A Fan Question & an Unpopular Answer

We receive hundreds of fan questions per week. Mostly, we post them to our facebook page in the hopes that our compassionate, experienced and amazing fan base of over 90K FANS will answer them considerately and honestly.

Every once in a while, we get fan questions that truly ignite a lot of feelings. Just last week, we received one from a mother of an 8-year-old who had been playing with a team of girls for a while, and who was recently cut from her team. And the girl….the LITTLE girl…the child, felt betrayed by the people (both adults and children) she felt were her extended family, with whom she shared so many fun times with and hurt and embarrassed to go to school to face her ‘former’ teammates. While the mother admitted she wasn’t the best player or the worst player, she wondered how she would explain this to her daughter. How she would help mend the broken heart that comes from being rejected, how would she talk her daughter into continuing to play because she no longer wanted to – when her feelings were hurt so badly by the very thing that just a few weeks ago made her heart, and spirit and confidence shine. 

downloadWe didn’t post it. Not because we didn’t care, but because we actually lost sleep over this question, because it is so WRONG on SOOOO many levels.  We have been doing this long enough to know the answers would be a mixture of kind words, condolences and well wishes like “Never stop doing what you love, Prove that coach wrong” to words of wisdom about how rejection is part of life, that this was a great life lesson for the girl, etc.  We also know that there are other parents of 7 and 8 year olds who could relate to this question. And that my softball friends, is just ridiculous and wrong.

Lets get to the IMPORTANT parts of this question. This girl was 8. (But we have received similar questions from girls 6 or 7 years old). 8. Second or third grade. Still needs help reading big words, and probably still picks her nose in private. If we cannot consider 17 or 18-year-old teenagers full-grown mentally, then we sure as hell, cannot consider these little kids mature enough always reason things out and to just abide by the motto, “Suck it up buttercup, this is life!” 

At 8 years old, many kids believe in the tooth fairy, and Santa Claus, and they admire and look up to the adults in their life and want to be just like them. Not fair, is their sibling getting a bigger piece of cake than they did. We know 8 year olds that go to bed at 7 or 8pm on school nights (when they don’t have ball of course). 8 year olds watch cartoons, and look at the moon at night while riding in the car and believe it is following them down the road. 8 year olds sing songs, and play silly games, and haven’t even reached puberty yet. One day they want to cheer, and the next they want to play softball. And yet, we are now saying it is okay to be crass, and reject 8 year olds based on the perception of talent, when so many of them cannot even stand steadily on one foot??? 

We, as a society of softball families, are saying that we need to teach the hard lessons of life to 7 and 8 year olds as early on as possible? Might as well get used to it, right? Teach them young about rejection and betrayal and hurt – and maybe they will become better humans? Maybe this ‘rejection’ – these bad feelings, this crying herself to sleep will make them have heart for a freaking game and one day they will thank you for it, right?

Go ahead, keep telling yourself that!

Keep telling yourself that being hard on, cutting, scrutinizing, militarily training, and yelling at 7 or 8 year olds girl is their key to greatness. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. But know in that human heart of yours….you are wrong on so many levels. There are better, age appropriate ways to do this! 

Winning has become so important IN A GAME PLAYED BY CHILDREN, that coaches are seriously risking the karmic backlash (and we promise it will come back your way)  and cutting 8 year olds, snuffing passion and heart, and in the name of competition are willing to look a little girl in the face and say, “Hey…you aren’t good enough to play on my team?”  (Yes, these are questions!) 

  • What happened to developing players? And COACHING UP? (We say this, grow a set and teach a girl HOW to play, rather than trying to farm in talent. ESPECIALLY at 8! If you cannot do that, you SHOULD NOT BE COACHING! 
  • What happened to teaching fundamentals?
  • What happened to having a heart? Having compassion? 

Has the game, the money, the ‘talent pool’, the will to win, the fierce competition, the bravado, the bragging rights, the desire to get these (8 year olds) into college seriously blinded us from what is really important here? Who, and WHAT are we becoming? 

If you are THAT parent sitting on the sidelines, or that coach – actually talking aloud about how 7-year-old Suzy sucks while your daughter is such an athlete, then YOU are part of the problem.

Seriously people. Why is it suddenly okay to talk poorly about little girls? Sure, we do it under the veil of honesty, and competition – but the reality is that gossiping and negating 7 and 8 year olds makes you a jackwagon. Pick on someone your own size.

Or how about this, retract to the life lesson you learned when you were little and if you have nothing good to say, then keep your mouth closed. When grown people talk about children in terms of ‘sucking’ or being good – there is something really wrong.

Realize that all these kids grow and develop at different times and levels, and your all-star may peak at 12,quit at 13, get pregnant at 15,  while Suzy may grow into the best player in your small town and be the one who takes the softball thing all the way to college. WE HAVE SEEN THIS HAPPEN, more often than not! THIS IS THE REALITY OF COACHING YOUNG GIRLS.

YOUR JOB is to teach the fundamentals and keep the LOVE OF THE GAME IN THEIR HEART. Teach them that there are people in this world who won’t give up on them, that human beings are not just replaceable, and that YES – THEY CAN DO THIS and do it WELL! 

We have flashing news for many of you. We have been in this travel ball thing long enough to know FIRST HAND that the girls who are superstars at 8…..often don’t even play at 12. And by 16 years old – you are lucky to have 40%, heck 20% of the girls you started playing rec ball with in elementary school, still interested in spending their weekends at the ballfield.

Some of this is because of burnout, some of this is because interests naturally change, much of this is because talent changes. And sometimes it because someone LONG ago gave them… a young girl who loved playing softball… the preconceived notion that she wasn’t good enough, and taught her too early in life that she would not succeed.

Children grow. Things change quickly. And the time has come to do some hard thinking about your role as coach and parent when it comes to these YOUNG girls playing a GAME!  6, 7 and 8 year old deserve to be allowed to be children, and have plenty of time to learn the hardcore life lessons that the softball life has to offer. 

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