No Joy in MudvilleFall ball is upon us!  Many of the newly formed travel teams are practicing and playing together for the first time.  There's usually great anticipation and hope for success by the players and teams.  Coaches, players and parents will be getting a preview of what's to come.  The first couple of practices entail players getting to know each other and their coaches, while parents do the same.  Just when it seems that "All is well in Mudville," in creeps the doubt.

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Doubt, Disappointment and Anger

Having been through this experience as a parent and coach numerous times it's perfectly normal to have feelings of doubt, disappointment and even anger. You and/or your daughter may believe that this year's team or the way she's being utilized by the coaches could be better.  You might think, "Last year's team was better," or "she should be playing second base and batting higher in the lineup."  The team may take it on the chin a couple of times, which never feels good, but especially if you happen to be playing your old team. And nothing good comes from a coach who fails to keep promises he made prior to comitment.

On the other hand the coaches may be concerned that they are lacking in key positions such as pitching or catching.  They could have doubts as well about their choices during tryouts.  The turnout at tryouts might also have been down.  They might be disappointed in a player's performance during games.  They may suspect certain parents could cause problems from their apparent dissent.  As with parents and players, coaches too can become disenchanted.  Frustrations of coaches, players and parents can certainly mount in these scenarios.

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and sometimes it's not.

What do you do now?

Some parents pull their daughters from teams and search for a new team.  Some players decide to hang up their cleats.  Some coaches look for replacements or players to fill specific key positions.  Parents do what they feel is best their daughters, while coaches do what they feel is best for their teams.  These things happen every fall.  Sometimes before parting ways adults can agree to disagree, while other times they cannot.  And sometimes teams will simply disband.  There's no "one size fits all" solution, since there are too many variables to discuss here.

While leaving a team can be painful, the pain is temporary.  The most important question if you find your daughter in such a situation is, "What are you going to do if she decides to stay on the team?" 

Parent Do's & Don'ts If She Stays

  • This is your daughter's team for the year.  Constantly complaining and stirring up other parents, backstop coaching or bashing the coaches, other players and parents in front of your daughter is only going to make everything much worse.  So, try to make the best of it for your daughter's sake.
  • Ask to have a private meeting with the coaches without your daughter.  Ask all the questions that are eating at you.  This is your chance to make your case.  Maybe the coach will see things your way.  Maybe he won't.  When you're finished, accept what you can and cannot change.  Refrain from feeling the need for weekly meetings of this nature.
  • If it doesn't look like it will be a banner year for the team, try to keep things in perspective.  Is your daughter:  a)Getting valuable playing experience?  b)Having fun?  c)Learning?   Playing on a losing team is a huge challenge for you and your daughter.  It will either push her away from the game or make her want to earn her way onto a better team in the future. 
  • The game of softball is heavily dependent upon pitching.  If pitching is weak on your team, the only positive way to look at it might be that your daughter's going to get some extra fielding practice ;-)  You and your daughter will have to practice patience if it comes to walks and wild pitches.  Remember, the two of you decided to stay.
  • If she's not playing "her" position, try to appreciate that she's getting experience at another position.  Girls who can play multiple positions are of much greater value to high school, travel and college coaches. 

It was not all unicorns and sunshine. Nothing ever is.

Coaches Do's & Don'ts

  • This is your team and your players (and parents).  You committed to each and every one of them.  It's now your responsibility to help them be the best they can be and accept the fact that some of the players may fall short of your expectations.  If you cannot handle it, you should either disband the team or give somebody else the opportunity to coach it.
  • Be honest. Don't make promises you cannot keep.  Remain calm.  Realize that it is easier to coach a group of highly talented prospects than it is to coach lesser athletes.  Challenge yourself to be the best you can be.
  • Remember that all you can ask your players to do is to control their attitude, effort and focus.  If they're doing so, you must be prepared to accept the results.
  • Make the best of the situation.  You don't want to see you players having pity parties, so don't throw your own.  In competition you will win and you will lose.  Teach your players how to handle both and about sportsmanship.  Hold them accountable for their mistakes, but praise them for their efforts even in defeat.

The Bottom Line

I was a coach who stuck it out for a season with a lesser talented team.  After honoring that commitment, I stopped coaching and found a team for my daughter.  She earned a spot on the team at tryouts and played 7 years for them, but it was not all unicorns and sunshine.  Nothing ever is.  There were times we considered leaving, but decided to stay.  We stayed and made the best of it.  As parents we only want what's best for our daughters.  You have to make a decision to stay or go and not look back.  What ever you decide, make the best of it.  Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and sometimes it's not.

I just checked our local softball forums and as is the case every single year, there are players looking for teams and coaches looking for players.  There's a lot of people pushing the panic button.  I've seen people find better situations and worse.  Best of luck if either of those are in your future.