An Open Letter from a Once Entitled SOFTBALL Player
My name is Jess. I grew up in a small town in Arizona, and have played softball since as far back as I can remember. I am currently in college, playing on my junior college team.
As a fan of your page, I wanted to share something with your fastpitch families. It’s a lesson that has come at a great cost to me as a player and as a person.
My brother played competitive travel baseball, and my father was very involved in his career. While he never coached me or my team, he always made sure that I was on the best teams around. He knew all the right people, was connected in every way with the softball coaches, which afforded me more opportunity for little performance at an early age.
I made varsity at my high school as a freshman, and never spent an inning on the bench, playing over seniors and other players who I now recognize were much better than I was. My school ball coaches were all friends with my dad.
It was the same with my travel teams. I was on the best teams in our area, and although I attended tryouts, I knew in the back of my mind that a check and connections were going to land me a spot on the team. I have been to every large showcase across the United States numerous times, traveled from coast to coast, have worn nearly every coveted jersey I could think of and pretty much thought I was one of the best softball players around.
I am not proud but I can remember laughing on the inside at my school mates who were on ‘lesser’ daddy coached teams. I would laugh that they played one day local tournaments, and never traveled. At that age, its easy to overlook or be so naive that you don’t understand that these organizations needed money to operate, and were always on the lookout for people wanting to buy their way to success.
So you get the point. I was an asshole. And my dad managed my ‘career’ and everything came very easy to me. We had the money, he had the pull and knew the right people, and I was an automatic in.
But here’s the thing….
I never learned how to work hard. I never knew that I was not as good as I thought I was. I never got benched, or sat down because of errors or mistakes. I played my position over other people who were better than I was.
Now, as a sophomore at college, I haven’t seen the field once.
I never learned how to compete, I never learned to be a team player, I never learned the lessons of hard work and how you actually have to DO the work to benefit. I carried an inflated ego, as well as a high opinion of my talent, simply because of the names on the front of my jersey.
But I never was that good. I never knew what it felt like to want to play and get off the bench so badly, that you would get home from a practice and hit another 8 buckets into your hitting net or beg someone to hit you hard ground balls.
I never got to learn that life can be disappointing and frustrating.
I never learned how to cheer on my teammates from the bench.
I was never told NO.
I never had to work for what I wanted.
I never learned how to improve myself, or become a better athlete because I HAD TO in order to play.
I also never learned that at some point…(and not soon enough in my case) your weaknesses would show up. Your lacks will reveal themselves. Others will see them and nothing will be able to save you. And all that entitlement all those years….isn’t worth a damn.
Eventually your talent, ability, athleticism, attitude will count the most and it won’t matter who your family members are, or what team you played on. This is true in every facet of adult life.
Eventually, you have to make a name for yourself based on your own integrity as a person – and if you don’t learn how to do that when you are young, it sure makes adulting hard.
There comes a time in life, when the will, desire, perseverance, hard work, competitiveness, humility, integrity, and respect that EACH PERSON HAS AS AN INDIVIDUAL will matter more than politics and money. All those checks written to big named teams and money spent to attend showcases didn’t make me better than anyone else. It just meant we could afford it.
I will finish out this season my college team – on the bench, and I will cheer louder for my teammates than anyone. I will eat my humble pie – because the girls on the field playing work their asses off and deserve their spots, and probably always have.
But I would like to leave parents of athletes with this.
You cannot truly buy success for your child with money or connections.
Being able to afford a team, or an opportunity – doesn’t make your child any better.
Knowing a coach, or getting special privileges or treatment because of who you are, is not doing your kid any favors.
Having your child ON the field when there are others who are better than them on the bench, does not help your child. It only helps your ego.
In fact, I can tell you first hand parents – you are hurting them. You are dis-empowering them? And for what? Why? What is the point?
And that’s all I have to say about this. I hope maybe one person will get something from my story.
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Thank you for your words. As a softball parent, I truly appreciate your thoughts and completely agree with you. I too believe I earning your spot and it is something I have always shown and lived by even when I was my own child’s coach. I made them earn their spot because I believed this was the only way they would learn and appreciate the position that they had busted their own behind for.
Yep, seems very shortsighted to get your child undeserved play time if she doesn’t merit it over better competition. I’m almost afraid that I’d overreact the other way if I were coaching and had a daughter on the team in order not to show favoritism. Does that happen a lot too?
Thank you for honestly sharing your situation. So many see this happen, very few confess that they are the ones being helped into positions they have not yet earned. The greatest thing we can learn from sports, is not how to field a ball, make a basket, or make a goal– but how to live our lives with great character.
My 14 year old daughter (in the 8th grade) has recently been going through the opposite end of the spectrum. She has been playing middle school softball with girls (in the 7th grade) who are privileged and compete on showcase teams. I hate to say these girls and the parents think they are far superior than my daughter and some of the other kids on the team and I am sure that they probably are (for the money they have spent they should be).
I can tell you that I have watched my daughter go out every evening and practice her pitching in the pouring rain, snow, and freezing cold and she has done this for quite a while now. It didn’t matter she was doing what she loved and was always trying to improve and be better.
(The year before the middle school team had a different coach and everyone enjoyed the season. The coach had closed practices and did not tolerate any problems from the kids or parents and lived in another town so she had no ties or connections to people in our town.)
Don’t get me wrong I know these other girls travel long distances to play on showcase teams and I can understand where they should think they are far better than the kid down the street who doesn’t have a pitching coach at her beck and call, but I saw something wonderful change drastically when my daughter started playing with these girls. She started saying do I have to go to practice today? I may be getting sick and won’t be able to go to the next game. This was not my daughter at all. The love for softball was fleeting fast. The coach said to the girls at the start of the season that everyone would be treated the same and she would have no favorites on the team. YEA RIGHT! These girls would make fun of my daughter while she pitched at practice (and the coach said nothing) and tell her things to try to make her look stupid in front of the other girls on the team. The coach would pitch my daughter the entire practice for hours and never made the privileged girls pitch in practice or even get dirty for that matter. Didn’t want them to get injured I suppose. The abuse that my daughter took just to play the game she loved, well let’s just say I don’t think I could have endured it. The parents were also so toxic to be around that my husband and I got to the point we dreaded even going to watch the team play. Some of the parents and the coach posted things on Facebook about how the team looked like the Bad News Bears without their kids playing. The coach even posted a video of girls getting hit in the face with balls and said this looks like some of our girls on the team playing. This all happened while the 7th grade showcase team girls were gone on a field trip for school. The coach was turning out to be a not so great role model! The only game that my daughter was allowed to pitch in they actually won the game. I saw her spirits lift some. The next week on the way to practice my daughter wanted to see if her name made it into the local newspaper so when she read it on the way to practice she busted out in tears in the back seat of my husband’s truck. The coach had given the pitching credit to the more privilege girls or pets on the team who didn’t even pitch in that game and didn’t even mention my daughter at all. It broke my daughter’s heart and made my husband so angry that he turned in her jersey and my daughter quit the team. Girls are mean at that age anyway but the adults (parents, coaches etc…) should open their eyes and see this kind of stuff going on and try to prevent it from happening. So many good softball players have been forced out of their love for the game because of this kind of hidden mental abuse or bullying. No one stands up to the coaches or players for fear they will either be the next target or it will be tougher on them. Some of them are just happy they made the team and will just take the abuse.
Don’t think for a second if you are one of the parents who defend your child and she quits the team that it will be easy for you (the parents) either. Trust me I know! You will be the topic of conversation from a bunch of parents who are already toxic and the coach will bad mouth you to everyone that will listen to get sympathy because “of course” she did nothing wrong. Most of what I heard was that “we were only jealous of how great their kids were” and maybe they are right in some way. I was jealous that my daughter was unfairly treated, bullied and took abuse she should not have endured while the privileged girls had such an easy ride and didn’t have to work for anything but the glory!