch you play in games.”
I went to 5 camps at Chapel Hill as well as a Diamond Direction camp that the UNC coaches were going to be at in the past year. You can’t go to every school’s camp on your target list, but try to go to camps at the schools that you are most interested in. Coaches can’t talk to you off campus, so when you are at camps it accomplishes a lot of things.
First, they get to see you for multiple hours or days instead of a few innings in the circle or 1 or 2 at bats. They get to know you as a person, and just as important, you get to know them! You are going to spend most of your time for 4 years with these people. You have to like them!!
Second, attending camps says to a coach “this kid is interested in my school.” Going to multiple camps says to them you are very interested. Colleges don’t have a lot of money to spend on recruiting so being at their camps lets them recruit you without it costing them anything.
When you are at camps, be personable. Be outgoing. Ask the coaches and current players questions about the dorms, campus life, etc. Gather as much information as you can. When camp is over and you are going to take pictures, re-introduce yourself to the coaches. Try to get some feedback on your camp from them, and tell them why you would want to come to their school.
If you can manage it, try to get a campus tour while you are there. If possible, I would always try to set up a formal tour of the journalism school, but if not, my parents and I would just walk the campus and get a feel for the college. A lot of schools offer self-guided tours. If you can get one of those, that’s better than nothing. Touring the school not only gives you an idea of what that school is like, but it’s also something you can discuss with the coaches during or after camp. When camp is over, make sure to tweet about it, and then send a follow up email thanking the coaches again for their time and instruction and something about what you learned while at camp.
Finally, you need to represent yourself and carry yourself well at all times. I have had coaches comment about seeing me play when I had no idea they were there. I found out after the fact that one coach watched me pitch from another field on purpose. They want to see you when you don’t know they are watching. Be a great teammate at all times. When you aren’t playing, be on the fence supporting your team. Be respectful to your parents and coaches and umpires. Don’t give a coach any reason to question if you will be a problem when you get to the next level.
I know that was a long answer and to be honest I could probably write ten more pages about this. I’m just grateful for the opportunities I have and I would be happy to talk about any of this with any player who has questions about the process.
Legacy & Legends Softball, January 30, 2023;
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