JACKSON-When Crystl Bustos was twelve years old, she was turning heads in the softball community of southern California. She had everything going right for her. She was one of the top rated softball players in the country and she was on her way to playing Division I college softball…or so she thought.
Although she later went on to power Team USA softball to two Olympic gold medals and a silver medal, her road to Olympic and professional softball success was long and hard.
Now, she’s bringing her brand of hard-hitting softball to the Garden State to help girls in New Jersey to follow their dreams of playing next-level softball. Bustos operates Ruthless Softball, now with teams in California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada and Texas and this summer, with teams forming for the fall season.
Bustos is a former NPF professional softball player and the all-time Olympic world record holder for home runs. In softball circles, she is referred to as “The Big Bruiser”. Everyone who knows softball knows Crystl Bustos. Many girls even began their softball playing days swinging a DiMarini Bustos edition softball bat.
Team Ruthless is heading east.
What is Ruthless?
Whenever she talks about the program, you can feel the excitement and passion in her voice.
“What we do at Ruthless is bring in a team of Olympians, pro athletes and accomplished college players that are well knowledged in their specialities to pass that on to the girls in our program,” Bustos said. “Each Ruthless team member that we bring in specializes in a specific softball category.”
Bustos said her national level training team helps girls in the program excel at their desired path in softball whether they play infield, pitch or want to become top outfielders in their trade.
“Ruthless players get some of the best training from professionals who have been where these girls want to go,” she said. “This is nothing against teams with coaches who are parents who played Little League ball, or high school ball. Those coaches put in a lot of hard work and a lot of hours with their girls, they do a great job. They do what they can do with the limited budgets that are available to them. Our instructors and coaches have been where these kids are and know how to help them get where they want to go. We take softball to the next level.”
Bustos said while she manages several teams across America, she’s not going to be just a name on a banner and uniform or a no-show director to the girls in the program.
“When you join Ruthless, you’re not just getting a jersey with my name on it, you’re becoming part of a national family of talented girls who want to succeed, trained by some of the best trainers out there,” she said. She said she’s very hands on with all of her programs.
“My role in the organization is I come and and do everything to set up the teams at the local level. I lay down the structure for all of our teams,” she added. “Across the country, people start local teams and realize they need to get to the next level and they give their teams to the Ruthless program. I make sure that these coaches fully trust us to continue teaching these young ladies and give them the training and coaching they expect coming into this.”
Bustos said that each team is run under her strict guidelines and coaches are personally trained by her and her staff and that includes how coaches react both on and off the field.
She and her staff frequent the program’s training centers nationwide.
Olympic Lineup Behind Team Bustos, Ruthless Softball and Adventure Sports and Entertainment
Adventure Sports and Entertainment in Jackson, has partnered with Bustos and features a star studded lineup of trainers in the program that reads like a who’s who in Olympic, collegiate and National Pro Fastpitch softball. In addition to Bustos who won two gold medals and a silver across three Olympic Games, she brings with her Leah Amico Brian, a three time gold medalist and former player at Arizona State.
She’s joined by fellow three time Olympian Lori Harrigan and two-time Olympians Natasha Watley and Lovie Jung. Superstar Olympian Jenny Topping, Andrea Duran, Amanda Kamekona, Sierro Romero and Bailey Landry.
Former Tennessee Volunteers ace Monica Abbott will also be helping Adventure Sports around their new facility to be built next year in Jackson. Allan Proske, who operates Adventure Sports currently operates the ASE Intensity softball program.
College Geared Program
Bustos said her program is also geared towards helping girls achieve their dreams of playing college softball. If anyone knows how hard it is to play college ball, Bustos knows. Despite being a standout player in high school with a reputation for being a ruthless home run hitter, Bustos didn’t make the grade. D-I offers were being sent to her in bulk. Bustos admits she never had the proper foundation behind her to drive her to do better in school and to become aware of how important academics are in the world of collegiate softball.
“We would just put those letters in a drawer,” she said. She never expected that her dream college, UCLA wouldn’t accept her because she didn’t make the grade. That’s exactly what happened.
“You can be the best softball player in the world, but if you don’t have the grades, you can’t play,” she said.
“A lot of coaches will say they’ll do this and that and they’ll get their kids into college…no,” she said. “That’s not how it works. As coaches, we can only open doors for the girls, but it’s ultimately up to them.”
Utilizing the Power of Social Media
Bustos said she is not only a frequent flyer, traveling across the country to work with her local teams, but said she personally interfaces with every girl in the program through social media regularly.
“All of our girls are required to create softball social media profiles and post their accomplishments, videos, pictures of them playing the game,” Bustos said. “Every day, I check in on all of them, make sure they are doing the right thing and I look at their videos and I’ll personally respond to them…this is great…great job…or if necessary I’ll let them know if they are doing something wrong or can do it better…I’m always connected to all of my girls.”
Ruthless also offers a national program for college recruiting and trains their girls on how to make recruiting profiles that will have a positive impact on their collegiate pursuit.
Bustos said the girls in the program are going to learn how to get noticed and how to avoid the pitfalls she has seen others make in the past.
“If a girl wants to play college softball, her public social media profile should be just about that,” she said. “It’s only to be used for softball purposes and I want to see it. I watch all their posts and all of their videos.”
“Sometimes adults see things in a different light than kids too and they don’t understand the impact something can have on them later,” she said. “Keep everything positive, think twice before you post something on social media.”
She said parents should closely monitor their child’s social media accounts if they are serious about playing collegiate softball.
“Just remember, everything that can be seen can also be seen by the coach at the college you want to attend,” she added.
College Recruiting is Ruthless
When it comes to playing softball in a DI or DII level college program, Bustos said many people don’t realize how hard it is or what’s expected of them. A lot of times, she said parents and players often either don’t understand what they want or don’t realize what they need to do to get there.
She also said girls don’t have to chase the DI dream to be successful softball players and accomplished adults later in life.
“Kids don’t understand that you have to go to school where you fit. They have to look at the schools they’re interested in and see if they have the education they want, but also look at the teams,” she said. “Look at who is on the roster. You might want to play at a certain school, but is your position even available? Do they need somebody with a certain skill set for the team?”
She said first and foremost, college decisions should be made on academics.
“People don’t understand, I was a top recruited player, one of the top Blue Chip players in the country, but I couldn’t get recruited because of my academics,” she said.
Instead of giving up, Bustos attended a junior college, improved her grades and made a name for herself as a softball player, performing daily on and off the field and wooing spectators with her sheer power and dominance of the game.
She reminds parents and players that there are millions of girls playing softball across America and not many college softball scholarships are available, but said it’s up to the girls themselves to open those doors.
“They have to work hard and play on the field as hard as they can every time they’re out there and doors will open,” she said. “They also have to do good in school.”
Even if you have the grades and can play on the field, Bustos said college coaches want player who are coachable. She stressed coachability when talking about what coaches desire in a prospect.
Girls in her program area expected to be pushed 100% both on the field and off the field. She said each marking period, they are required to provide their coaches with report cards and she even looks at them.
“Our program maintains a 3.8 average GPA nationwide,” she said. “It’s important to the program that the girls maintain good grades.”
“Education is our message,” she said. “Open your eyes and doors will open, but only if you work hard and put yourself out there. Know what you want to study…know what you want to become after school. We give the kids the tools but at the end of the day, they have to get themselves to college through their hard work.”
Bringing Parents into the Travel Softball Fold
Bustos said too many times, a problem travel programs run into is that they shut out parents from the decision making process and routine affairs of the sport.
“Too many coaches have a ‘my way or the highway’ approach and don’t open the doors to the parents,” she said. “That’s just the way things are, but we try to educate our parents and coaches that while it may seem that way, we know it’s very hard for the girls to excel when the parents are shut out. Parents play a large role in the development of these girls and we keep that door open, however we also want parents to know why we may do certain things, but there’s too much second guessing of coaches these days and by educating parents, we can eliminate some of that and they will be more on board with what we’re doing.”
New Jersey Ruthless
In New Jersey, Bustos said there will be no more than 10 teams from ages 10 through 18. She said the lower age brackets will serve as feeders to the top tiered teams.
The Bustos travel team and softball training program will eventually be based out of Jackson Township’s new Adventure Sports and Entertainment facility with the help Allan Proske , expected to open in 2019 . Proske currently operates the ASE Intensity Softball program and utilizes Ruthless trainers already for his teams.
The training at Adventure Sports isn’t limited just to Ruthless. Proske said. Training will be open to all teams who want to bring their programs to that next level and his vision is that the facility, which includes indoor training centers and outdoor turf fields will be a regional tournament destination for softball and other sports.
Often Bustos is asked about the name Ruthless in a sport dominated by girls and women, but she defends her name choice, saying it’s about how the girls play on the field.
“Girls need to understand that on the field, they need to play free, play hard and play ruthless,” she said. “If you want to play at the next level, it’s not the time to be a little girl out on the field, but to be an athlete…play confident…play hard.”
She said the phoenix is the program’s logo because it’s a symbol that the girls in the program will rise above both on and off the field.
“We’ll teach you how to play the game, keep your head up and rise up to any challenges in life,” she said.
Bustos will be in New Jersey for her team’s tryouts on August 1st through the 3rd. You can learn more about Ruthless Softball here. You can also email Crystl through Ruthless softball at firstname.lastname@example.org.