If you’re anything like me, you probably haven’t missed many of your daughter’s games. I was fortunate to have flexible jobs that allowed this to be possible. I did what I had to to make it work including going in early, staying late and burning every ounce of time off I had. I even took unpaid time off during her final 2 years of travel softball and the end of the recruiting process.

Crazy, right? Oh I’m sure you can relate. You know how much the game means to your daughter. The hours of practice with the team, all the days in between that she works on her skills, the lessons, keeping up with her studies, the other sports she’s involved in and her social life. She’s a busy girl who wants to succeed more than anything and you know this.

Valdosta State Softball - Softball Journey

Remember when you first became a parent? Your life was turned upside down and your world suddenly revolved around your child. Maybe it was even the first time in your life that you realized what it was like to love somebody more than yourself? And now here you are years later watching this little girl chase a dream. You’re determined to do whatever you can to help her every step of the way.

After her freshman year I knew my youngest daughter Hayley would go on to play college softball. I just didn’t know where. My perspective of what it would be like for me to be the parent of a college athlete was slowly taking shape, especially during the last two years of high school. I asked other parents of college softball players every question I could think of. I wanted to know what I would be in for.

A Very Busy Schedule

Last year I shared with you what it was like to watch your daughter get in the car and head off to college and experience the empty nest syndrome. Once you get over that emotional hurdle, you learn that in these days of constant connectivity, it may not seem so with your very busy daughter. She can’t simply reply to your text during a 3 hour practice, which afterwards gives her exactly 18 minutes to change clothes and get to her evening study tables.

Passing out from physical and mental exhaustion after that, she still didn’t respond, because she has strength and conditioning at 6:00am, an exam at 8:30am, a short break to eat something and take a 30 minute nap in the locker room, a paper due at 11:45am, enough time to eat another snack before team practice where it starts all over again.

All that does not even include her new social life she’s developing, even with the limited time she has for it. She will be surrounded by athletes from other sports throughout her college days. They support each other by attending games and simply hanging out in their downtime. They discuss their trials and tribulations, their workout routines, the games and whatever else young adults talk about.

You get what she decides to share with you when she chooses to do so. There will be many times that she does not want to talk about softball regardless of your curiosities. “It’s going good,” might be all she has to say. And she might not want to discuss her classes either. Odds are she’ll hit you up to “send more money” and tell you she’s got to go (to class, practice, study tables, etc.). The fact is that when she’s not practicing or studying she wants to just chill with her friends. It’s okay Mom. You’ll get to see her at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

After her first full year of college she will realize that she had much more free time in the Fall, because the season is extremely demanding. The rules allow them to practice more during season. And when she begins her games the travel just adds to the mix. She will miss classes and must learn to be resourceful to maintain her grades. That said, she will be happy that the season is underway. Whether she’s playing or not, the strength and conditioning workouts are a lot easier during the Spring.

Deciding What Games You Will Attend

College athletic sanctioning bodies have rules that limits each sport’s number of hours of practice time per week as a team and in groups of 4 or less throughout a calendar year. Softball programs are allowed to have a few scrimmages in the Fall, typically in late September and early October. Sometimes they give you a good idea of the playing time your daughter can anticipate in the Spring, other times not so much. It will likely influence your decision making process as to how many trips you’ll make in the Spring.

Everybody’s personal situation is different. How much time can you take off work or your business? Do you have younger children or other responsibilities that make it difficult to be away from home? And of course what are your budget constraints? As you’ve learned from traveling around your state or country for your daughter’s club ball, living on the road is expensive.

If you’re daughter is playing college softball in a warm weather climate that is close to home, you’ve got a huge advantage over the rest of the parents out there! Her school may host tournaments in the beginning of the season in January and February, where you can just make day trips to the games. You save money on hotels and meals.

For parents like myself from the North, every game for that first half of the season is far away. You have to decide whether to drive or fly and rent a car. Hotels and eating on the road are necessary and you have to take more time off work. The same may be true if your California daughter is going to college in Florida. For example, my daughter’s closest games this season are a 10 hour drive for me. The expenses add up quickly.

You might ask yourselves whether you want to spend $1,000+ this weekend for the tourney if your daughter isn’t getting much playing time. While wanting to support her team is a wonderful sentiment, the fact is they will play 13 to 15 weekends throughout the season. The second half of those will be conference play. Half of those will be home games, while the other half will be on the road. How far depends on the geographical boundaries of their league.

Depending on what level of softball your daughter is playing, the weekend’s games could begin on Thursday and end on Sunday. Or they may mostly be played on Saturdays and Sundays. There are also weeknight games, usually double headers at or close to her school. You’ll have to consider all of these factors when determining what games you’ll attend. One thing for certain is the further away she is from home, the more money it’s going to cost you to attend her games.

*Side Note* If your daughter plays for an empathetic coach, you may receive a list of the hotels that the team will be staying at throughout the season. From personal experience this is great. Considering the fact that your daughter won’t be allowed to go home much (if at all) from January through the end of the season in May, you’ll want to get the most visitation possible on your road trips. Being in the same hotel makes that so much easier, even if it’s just an hour each night.

Game Day From 1,000 Miles Away

Valdosta State Softball - Softball JourneyIt’s Saturday and the first game is at 1:30pm. At 1:20pm you get on the computer and find the Game Tracker link, open it up and wait for the lineups to be posted. You see your daughter is in the game. You may be sitting at a desk, on the couch or like me….standing at the table with my laptop on a box (poor man’s standing desk). I am an IT guy and use something similar on the job, which helps my back and to burn calories. It also allows me to pace around the house in between the action (LOL).

It’s a lot different staring at a computer monitor watching an animated graphical interface than it is to watch a live video feed or the game in person. There’s no sound. But, you’ll be happy to have this capability when you are unable to make the games. However, there are some frustrations. At times it might freeze, which could be due to a connectivity issue at the game with whomever is inputing the plays.

You’re watching, there’s a delay and suddenly the team’s have switched from offense to defense. You have to look at the play by play to see what you missed. Other delays happen and you’re wondering, “Is there a conference at the mound? Or an injury time out?” Then, all of a sudden there’s a couple runners on base with a 3-1 count to another batter. The reality of that is that sometimes the scorer is uncertain of the play that just happened, whether it was a hit or an error etc. When that’s resolved they input the plays and you see the screen blink with all the changes happening seemingly simultaneously.

You watch with great anticipation to see how your daughter does. If she’s in the starting lineup you might get to see 3 or 4 at-bats. If she’s a pitcher, well then you’re accustomed to all that action and hope the scorer tracks balls and strikes. If she’s a role player, you anxiously await for her to get an opportunity to pinch hit or run. It’s a different perspective for all of us. And as you get to know her teammates (friends) and their parents, now you’re eagerly watching them too, not to mention pulling for the team to win.

It is also nice if there is a Twitter feed you can follow. You get extra information that way, like “Web Gem! Diving catch by the center fielder Smith!” You might get details to help explain how somebody could get a single to second base or why there is a delay.  If you're really lucky and her games are televised or streamed live on ther Internet, well then that's as good as it gets.  It is a special feeling watching your daughter play on TV or the Internet. Your phone will probably blow up with text messages throughout the game coming from friends and family who are also watching.

When the last game of the day is over, the clock starts ticking as you wait for the phone to ring or a text to come through. She’s probably not going to call you on the bus ride home, so you expect a couple texts. She’s also likely got some studying to do on the ride or just might want to sleep (or both). If it was a home game you might get to talk on the phone after the field clean up is done and she’s back in the dorm or her rental.

Game Day at Away Games

Typically the way this works is she and her team will be at the field warming up for 2 hours before the game. You figure out what time you want to arrive. Many coaches greatly frown upon any communications between players and parents before the game. I like to be early and watch my daughter and her team warm up, from afar. I am a former athlete, student of the game and a coach, so there numerous things I like to look at (from both teams) before and during the games. My daughter’s mother on the other hand is content to arrive just after the first pitch. In either case, eventually you watch the games.

If it is the first day of a weekend trip, after the game concludes the team will pack up the bus. You will often get an opportunity to greet your daughter with a hug and kiss before she gets on board. If the coach isn’t real happy about the game, it may be better to wave at her with a I’ll text you signal. She’ll let you know what the coach’s plans are soon. They may go to dinner as a team on the way to the hotel or after they get cleaned up. They may be allowed to go with their parents to dinner or wherever. Regardless, she’ll have her curfew and most likely studying to do. On the final day of the trip after the last game, you might get 10-15 minutes with her before they board the bus and head back to school. Yea, another goodbye.

On the road games that you do not attend, your daughter will be referred to as one of the orphans. She will go with the coaches and other orphans to dinner and sometimes for ice cream, the mall or to see the sights of the town. Whether you’re at the games or not, when they have a long day scheduled with game breaks, they will usually have food delivered to the field and eat in the bleachers (with the team or with you). Their needs are met, so you don’t have to provide them with drinks or snacks.

Game Day at Home Games

These can often be the best experiences. After the games they will be responsible for field maintenance and clean up. Then, they can usually do as they please. You get more time with them at their home games. On the road you may only have time to go to dinner. At home you might get to attend a movie or take her shopping. And of course she’ll still have studying and a curfew. After the last game of the weekend, you’ll have to return home however far away that may be.

Conclusion

I hope this gives you some insight on what you may be in for someday.  During her playing days, people will ask how she's doing.  Depending upon her situation, there will be times you don't want to talk about it.  Other times you may share many things with them or in some cases, vent.  At times it can be a bumpy road for your daughter and for you.  Those times certainly make you appreciate the better days.

Her first semester of her first year will probably seem like an eternity, since you’ll be missing her (and she’ll be homesick). After that, time absolutely flies by. It goes quickly and before you know it, it will be over. Understanding this makes it easier for me to plan my trips. I want to be there for her and for me. No regrets.

 

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