I am travel ball softball mom, and my daughter has been playing since she was 7. This year, she graduated High School and will be off to college to play softball.
At least, THAT was the PLAN! Now, I am not so sure. And today’s confession is my apology to my daughter.
What started out as a simple, fun way to pass the time and introduce my daughter to team sports became sort of an obsession for me, I didn’t realize it until just recently, and I have had a full month to soul search and reflect on my journey and am hoping that it may resonate, or help other parents that are traveling down the same road as I was. Perhaps their final destination will work out better than mine has.
My daughter started playing ball at 7. By the time she was 8, I noticed that she was more skilled than other players her age, became disgruntled with Rec ball coaching and coaches who I felt didn’t know their butt from a softball, and started coaching her myself. By the time she was 10, we were in full on travel ball – I was recruiting and analyzing players as if they were trying out for a professional draft, cutting her friends, and pissing off people left and right with my drive to win.
In hindsight, my intentions were good. I wanted to build an amazing team around my daughter, who was a pitcher at the time. I wanted families that were as focused and dedicated as I was. While to some it may be just a game – to me it was everything.
I had my daughter in two lessons per week – and we were practicing twice a week for 3 hours at a time.
Fast forward a couple years and some lost friendships to 12 and 14U, and I was making sure my daughter tried out for and made the best travel teams in my area. We started paying big bucks for her to play and travel to what I thought were the best events, with the best teams that money could buy. Our entire life, revolved around her travel ball. We were emailing coaches, and hooked up with recruiting agencies, and I walked around with a chip on my shoulder because I truly felt my daughter was the best there was.
Bench her, don’t play her where I thought she should play – and we would skip out and switch teams. Put her in the wrong place in the line-up, lose a game I thought we should win – and you could rest assured I was going to say something. This was my baby, and I felt like I knew more.
School ball came, and I was completely OVER the coaches and her fellow classmates that played. It was a circus. I would rant and rave (in front of my kid) and she would beg me to not make a scene. When I wanted her to quit, she put her foot down and told me she was having fun, and enjoyed her friends. “Your friends suck,” I would say. “Having fun won’t get you to college,” I would quip.
By 16U, my daughter was attending every college camp, and showcase event within a 350 mile radius. I wrote all her emails. People would always ask me for recruiting advice, and would ask me where my daughter wanted to play. “D1” I would say.
What I didnt notice during those years, was that my daughter had little input. One time during a heated argument with a travel ball coach the coach told me that I should ask my daughter what she thought! And I said what most parents say. This is what my daughter wants. We all say this.
But now, I see that it wasn’t. And I see that while we may think we know what our daughters want, and while we may think we are giving our kids every opportunity to make their own decisions, our kids never want to disappoint us. So they remain quiet. And they remain complacent. And they allow us to make decisions because we continuously tell them that we know what is best.
I became so obsessed and involved and put so much pressure on my daughter getting to play in college – that little else mattered to me. It took on a life of its own.
I wanted to be able to make that Facebook post with a picture of her signing her NLI, that her success became my ambition. Deep down, I feared the embarrassment to me, of doing ALL OF THIS THAT I DO, and that day – that signing day, never coming. How would that make me look? After all I have given up, and all I have worked for.
And I ruined the game for her. I didn’t know it them. I didn’t see it while it was happening. That was my mistake. I would ask my daughter her opinion, but she pretty much told me what she thought I wanted to hear. Even though I said I was open to her opinion, the reality was – I wasn’t.
We spent over $26,000 over a 4 year span doing things that I thought would get her further. She stopped playing with any of her friends, switched teams often, and softball became robotic. She became unattached, and I was so busy trying to make connections, and woo the right people, that I stopped paying attention to her.
So when NLI day did come, to a college 550 miles away from home – she was somber. That day when we got home, I called her ungrateful, and lazy. I questioned her work ethic, and threw all the money and time I had spent in her face.
And in one minute, with two words – and a slammed bedroom door it was over.
“I QUIT!” she screamed with tears running down her face. She could take it no more. I had ruined the game for her. It was all my fault.
My daughter and I have some work to do. My hope is that she will forgive me. And I see myself in so many parents of athletes. It all starts out well intended, but at some point it’s easy to lose the real focus. I hope that someone out there will learn from my mistakes.
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