Sat at hitting lessons the other night, watching softball player after softball player of all ages, walk into the gym, bat in hand ready to get in some cage time with a hitting instructor for $45 per half hour session.
Parents eagerly paying half a weeks grocery money (myself included) in order to improve their daughters performance at the plate. Visions of home runs, and base hits, rising OBP’s and increased RBI’s dancing through their heads. Down deep, every parent wants their daughter to be a stand out, to hold their own, to make them proud and ultimately to feel good about themselves and their performance.
We have always said that softball is the perfect balance between a team and an individual sport.
Successful softball takes a team of success minded individuals willing to work both on their own, and as a team in order to meet the goals of the team. Thus hitting lessons and batting cages.
There is a sense of accountability when you are on a SOFTBALL TEAM and you show up for a tournament or a game. The accountability is to your team mates. And while we think its awesome that kids are flocking to hitting lessons in droves, we also believe that in a much simpler time there was another form of accountability. Passion.
As we worry frantically about which $300 dollar bat to buy for our kid – and Demarini comes out with a new bat each year that promises to produce even more pop. Or about which instructor in our area is the best – we often forget that the passion for hitting and playing well, and for truly being a team player and bringing your very best to game day comes from some place that money cannot buy.
It comes from within. It comes from the girls who go out in the yard and hit off a TEE. Who go out in the backyard and somehow figure out how to tie a ball to a branch and hit the ball. It comes from the girls who love the game so much, that they don’t need a scheduled practice or a scheduled costly lesson or an expensive bat in order to feel their accountability to their teammates. It comes from a WANT to be better – despite circumstances. It comes from those girls who may not have anyone to throw soft toss to them in the evening, so like the girl in the picture below, figure out a way to get their reps in anyways….
She said “my dad wouldn’t throw to me so I got creative. Yes, thats a broomstick!”
THAT ^^^^^^^ is accountability. To herself. To her parents who support her and her love of this sport. And to her team.
Or this girl. Just days after ankle surgery, already back out in the yard ALL BY HERSELF….working on her swing.
Before $300 bats, and before expensive batting lessons and cages and hitting instructors, girls who really had the passion for the game would be outside throwing against a re-bounder to learn how to catch, or hitting into a net off a tee – or gathering some friends for a friendly Sandlot game on Saturday using shoes for bases.
The girls who really WANT to excel, are accountable in that they come home from lessons and go out in the yard (without being asked or told) to work on what they learned. The girls who realize that every time they step up to the plate or in the field, they are accountable to their teammates, show up to practice, and also practice on their own time, via their own free will because the last thing that they want is to let their teammates down.
There are far too many players these days, who in lieu of a cancelled practice won’t pick up a ball, glove or bat until the next time practice is called or game day. When we spoke with our hitting instructor he, who is very reputable in our area, he was flabbergasted that girls would return week to week when it was obvious they didn’t take their 30 minute lesson seriously enough to go home and do the homework.
In fact when I asked him, he said,
some of these girls and parents think that buying the hitting lesson, and the bat, is supposed to buy the at bat success. Girls leave here one week and come back the next and its obvious they didn’t work on one thing we worked on at lessons previously. But the parents hand over the money, and the girls think 30 minutes with me every week is some sort of guarantee. But it’s not. These are the parents who will move on to another hitting coach every few months because they aren’t seeing results.
Maybe in some respects we are doing things wrong. Maybe we should buy the TEE and the Walmart bat before we buy into the $300 composite. Then, just wait and see how much work our girls are willing to put in on their own. Using a broomstick as a tee if they have to.
Maybe we should let them hack it out on rec teams before jumping to travel to see if their passion and sense of accountability develops on their own.
Maybe we should only continue to fork over the money for hitting lessons when we see our daughters taking their dusty buckets and gloves and bats out into the yard to actually put in the work on their own, holding THEM accountable for the PRIVILEGE they are being offered.
It would be an interesting experiment to see how many of our girls – when left with a bucket of balls and a TEE, would actually gravitate towards these simple, basic tools on their own (without parental prodding)?
Accountability. Maybe, it starts with a TEE! Perhaps the most simple,
but basic hitting tool in all of softball.
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