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Quick Reads - Brief Softball Articles

meg tayPlaying on a travel softball team in exposure (showcase) tournaments is a challenging endeavor.  There’s a lot of practice, typically year round, and other time consuming tasks like contacting college coaches, going to camps, etc..  Those who retain the love of the game throughout this process put in the time and effort in the hopes that college coaches they’ve been communicating with will come to watch them play.


Sometimes the stars seemingly must align to have success with this.  There are times when a coach may only be able to attend a player’s games at one tournament of the summer.  And sometimes they can only attend one game or day of the tournament.  It’s like, “No pressure young lady.  The coach is watching you right now and this will be the only time she gets to do so.”  


I’m writing this article today, because of what I experienced a week ago at one of my 16u team’s tourneys.  A coach had already seen one of my players play in an earlier tourney.  She had also recently visited the school and loved it.  She is one of two catchers on my team.  I typically rotate them each game.  Other games they will split time.


During this tourney they were rotating every other game.  However, the coach interested in the player had sent one of his players to the tourney to watch her play.  She would report back to the coach later.  It was the other catchers turn to play, but she approached me privately and asked me to play her teammate, because she was being watched and she really wants to attend the college.  I was at a loss for words, which does not happen often.


My team this year has really been fun to coach.  They get along well with and support each other, there’s no drama and have overcome some key injuries (to pitchers) to have a successful season.  That said, they have to compete with each other for playing time in bracket play, where only 9 players are in the line-up on a team with 13 players.  Both catchers also compete for time in bracket play.  So when she came up to me and asked me to put the other catcher behind the plate…..well I did….and the more I thought about it, it honestly choked me up a bit.


Coaches of team sports are constantly stressing the importance of the TEAM.  I’ve never seen a better example of being a TEAM player in my entire life.  Nor will I ever forget it.  Would your daughter or player do the same for her teammate?

2016 coaching indy 2Since the last post was a bit negative, I thought I would write a little something more typical of this blog.  Every year I meet with my 16u team’s parents and discuss the college recruiting process as well as the team and club rules.  I encourage them to read some of my previous posts such as, “When Parents Wave Red Flags.”  We’ve just finished our second tourney (Michigan’s first weekend is June 14-17) and my parents have been a pleasure, as have the players.


Get to the field on time, say good bye to their parents, meet me at my car, carry the equipment together to the field, warm up, play the game, brief post-game meeting, carry equipment back to my car and then they can talk to their parents.  No helicoptering near the dugout.  Take it easy on the umpires (minor chirping only….LOL).  They get it.  And that makes my job a lot easier.  No red flags waving so far.

Read more: Let Them Grow Up

I am just dumbfounded, frustrated and disappointed. Why? Just read that one of the Big Colleges has gotten another verbal commitment from a 12 year old 7th grade girl. Please understand I am happy for such a young girl to be so gifted athletically that a perennial top 25 D1 college softball program and coach has made her an offer. It is not about that.

It is about the fact that these coaches are robbing a part of the girl’s childhood from them. These college coaches run around all preaching the same old lines, which are turning out to be just a bunch of bologna. What lines? “We love multi-sport athletes.” “Softball should focus on being fun for the younger age groups.” “We watch (recruit) the parents too during the recruiting process.” Yea, you’ve heard these and more I am sure.

ultrasound-scan

Check the ultrasound coach, could be a real stud!

Well I call BS. What messages are college coaches sending to players and parents who increasingly see 7th and 8th grade girls getting recruited to play D1 softball? They are essentially telling them that softball should be their focus now. How do you think a girl’s parents might feel about her risking a potential big scholarship to play another sport or to go snowboarding or skiing? And now there is a growing number of parents asking if their middle school daughters should begin working the college recruiting process.

How fun will it be for the girl who will be constantly held to a higher standard than all of her peers from school to travel softball? What happens when she doesn’t perform as expected or isn’t feeling well? With all eyes on “the girl who’s going to the Big College,” how fun will that be? Yea, it will be awesome when the Big College comes to watch again and again and again, but she does not do well again. No pressure there.

These early offers cannot possibly be for a specific dollar amount of athletic or academic scholarships. Most middle school girls have not even thought about taking the ACT or SAT yet. So, the offer must go something like, “If you score X on your tests and keep progressing athletically, the typical (pitcher) in our program receives X%.” Cool. No pressure there for the 12 year old. And let’s not forget the whole purpose of attending college, which is not softball.

The Big College will also want her playing the highest level of competition across the country right now, not when she is 15 or 16 years old. Have fun mom and dad unnecessarily dropping $20K per year for an extra couple of years. And again remember, we are just talking about a 12 year old girl who in a couple years will be a freshman in high school. After the initial buzz wears off for the parents and player, it will be only about living up to other people’s expectations. Oh and don’t screw up on Snapchat or Twitter dear. Fun?

It is a domino effect as well. With more D1 schools are getting verbal commitments so much earlier than even just a decade ago, the D2 and other divisions and sanctioned schools have also got in on the action. You should see the look on the faces of a player who will be a junior and her parents after I tell them at August tryouts that her dream school is only looking at the sophomore class now.

Another line coaches use is how they also watch parents to make sure they’re not crazy. I get it and know they do. However, at what point do these college coaches do that for a 12 year old? In fact, when did they begin looking at the 12 year old? Are we going to start seeing college coaches recruiting at 12u and 10u tournaments? Seriously? When the parents, who have made a huge financial investment in their daughter since age 9 watches her struggle or lose interest in the game (burnout), then what? No pressure.

Well, that seems to be the world we live in now. Gone are the days a 12 year old girl can just be a kid and play hard, have fun and enjoy a post game cupcake. Yep. These days they’ll just start asking if there are any coaches watching. Can’t wait until these girls are 14 year old freshman. Nope, somebody else might get them. What’s next? Will they start tracking former collegiate athletes who get married to see if they’re expecting children? Check the ultrasound coach, could be a real stud!

 

A quick update on the progress of the Softball Journey book I have talked about over the years. While I cannot say the exact date it will be completed or published, I can say that I am working on it daily. I will complete the rough draft by the end of November and am hopeful to have it published by spring.

I've been asked what the difference will be between this blog and the book? The short answer is that the book will be all-inclusive and in chronological order from youth recreational softball through the end of a college career and all points in between. I also have much more to discuss, especially concerning the college recruiting process and college softball experience.

teammates friendsOver the past 4 years since I've been blogging trying to help parents through their (daughter's) softball journeys, I have received a wealth of encouragement and feedback from across America (and Canada). The goal of the blog and book is simply to help people with this experience. At times it can be frustrating witnessing people make the same mistakes each year, such as coaching their kids loudly from the peanut gallery with college coaches watching.

I have suggested to many folks that they might be interested in checking out my blog. I know that some have and others have not. You can lead a horse to water, right? That said, I intend the book to be much easier to make use of the information and pearls of wisdom I continue to acquire. It could also be used as a reference book, where at the moment your daughter is 10 years old, but in a few years you'll be more interested in the high school section.

In the meantime I will continue to blog about the things that catch my attention in the moment. Thank you all for reading, sharing and your encouragment!

Greg

In recent years I've seen more softball players experience burnout.  Last year there were 3 (varsity level) players from our club who had the ability to play at the collegiate level, but instead chose to quit playing travel ball.  I'm not sure if they're even going to play for their schools this year.

Our High School tryouts are the 2nd week of March.  After that, their next break won't be until the middle of October.  Think about that!

It pains me to see players go through this, because it's mostly preventable.  Yet more and more fellow coaches tell me of high school aged talented players who've burned out and quit the game.  There are many factors that lead to this such as year round practicing & training, college camps and tournaments. 

2016 coaching indy 1

Read more: Softball Burnout

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