The Journey, from a Softball Mom! (Cheri Naudin)!
I get asked often “What does it take to be a College Softball Player”. Not from a recruiting perspective so much as from a mom’s view, I will try to provide some insights. Just my perspective, not to recreate conflict or long rebuttal’s, just a mom’s perspective.
I have spent the last 6 weeks attending College Pre Season Tournaments with my daughter’s team. My daughter has played intensely since she was 5 years old. Is it really for you? If so, here’s my advice and thoughts. I am speaking to the athlete as well as the parent in my thoughts below.
The amount of work and responsibility is beyond what you hear or think about. Teach your daughters TIME MANAGEMENT, TEAMWORK and HARD WORK, NO EXCUSES and BALANCED PRIORITIES.
Student athletes need to embrace these and own them and make the decision to make it! And, each of us has their own balance. Decide what level your balance is at and whether your child has the GOD given talent to perform at the level you’re expecting them to.
We often speak about “The Journey” and what a great life it is. We hear stories of how fun playing the game in a big stadium in front of the crowd is. What fun it is to have that moment on TV or winning Conference Titles or rings. They get branded sports gear and get special recognition at school. It is an elite opportunity for only a few. It is an experience that few get to have. It is a journey for the family and the athlete. We have to be all in! It has been an incredible journey for
the whole family.
I still cry when the National Anthem is played as I have had a front row seat in my daughters journey and have personally seen the work, sacrifice, commitment, dedication and love of the game.
These athletes are amazing and have accomplished so much. Knowing all that they’ve overcome to be the best at what they love. They have to really love it to do what they do. They have intense schedules. They have a ridged routine and it is not under their control. They can’t decide that they have too much homework or had a rough game so they’re too sore to go to the work out sessions.
I hear from players weekly that they’re too busy to go to Pitching, Catching or other Training sessions because they have homework or other events that seem more important. These college athletes wake up sometimes before the sun, get to their work out sessions while eating their breakfast walking to their first class. Then they have tutor sessions and other private workouts with their trainers. They have appointments with professionals for their aches and pains as their bodies get worked to the limit. Most of them are nursing some type of minor aches or major injuries. They need to do their homework while traveling in hotel lobbies and in airports or on buses.
They have hitting or fielding review with their coaches, team meetings, team events, community service events, and other school commitments. This is not for the “Average” player that puts in average effort and has average results. Don’t measure your success in the high school arena. There is no comparison.
The insane pressure to perform is real. Can’t just show up with half effort. The college party life is not an option. So why would you allow your teenager the party lifestyle. An occasional social event like birthday events, proms, family events are part of life but so many emphasize attending every event. I have found over the years that kids use this as an excuse when the work gets too hard. It is way easier to go to every party you’re invited to and “hang” out with their friends. My advice is to make your softball friends your friends as you all have the same priorities. Be friends with your athlete friends as their lives are more in sync with yours. These other friends will never experience the journey you have as an athlete. You are there as a student athlete and you have priorities unlike other students on campus. These friends that are non-athletes will not have the journey in college that you will have either.
Teamwork is paramount for these young athletes as they’re together for long extended periods of time. They share hotel rooms and work outs and lots of meals. You have to be tolerant and forgiving and allow each of them to be themselves. They become their family and support system.
Can they manage their Academics while training to be a top athlete? This is a very important part for the parents to be involved with. Help them manage their schedules to carve out time for studying and projects. Be a good example and teach but don’t do their work for them. This will not help them in college if you don’t teach them to do it themselves.
No day off. There is Spring Break or Summer vacation. LOL. My sister told me at Thanksgiving one year that this would be the last 4 day weekend as we were just about to start the travel ball life. She was so right. But we wouldn’t trade one holiday for any of these experiences. We have incredible memories with families that are still living the dream.
Make your child’s dream a family vacation! You’ll never regret it. Our daughter Chanin figured out during high school that if she ran more she hated running less. Then it becomes part of your lifestyle to eat right and train hard.
We hear the younger girls talking about their club or travel team with excitement for playing for the big named University. They are often convinced by putting on the t-shirt that they will go to the school of their dreams and yet they aren’t on the highway to get there. If you embark on the trails traveled before you of hard work, dedication and sacrifice, you “might” get that opportunity! It isn’t as easy as it looks and isn’t for everyone.
I had a conversation with another mom that believes that there can be balance for the girls. Let them play basketball, volleyball and run track for their schools. It is a rare occasion for the majority of the girls nationwide to be able to balance more than one sport and still be elite at softball. The competition gets stronger every year. Are you an expert at something or a jack of all trades? There is a rare athlete that can be exceptional at more than one sport.
There are only 4-5 girls in each graduation class being recruited to a particular team and your competition is Nationwide, not on your local ball park. That’s some stiff competition. If it is really the sport for your daughter, then balance the sports that help them. Running cross country or sprints on the track team are good balances. Do the weight training class that some schools offer.
Avoid the sports that also have successful select or travel societies around them as the chance of a major injury is more profound. I have heard several coaches say that they do not want them to play an intense sport at another higher level as they do not want to risk injury or lose out on scholarships. But this is always a controversial topic. Just decide what is best for your family.
Girls are often distracted while playing High School softball and forgetting to do their work at the Travel Ball level. They slack off a bit and play down to the level of competition that they’re facing. They pick up bad habits as it is REALLY rare that you have a high school coach as that has experience at the Travel Ball or Collegiate level. I’m making a huge generality here but it is what I have experienced.
We hear that many States won’t even let the players train other than at high school. I strongly suggest that you continue your private training at the level necessary to play college ball. Play to YOUR individual best every time you step on the field.
Speaking of distractions, let’s talk about that… yes they’re a huge distraction but part of the process as it will be real in College too. Teach them and guide them when it is appropriate to have dates, proms, and other social events. I promise you that it will be the biggest obstacle if the social life is more dominate than their training. Some spend more time on Social Media then training for their dream sport. I’m saying… let them enjoy high school but balance it for them if College Softball is really their dream. Posting these teenage relationships on Social Media is a bad bad idea. Parents get on your kids social media accounts and see who they’re friends are and keep up to date on their social activities. There is NO privacy on Social Media and it is for the world to see. SnapChat is the worst thing ever. People it is not private.
We have also heard over the years that the brothers or other siblings take the toll for the players dream. I am sure that it has for each and every one of them. I truly believe that we work as hard for each kid in the family but equality is not ever there. Whether it is sports or education or social life it would be impossible for any family to give equally. Just do your best to support the kids in their interests and what they want for their life. Being a top level athlete isn’t for everyone!
One of the greatest part of the journey is our daughter has had productive, positive relationships with positive productive families! Those are life time friends! They’ve shared the joy, they’ve gone through the same struggles. It is not for everyone… Enjoy the journey at whatever level it offers you as a Coach once shared with me that “The Game will pass everyone by at some point, what is your point is not in your control so enjoy the journey”.
If you want it you have to find the time to do it. You have to love the sport, love the lifestyle. It isn’t for everyone. The rewards are endless. The journey is amazing. The memories priceless.
By Cheri Naudin @ College Sports Advocate & Softball MOM!