**NOTE** This is a discussion in regard to TRAVEL/SELECT/ (or whatever its called in your area) teams from about second year 12U onward…. not developmental or recreational or very young teams or leagues.
At Softball is For Girls, we talk a lot about commitment in travel ball. There are always questions from parents (and players) who feel they aren’t appreciated or given enough playing time, or who feel let down for various reasons by the team that they are playing on. Should they jump the ship? Should they leave the team? They don’t like the coach, or the team wasn’t what it was expected to be. Should they take the offer from the new team that seems to have all their ducks in a row?
And the answers normally take two forms. That we need to teach our children to honor commitment, wait the season out and then make a change or transitionally – we have to do what is right for our own daughters and make sure that they are happy first and foremost. (Often times though it is the parents that want to make themselves happy)
But there is a secret side to the whole idea of commitment that is not popular to talk about. We will warn you ahead of time, that many….many people are going to disagree or find contention with this post. They will say, “We are committed!” But the question is – IS YOUR DAUGHTER FULLY COMMITTED?
And many of these folks displeased with this post, will be the ones crying “foul,” “This is not fair,” “My team gets too many pick up players,” “My daughter is not getting an equal opportunity to show her skills.”
All of which are popular reasons that parents become unhappy in their team atmosphere.
Many folks in the travel ball community equate commitment to simply showing up at all team events, PAYING their dues, showing up at tournaments.
Simply put, the dictionary describes commitment as : the state or quality of being dedicated to a common cause, activity, etc.
But there is another form of commitment that involves two things.
The two most important things on a successful travel softball team and it doesn’t involve the parents at all.
- Being committed to other teammates and coaches, and the individual players (THE GIRLS ThEMSELVES NOT the parents)
- AND girls being committed to being an ASSET to their team and constantly working to improve.
Let’s reiterate this.
At some point the oneness of commitment falls back on the player.
To make herself better. To apply corrections. To ensure her own playing time by learning from errors and mistakes and by putting in the TIME at practice and outside of practice to be the best player she can be. The commitment to the TEAM to be an asset is HUGE. And girls who are committed to their team leave a tournament or practice with a desire and passion to figure out what it is they can do to offer MORE to their team each and every time they cross the foul times.
The girls that are committed give 100% every play, every at bat – knowing that their 1/9th of the job on the field is important and critical and that there are other people counting on them.
Too often, parents of travel ball players feel that paying the dues for the season and wearing the uniform and showing up and paying the gate fee to get into the tournament mean that their daughter is committed. And then get frustrated and angry and feel unsettled when they see their child benched, or a pick up player being played over their daughter.
And coaches know that the easiest way to upset a parent is to say something negative about their child. So they work with the child in practice, out of ear shot, have meetings and pep talks with the girls, many of which are not passed on to the parents when practice is over. Coaches all have their own ways of trying to correct weaknesses – sometimes moving girls around, sometimes offering more reps in practice, sometimes benching a player whose attitude is detrimental.
But MOST of the coaches that we have ever met want ALL of their girls to succeed, to improve, to be an asset on the field, to be ACCOUNTABLE and RESPONSIBLE for their commitment to their fellow teammates. And coaches put players on their teams because they SEE their potential, they SEE something in the girl that they think will be an asset. And when that thing whether it be talent, desire, willingness, work ethic, raw talent, skill, passion or commitment on the part of the player begin falling to the wayside, it is frustrating to say the least.
The ONE thing that CANNOT be coached is WANT! Does your girl REALLY WANT it as bad as everyone else on her team?
The thing is that if you have a team of 11 girls, and you have 1-2 of them who are constantly making errors, or striking out, or dropping that one ball that would have secured the win, or that one girl who constantly becomes negative or pouts or whines in the dugout despite coaches setting clear expectations of the energy and attitude acceptable and required to be successful. A girl who despite showing up for practice, despite paying the dues, despite the coaches working with her, training her, teaching her – seems to take for granted her position or feels entitled to a certain position – what are coaches supposed to do?
The coaches also have 10 other players and families that they have to be committed to! Is it fair to stroke the ego of one or two girls who are clearly not pulling her weight at the sacrifice of the team?
10 other families are also paying big money to play. And there is a commitment involved in ensuring the team is successful as possible that rests solely on the coaches back. Isn’t there a general sense that the coach and players should be committed to them as well?
Trust me, the other teammates (and parents) see it, especially as the kids get older. When they see lazy Daisy taking right field for the 15th time after showing zero hustle and giving up runs that have costed games, it defeats the defense. When they see girls in practice not hustling, or in the dugout who are more concerned about where they are going to eat lunch after the game than they are about the game itself, it frustrates the other players who are out there giving 110%. When they see a teammate constantly pouting, or whining, or slamming down their glove turning one error or one bad inning into two – the ones committed to the common state or quality of the team, they and the other families who have committed, feel let down.
And let us be the first to tell you, many other players and their families – start to begin to feel that the coach may not be as committed to the common goals and core values of the other girls on the team who have personally COMMITTED to getting better, and are instead guilty of playing a game of trying to please everyone or politics that adversely affect the entire team.
We hear people say it all the time. After pool play is OVER, the best 9 should take the field. The team should put itself in the best position to grow and win, so they can move forward. But normally, the only people who really buy into this are the parents of the girls who are considered the best 9. Then the blame and shame and anger game and contention starts.
In an ideal, perfect world – a team would be made up of GIRLS who regardless of talent levels – have the same mental commitment to the common goals of the team’s success. But as seasons move forward, evidence begins to arise that there are some girls who are not as personally committed (despite paid dues and showing up) as the others are.
So what is the answer? The Solution? For one thing, we have to be willing to start asking our girls the tough questions. What can THEY do to be better? What is something they can offer the team? How can they prove their worth of being put in the line up or on the field when a championship is on the line? What can they do once they leave practice to ensure they are improving? How COMMITTED are they to the common cause, goals of the team? Are THEY willing to do what it takes, to dig deep and fine tune their inner softball beast? Are they up for the challenge that playing at the next level takes?
Because ultimately, the commitment always falls back on the girls to perform, improve, and be in unison with the goals of their teammates. And by handing the power over to our daughters we empower them with much more than the potential of more field time.