The travel softball tryouts "season" can be a stressful, political and confusing time of year. You're daughter has approximately a 3 weekend window to make a team for the next year. And the drama often builds the closer you get to the end of the summer season. I've been through this several times in two sports (travel soccer too) with two daughters. It's something as a parent you just want to be over with as soon as possible.
And I know firsthand that these cheap shots are often based on lies or half-truths, which mostly come from disgruntled and vindictive parents.
It's the bottom of the 7th inning with two outs and runners in scoring position and a base hit will win the game. A player steps up to the plate who is 0-3 on the day. There's a lot of loud cheering. Her mom yells, "C'mon baby. You can do it!" A teammate shouts, "You're due kid!" While looking at the player clapping his hands the 3rd base coach says, "Get this done like you can!" One of the many softball experts behind the back-stop blurts out, "Don't dip. Drive the ball!"
And all of that happens before the girl has even gotten into the batter's box for the first pitch. Ask yourself this: What do you suppose she's thinking about as she steps up to the plate?
Now that she's in college I've realized how much I miss the countless hours we spent driving to and from softball.
Competition is defined on dictionary.com as the rivalry between two or more persons or groups for an object desired in common, usually resulting in a victor and a loser but not necessarily involving the destruction of the latter.
Defining competition specifically in softball terms:
- Softball Player: To strive to outdo another player for a spot on a team, starting position, or to best players on other teams.
- Softball Team: To strive to win a game.
The key words in those definitions are, “To strive,” which is the act of competing. To compete in softball is to knowingly take the risk of being cut, not earning a starting position or of losing games. Players and teams are attempting to out-perform each other.
Beyond the fields our lives are full of competition.
Your daughter is getting hitting lessons from a coach/instructor. You watch her performance and judge whether she’s getting better or not. If you are satisfied, great! If not, your options are: 1)Talk to the instructor & ask questions, 2)Stop lessons & seek out another instructor, 3)Accept the fact that your daughter’s abilities may be limited or 4)Whine and complain constantly about the lousy instructor to everybody you know.
Which action you decide to take can be dependent upon her age and experience. Hopefully you can refrain from option #4. It makes a significant difference whether she’s 12 years old and just getting started or a high school senior or has taken lessons from several different instructors/coaches over the years. Since there are many high school age girls who've never received any quality instruction, it can be difficult for the parent to watch as they try new things. "She's never had her hands that way before or had such a wide stance," you may think. Sometimes they can catch up and other times they cannot.
Relating A Good Book to Softball
I recently read The War of Art, a book by Steven Pressfield. He wrote about his early years while aspiring to become an author. He had been struggling mightily to complete his manuscript that he hoped would finally make his dream of becoming a published author a reality. He had previously written manuscripts that were 90-95% finished, one that he spent nearly every day for two years working on, only to throw them into the trash before they were finished. He did so because he thought they were not good enough and did not want the publishers to disregard his future work.
He met another writer who had several published books that would become his mentor. One of the key points he learned was that he had to make himself sit down most every day and write, regardless of how he felt or if he was suffering from writers block, he needed to sit down and produce something. He also learned that he needed to write for himself, not what he thought somebody else would want to read. Lastly, he had to learn how to finish his work and submit it to the publisher.
The help you'll give her is not about softball. It’s about all the other dreams she’ll have the rest of her life.
We Need Strong & Confident Kids
I came across this article recently written by Stacie Mahoe, Stop Babying Your Athletes, Help Raise STRONG Kids Instead! She’s been active in the softball world and blogging for years now. In this article she opines, “I believe competing is being hampered, discouraged, and eliminated by people who forever pamper kids, giving everyone a trophy while telling them “it’s okay” whenever they mess up, and instilling the idea that you don’t pay for mistakes or shouldn’t have to.”
She also talks about coaches and parents making excuses for the players, while clinging to the belief, “It’s just a game.” Her main point is, “Don’t allow them to become victims. Help raise STRONG, confident kids who believe in their own ability to overcome mistakes they make!”
An 8 year old making a mistake in tee ball cannot be compared to one made by a 16 year old on varsity or a travel team.
I thought about the possibility that some people may take what she’s saying the wrong way, while getting defensive and missing the message. I have said many times, “Softball is a game and games are meant to be fun!” I have also recently written about the developmental aspects of Recreational Softball and tweeted to the girls that I expect them to make mistakes in those games. And I’ve also texted, tweeted and written things like, “Relax, take a deep breath and swing hard. Whatever happens; happens. You can look good striking out.” So I decided I’d better attempt to clarify the points I have been trying to make in order to avoid any confusion or mixed messages.
How Would You Have Reacted?
The video is a perfect example of the ultimate team player. First watch the video, then answer the questions below.
I was completely focused on my daughter and not the team. Yes, Mr. Perfect Coach was in the wrong.
No Need to Stress
Softball is a game and games are meant to be fun. That is until your daughter starts thinking about tryouts, cuts or whether she’ll make the varsity team next spring. The more she worries about it, the more anxiety she’ll feel. She may dwell upon it at school, home, through the winter recreational games and workouts. This self-induced pressure builds to the point that she becomes extremely jittery when she even thinks about the upcoming game or workout, let alone when they actually are going on. So, what in the world can parents do to help their daughters overcome this avalanche of angst?
Indoor Dome in Michigan - Winter Recreational League
Give her support, love, praise and encouragement.
The Absolute Most Important Advice I Can Give You
***NOTE*** This post is from 2013, but is still accurate and worth your time to read.
If you believe that your daughter may have the skills and desire to play college softball at any level and is in 9th grade or higher, GET A SKILLS VIDEO NOW! A skills video is a brief (about 3-5 minutes) demonstration of your daughter's physical ability to play softball. College coaches will take 3 minutes to watch the video and will decide whether they're interested or not. If they are interested, they will want to come watch your daughter play. They do not want to read a book of your achievements, awards or community services. Assuming your daughter is emailing coaches her player profile and skills video link, she should also include her upcoming tournament schedule with game times and field locations.
My daughter Brooke hitting against a future U of M star