confusedYou take your daughter weekly for lessons after work on Tuesday nights for pitching or hitting.  It costs from $35 to $65 per half hour and may be a lengthy drive from home.  You do this throughout the fall and winter racking up the miles and money spent.  You and your daughter practice what she’s learning at home, school or a local softball facility, which might even cost you more money.  And after all that time and money you and your daughter realize that she just doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  How can this be?

You are frustrated that you’ve wasted so much time and money to the point that you feel like you’ve been ripped off.  Maybe you decide to seek out another instructor?  Meanwhile you tell everybody in your softball circle that you stopped going to that instructor, because he/she didn't help your daughter one bit.  Does this scenario sound familiar?  

The Next Instructor

You take your daughter to another instructor and go through the same weekly routine and spend more money.  But this time things are different.  You and your daughter are seeing the results you hoped for.  She’s improving and having success in actual games.  You are now the number one fan of the new instructor and rave about him/her to everybody you know.  

Or maybe the new instructor doesn’t seem to be any better than the last one.  Your daughter is a wreck, caught in between doing things the way the last instructor told her and the way the new instructor is telling her.  You start to think she’s going backwards.   At this point you’re so upset that your family and friends are worried you’re going to go postal.  

Reality And Parent Goggles

parent gogglesFor those of you who found an instructor that helped your daughter improve her skills and are therefore happy with them, good for you.  I encourage you to spread the word and help him/her get some new business.  I would also suggest you show some restraint from throwing the former instructor under the bus.  There are a lot of variables that can affect the outcome of lessons when it comes to the styles and techniques an instructor uses concerning any player.  A simple, “No, I wouldn’t recommend him/her,” should suffice when asked by other parents.

For those of you who have been to numerous instructors, but have yet to find one that could help your daughter make any progress, maybe it’s time you take a good long hard critical look at your daughter’s softball abilities.  It just might be the case that you see her at a level that nobody else does.  I’ve seen some extreme cases of this over the years.  As parents, we love our daughters and want them to realize their softball dreams.  And it is that love and desire that often blurs our judgment concerning their true softball abilities.  We all have Parent Goggles.  It’s just a matter of how thick they are.  

Could it be that your daughter is simply not capable of improving her softball skills much more than they are right now?  For parents who know their daughter’s dream is to be a great softball player and/or play college softball someday, this reality is a tough pill to swallow.  No amount of positive thinking, affirmations or practice time is going to change this reality.  If you’re able to snap out of your trance and realize that things aren’t going to happen the way you and your daughter dreamed, then you have a new responsibility.  She’s going to learn the harsh life lesson that sometimes we don’t get what we want.  It’s your job now to help her deal with this adversity, which will certainly not be the last she experiences in her lifetime.

The Biggest Problem With Instructors

truth detectorIn the above examples the biggest problem with instructors is this:  If they know without a doubt that they cannot help your daughter improve, yet do not tell you and continue to take your money.  Whether they don’t believe your daughter is capable of improving and withhold that from you – or - they do not adjust their techniques per your daughter’s abilities makes no difference.  When you give somebody money, you expect something in return.  

This problem is the cause of much anger and frustration when it comes to instructors.  If only they would have just taken you aside and told you the truth.  But, that’s what few softball instructors will tell you.  It’s not easy to tell a supportive and loving parent that they just don’t see it in your daughter.  And unfortunately, some instructors simply don’t want to lose your money.

Real Example of Me as a Hitting instructor

I could tell you to watch 3 players hit during a game and ask you afterwards to tell me which one you thought I was working with.  You might notice the first girl had a beautiful swing and looked like a great hitter.  The second girl might look completely different, strangely laying her bat on her shoulder with her hands pushed back, yet somehow however awkwardly, frequently hit the ball hard.  The third girl probably would not impress you at all.  While you may convince yourself that the first girl was the one under my instruction, you would be surprised to learn that I was working with all of them.  How can this be?

The simple explanation is this:  I make an assessment of every player I work with.  I take into consideration their age, athleticism, ability to learn, work ethic, and hand-eye coordination to determine what hitting techniques to show them.  For the first girl above I may believe she has great potential and decided to show her the common college softball swing, which is what you might see Hutch or Sue Enquist teach.  For the second girl I may have determined that she’s got good hand-eye coordination, but cannot overcome casting and dipping and is already a Junior in High School, so I’ve taught her my type of a contact swing.  The last girl may have all the desire in the world, works really hard and is an intelligent young lady.  But, her lack of hand-eye coordination and athleticism cannot be overcome.  I would teach her the contact swing too, but she just cannot put it together in a game.

monkeysI don’t charge parents anything to work with their daughters.  Although I may not get as much grief or be the subject of as much criticism because of that, it does not mean I don’t hear it occasionally.  I am honest with the parents when discussing their daughters.  It’s my opinion and judgment and there’s no reason for me to sugarcoat it.  When parents take their daughters to lessons that are farther away that they pay for, they’re literally investing their time too.  Many of the high school girls I work with aren’t with their parents.  They either drive themselves or get dropped off by their parents who wait in their cars or go home until it’s time to pick them up.  I believe this changes the parent’s expectations.

As an instructor I will be the first to tell you that I cannot help everybody improve their game.  I cannot imagine charging a parent for lessons, while knowing full well that their daughter hasn’t got it in her.  If you’re in the middle of lessons with an instructor and your daughter is not improving, please talk to the instructor privately (without your daughter) and ask them for their honest opinion.  They may now feel unafraid to share their feelings with you.  But, if you have any doubts you should try this:  Take your daughter to a new instructor.  Tell him/her that you are not interested in lessons, just an evaluation of your daughter’s potential.  Get a third opinion if need be.  But be prepared for what they might say, because it may not be what you want to hear.

I am not proclaiming myself to be the best hitting instructor around nor that my philosophy is the only way.  It is an evolving philosophy that works for me.  I read, watch video and listen to other coaches/instructors to see if they have methods that might help some of the players I work with now and those I'll try to help in the future.  I am still learning and these days try to gain more knowledge concerning the mental side of the game.  Some of my travel players work with hitting instructors on their own.  I try to guide them, not change them.  If there's something I feel strongly about that they should change, I ask them to ask their instructor about it.  Sometimes they continue to do things like striding, which I don't like, but as long as they're having success with it I leave it alone.  

My daughter had 4 hitting instructors in 5 years.  She also had a lot of input from college coaches at the camps she attended.  By the time she was a Junior in High School, she no longer wanted lessons.  She told me that she had enough instruction and wanted to develop her own way of hitting, which was based on all that she had learned.  She experimented and found what worked best for her.  I would notice subtle things in the games like moving to different spots in the box during an at bat or changing her body load.  Fortunately for me, this was at a time that she had already informed me, "Dad, I got this."  So, I was no longer in coaching mode with her; Only parent mode.  Her last two years on varsity and in travel were incredible and prepared her for college.

I hope this information will help you with your daughter and the instructors/coaches she is learning from.  Best of luck to you all!