Beneath Every Softball Jersey Lies a Soul
We love our fan questions. We really, really, really do! We know that it takes guts to ask some of these questions, which is why we offer the option to do so anonymously.
Yesterday, we received an anonymous fan question/fan share – where the sender begged us to share it with all of you and that quite literally, had me in tears. Here is the question/statement.
“I have been coaching roughly the same group of girls since 8U rec. We have moved up every year together and started playing travel at the beginning of our 12U year. Each year, we get better and better – and because as is typical, we have lost a few players along the way we have had to add a girl or two each year. This year, we actually held tryouts which is something we have never done before. Our girls are all great friends, and the parents get along, but the assistant coach and I have been seeking out ways to push our girls harder and compete with the bigger dogs. Our tryouts were a success and we had around 27 girls show up. So when it came to decision time, we ended up cutting two girls from our team that have been with us since the beginning. We love these two girls with all our heart, but their talent has just not exploded with the same intensity as our other players. Before tryouts we told all the girls that no one was guaranteed a spot, and made sure that as we moved into our first year of 14U we were looking to play bigger tournaments etc.
We talked to the parents first, who were disappointed but who seemed to understand. Three days later, I got a call from the mom of one of the girls that she had tried to commit suicide, and that she was apparently devastated by not making the team. I hung up the phone and lost it. What had I become? Was winning all I could think about? Was there any way to make this right? When we had spoken with her about why she didn’t re-make the team, she seemed fine – determined to try harder and try out again and thanked us for being the best coaches ever. We explained to her that she hadn’t done anything wrong, but that we felt her time would be served better on a team where she would get more playing time and more time to build her skills.
Then…the call from her mom. I never saw that coming. Her mom told me she likened it to being kicked out of a family and was embarrassed to face her friends and teammates.
I have been morphed into a changed person with this call. Sometimes, when we think we are doing what is right, we forget that as you guys say on your website all the time, “Beneath every jersey lies a soul.” And there is no way for any of us to truly understand what it means to these kids to play ball – no matter what their talent level, or what kind of attitude they have.
These girls, just like us struggle with things that we have no idea are going on. And they get hurt. And they feel pain. And sometimes, softball is honestly their safe-place.
Knowing that my decision caused a child whom I care about so much pain, has pained me. Knowing that something I did caused her to even consider ending her life, has killed me inside. It was never my intent – but that’s really not the case. We had become so focused on team building and goals and the future, that to be honest – we didn’t think much about all of this.
It came to me that perhaps instead of cutting her, or replacing her – I could have just told her how much I loved her and kept her on board while being honest that she would have to step it up and earn her spot on the field come game day. I could have told her how much I believed in her and cared about and hoped that she would work really hard to find her way off the bench instead of just being complacent and satisfied with where she was. But I chose the easy way. And I devastated a child, and did something that hurt her enough for her to consider ending her life. I have spent a lot of time thinking about that. Especially since this was from a kid who quite honestly I wasn’t even sure still enjoyed playing anymore.
I just want to share this, with my own head hung down – so that we as coaches will remember in our scrambles to get to the top, that the real reason we are out here is to get these girls playing a game they love, and to develop skill and heart and friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. That at the end of the day, it is not about the trophies, or the scholarship, or anything but the girls. And sometimes, in fact likely most of the time – we really don’t know how these girls feel.”
Let’s just chew on this for a moment, shall we….