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.