Quick Hits

Quick Reads - Brief Softball Articles

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!

 

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

You have tryouts, pick your team, collect money, have a few practices and jump right back into playing tournaments.  It’s like summer softball never ended.  That is except for the change in weather, girls going back to school and the constant player availability problems.  

The sport has grown so much that some teams play as many tournaments in the fall as they do during the summer.  You try to determine which tournaments to attend based on cost, exposure opportunities and the talent level of your team.  After that is figured out, because they fill up quickly, you pay and register your team.  Then it is time to practice.  Easy enough, right?

fall ball

Photo of our club inter-squad scrimmage day in the fall of 2016 (16u & 18u)

Read more: Fall Ball:  What I Hate and Like

jess right fieldThis is a follow up to the article, My Journey to Self-Confidence in Softball, written by 14 year old Jess Verran.  Jess is an aspiring writer and dreams of playing college softball someday.  After her first post back in April I challenged her to write about her experience on the Varsity team.  It was a pleasant surprise to receive this article last week. 

Her growing self-confidence and self-initiative has been fun for me to observe.  As a coach who writes and talks about teaching life lessons through softball, Jess's articles speak volumes to this.  I am very proud of Jess and hope you enjoy this post as much as I did.

What It Was Like Being a Freshman on Varsity

by Jessica Verran

Making the Team

As a freshman you can only hope to make it on the Varsity team.  During tryouts I was hopeful my abilities would prove I deserved a spot.  As I looked at the other players trying out, sizing them up, comparing myself – I grew more uncomfortable.  

Read more: What It Was Like Being a Freshman on Varsity