Handcuffed | Fastpitch Softball

There’s an interesting thing going on in girls fast-pitch today, that seems to be a double edged sword for coaches, parents and players alike.

Even so, if you sit back with an open mind and truly look at the dynamic within a team – you will see that there is a lot of handcuffing going on. Some may call this ‘handcuffing’ as politics, while others see it as simply fairness. Others may see it as ignorance that costs coaches games, and still others will see it as simply the unfair politics that has seemingly taken over youth sports.

Unfortunately, it can be all of these things. And even more unfortunate, is that far too many coaches and teams today are being held back because they are handcuffed by certain players or parents. And many parents and players are handcuffed by coaches.

What does it mean to be handcuffed? It means that even after X amount of errors, you still have Jill playing 3rd even though Rebecca, who is pulling splinters out of her butt from the bench, is BETTER. It means that Janie and Suzie are in the batting order even though they are slow and have to hit a ball to the outfield fence in order to get on base. It means that the new girl who joined the team because she has the full gamut of abilities to help the team win, doesn’t get what she deserves. It means that some players have to work harder to get nowhere, while others become COMPLACENT and lazy, feeling confident that their longevity or RELATIONSHIP with the team will supersede their need to EARN their position – every game…every practice. It means that the coaches are consistently doing what is EASIEST rather than what is RIGHT.

Being handcuffed, means that despite coaches threats, or hopes to change or turn around the team, they never really do (even though deep down they know HOW and WHAT to do) because they are handcuffed by a sense of LOYALTY, to certain players (or parents) on the team. Yes, loyalty. 

The problem is, only the parents (and players)  affected favorably by this mindset are happy. And then, the parents and players who have been their the longest, or who have a friendship or fondness with the coach – become disgruntled and accusatory toward the coach.

So many people blame coaches for bad decisions, accuse them of playing favorites, and get mad, hateful and angry – when they don’t feel they are getting exactly what they want (because to heck with the other players) from the team. 

And while it is true that there are some unfair coaches out there – the reality is that too many players and parents today HANDCUFF their coaches by only being happy or satisfied when they get what they want. And let’s face it. Coaches are human. And most of them spend a lot of time ruminating about how to better the team and save the feelings of the girls on the team at the same time. Coaches want to do what is right, and just like every other human in the world – they want to be liked and appreciated and feel like the people on the sidelines are actually ON THEIR SIDE.

download Coaches are caught in the middle of a lose-lose situation, because parents and players today carry around a sense of entitlement, which handcuffs coaches and their ability to make effective choices and changes within their team. This dream of putting the ‘best 9’ on the field, rarely happens – because when it does it causes drama within the core almost always created by unhappy parents.

And the unhappy parents are always the ones who aren’t getting what THEY WANT or feel they deserve for their child. This mentality – handcuffs a team from being 100% and truly successful. It handcuffs coaches from truly coaching. It handcuffs players from really improving and being pushed.

It’s really sad how happy parents are, when their child is getting what they want – and how mean they can get when their child isn’t getting what they want. And yet for the most part, these same parents who WANT THE BEST 9 on the field – only want that if their daughter is one of them. Talk about hypocrisy.

Too many people today expect quite a bit from their softball experience WITHOUT holding their child accountable. And too many players today are showing up at the field, with a relaxed sense of entitlement – feeling as if they cannot be replaced, or won’t be replaced because they are taking advantage of the fact that the coach is emotionally handcuffed to them. Taking advantage of the coaches – as long as these coaches perform like circus monkeys and do whatever it is THEY WANT!

We talk a lot at SIFG about player loyalty, and coaching loyalty, and team jumping, and team dynamics. We curse coaches for sitting our daughters and blame them for ruining their passion. We dismiss and put down other people’s children. We accuse coaches of playing politics with playing time. We expect our expectations of what ‘should’ happen on the team to be the most important expectations. And folks, this is not right – and when our girls grow up and enter the REAL world, things are NOT going to be like this.

And coaches as well, are allowing many factors to influence their decisions on the field. They let Suzie play because her mom has a big mouth and they don’t want to listen to it. Elizabeth gets to play simply because she is a senior. Margaret plays because she is a superstar (or at least used to be). Annie catches because it’s what she always has done. Sally bats leadoff because there is no where else to put her. Essentially, coaches are handcuffed into making comfortable decisions.

We don’t have the answers on how to change this. But we do believe that coaches, parents and players are at fault. Perhaps the BEST way to start unlocking the handcuffs, is to OBJECTIVELY look at ourselves and our roles on the team and see what it is we are doing or creating that is holding the team (or handcuffing the team) back – and then letting the coach know we are giving them the key to unlock the greatness. Within our daughter and the team.

And coaches??? They need to start by making TWO lineups. One lineup that is the routine, the normal, the average, the comfortable – the handcuffed version of what goes on. And the second lineup? The lineup that they write that is free of handcuffs, that truly puts the best 9 girls on the field and in the batting order.


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