What is the Mission of the Softball Journey Web Site?
The mission of this web site is to help parents through the Softball Journey, from the youth recreational leagues to school ball to college. Softball is a journey, not a destination. It begins and ends at different stages for everybody. The Softball Journey is an ongoing collection of experiences of mine and other parents who took the journey before you and those who are still living it today. I will share my experiences with you, the problems I encountered, how I handled them and maybe most importantly what I would do differently.
Please remember this: Softball is a game and games are meant to be fun.
Whether your daughter is just beginning in the youth recreational league, becoming interested in trying travel ball or is playing for the high school's junior varsity or varsity team, there will be information on this site you can benefit from. And if you can not find it, please contact me with your questions or comments.
My name is Greg Cruthers and I have been on the Softball Journey since 1998. I began the journey as a parent. Since then I have a been coach of youth recreational teams, the scorebook keeper for a travel team, head coach for a travel team, an assistant coach for a couple of travel teams, web master for many travel clubs and community softball program (youth recreational through varsity) and an assistant coach for the Swartz Creek varsity team. My business, Cruthers Enterprises, has even sponsored a couple of youth recreational teams.
Two of my three daughter's played softball and my youngest is still on the journey. Brooke helped coach the varsity team at Swartz Creek for a couple of years after graduating in 2009. She played in the youth recreational league, school and travel ball. Hayley followed in her big sister's footsteps, but continued on to Ball State University to play for the Cardinals after graduating high school in 2013. After 2 years she transferred to Valdosta State University and is now a member of the Blazers' softball team. That's a long story for another day ;-)
Looking back I can assure you that I made every mistake in the book and certainly did not meet the parent's expectations.
I played baseball in the youth recreational league, school ball and then in the men's league for several years after I graduated in 1984. When I began coaching Hayley's youth recreational softball team I basically taught the girls how to play baseball. It was not until I coached in my first travel tournament that I quickly realized I didn't know much about the game of fast pitch softball. I led my team into several weekends of butt-whoopin's, which resulted in a very unhappy group of parents, players and fellow coaches. Looking back I can assure you that I made every mistake in the book and certainly did not meet the parent's expectations.
The positive that came from the disastrous summer was that Hayley was receiving a lot of praise from the coaches of the teams we played. She was only 10 and we were a 12u team. I saw it too. She was talented enough to play on any of those teams that was schooling us. I decided to attend some of the upcoming state tournaments to find her a new team for the next season. There were a couple that really stood out to me. I took Hayley to another state tournament a couple weeks later. She saw what I saw and expressed interest attending their upcoming tryouts.
After the first weekend of tryouts for one of the teams we saw, Finesse Fastpitch, she had not been offered a spot. She was almost 11 years old trying out for the 12u team, which only had 6 open spots with over 50 girls at tryouts. They invited her back the next weekend. All of the girls were talented, but it did not intimidate her. Shortly after the second weekend tryout began, she was offered a spot on the team and quickly accepted. For the first time in her life she would be playing with girls more talented than her.
She went on to play for Finesse for 7 years, participating in NSA, ASA, USSSA, Gold and Premier sanctioned tournaments. At the time, Finesse was the only Gold & Premier level club in the state of Michigan, which are the highest levels of amateur softball you can play. Their alumni who have gone on to play college softball is impressive. I became heavily involved with the club and am still the web master. The experience as a parent and assistant coach with Finesse is how Hayley and I learned the game of fast pitch softball. It has given me a broad perspective in which I truly feel obligated to share, because I know I can help other softball parents.
While Hayley is living her dream at Valdosta State, I'm now an assistant varsity coach for Swartz Creek. I started this role in the journey the week after we moved Hayley into her dorm her freshman year. The varsity head coach coached Brooke and Hayley for 7 straight years. He offered me the position a couple years ago, but I declined because I learned the value of just being a parent when it came to my girls. As much as I would have enjoyed helping I wanted to let Hayley have her varsity experience with me as a supportive parent. When I was an assistant with Finesse I had arrangements with the head coaches that they were to coach Hayley, not me. It is difficult for the girls to separate the parent from the coach, something I know a lot of parent-coaches never seem to grasp.
Mid-Michigan Firestix Travel Softball
I am also coaching travel softball again, the 16u Mid-Michigan Firestix travel softball team with my old friend Kevin Babcock. Kevin and I went to school together and played baseball throughout our childhood and into the men's league after graduating in 1984. Our daughters played against each other in the Flint Metro League and both graduated in 2013.
Kevin took over the club several years ago and has worked hard to turn it into a respected organization. Neither of us have daughters in the club. We share the same philosophy in coaching and our goals for the club. Had a club like this existed in the area when Hayley was growing up, we would have had no reason to look elsewhere. The alumni list is growing with many more joining them each year.
Kevin and I run the Winter Workouts, teaching all players in all age groups the same fundamental and advanced skills. We also act as player advocates for all players to help them with their college recruiting processes. The bottom line for the club: To help players learn, grow and compete at the highest levels of the game and to prepare them for playing at the collegiate level.
I wish I had been able to acquire the wisdom of those who had been there and done that before me.
After all, I Swore I'd do it
I have told members of my softball family that I was going to write a book about the whole experience, which I now call the Softball Journey. I reiterated this proclamation numerous times during Hayley's recruiting process, which went on for over 3 years. That process can absolutely drive you insane. That combined with the numerous trials and tribulations of other parents I know makes for a valuable set of experiences that newcomer's to the process could surely benefit from. I wish I had been able to acquire the wisdom of those who had been there and done that before me.
And so I have committed to create this web site (blog) to help parents with their Softball Journeys. Aside from the college recruiting process where no two paths seem to be the same, much of the road from the youth recreational league to school and travel ball are. I hope to help parents understand all levels of the game and to avoid some of the common pitfalls, save them time and money, and help make their experiences more enjoyable. After all, softball is just a game and games are meant to be fun.
As I share my experiences with you, the problems I encountered, how I handled them and maybe most importantly what I would do differently, I hope to entertain you along the way.
It's Not a Destination
Not one girl in Brooke's graduating class went on to play college softball. Two girls in Hayley's graduating class went on to play for the local community college. The odds of a girl ever playing at some level of college softball are not very high. Year by year girl's quit playing softball. Some participate in other sports, while some end their time in athletics altogether.
At the age of 11 Hayley's travel soccer team won nationals, yet only a couple of those girls will go on to play college soccer. Most of them will play other sports including basketball, volleyball and softball in college. I've seen girls at the age of 12 who were dominant, yet got passed by the age of 16, while some who were in the shadows went on to become superstars. And only an average of about 4 to 5 girls per class ever makes their varsity teams. There is no universal endpoint or destination as every girl's experience is unique.
I love the game of fastpitch softball. With 3 daughters I guess it was meant to be. Picking up a baseball these days I can't believe how small they are. For all of the years I played the game I don't think I could coach it and wouldn't have a clue about coaching boys.
I am by no means a know-it-all and believe the learning process of the game never ends. As I share my experiences with you, the problems I encountered, how I handled them and maybe most importantly what I would do differently, I hope to entertain you along the way. I hope humor you and help you learn to relax and enjoy the Softball Journey where ever it takes you.