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.
Do any of these sound familiar? "We got that Big U camp coming up....gotta figure out that rise ball before then." "I need to work on my swing....let's go to the cages." "I just had basketball practice, but I need to work on my blocking drills." "Do you want to go to the dance or get ready for the showcase tournament this weekend?"
You may have read the article, Fall Ball: What I Hate and Like, and how it extends the fall season, especially with the new D1 recruiting rules. Last year with a very talented team we decided to play in some of the out of state tourneys to gain exposure outside of the Michigan region. All 3 of our tourneys were out of state late in the fall with the last one on Halloween weekend. And we practiced every weekend that we did not have a tourney from August through October. Less than two weeks after the fall season ended our club's indoor winter workouts began.
The summer was crazy too with 4 of 7 tournaments out of state including 2 week-long national tourneys. We peaked during our 1st national tourney in Kansas City (USA Elite Select WFC), which was the day after a local tourney we won playing late into Sunday afternoon. My team was on the road from July 7th through the 16th. It absolutely wore us out as we slept walked through our final 2 tourneys, the last in Peoria (PGF Midwest Nationals). In hindsight, we should have taken the weekend off before Kansas City....and maybe the weekend after.
If you think that's a bit much, consider that some area travel teams play as many as 7 fall tourneys with most of those several states away in the south. And remember that this is during school. Fall tourneys are on Saturdays and Sundays. We have long drives and/or flights with players often missing school on Fridays and Mondays. One odd positive to that is that it prepares them for all the travel and classes missed while they're in college. But, high school teachers and administration are typically not as forgiving or understanding of their students absences.
You see, it never ends. There's always something coming up. No time for breaks. Players (and their parents) are constantly getting ready for the next big thing (tournament, college camp, etc.) and are reluctant to take breaks. I learned from my mistakes last year as far as scheduling tournaments goes. This year, we played 3 tourneys, the last on October 14th-15th. I then instructed the team (and parents) that they were to take a mandatory break from softball until at least November 1st. I told them, "Do girl things. Visit family. Go to the movies, dances and football games," and do the things that you can't do every time you say, "I can't....I have softball."
Our first winter workout is November 19th. After November 1st I know many of my players will be taking pitching lessons and working out in the cages or doing tee work in their garages/basements on their own. Some will not touch a bat, ball or glove until that first winter workout. And that's okay with me. I'll also tell them to shutdown during the Christmas/New Years break. 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! This is also why I choose not to practice during our summer season. We play 3-4 days every week.....that's enough.
***There are plenty of articles on this blog about taking breaks.