Safety, Softball & Facemasks

We get lots of face-mask questions. Should my daughter wear a mask? Do outfielders really need a face-mask to play in the outfield? Do college coaches look down on those that wear face-masks? My daughter is not comfortable wearing a face-mask, but her coach thinks she should? My daughter is only 8 and the balls aren’t hit very hard yet, does she really need a face-mask?

We also have tons of people who say things like “That’s what the glove is for, or my daughter learns proper technique therefore she doesn’t need a face-mask.”

The face-mask issue is always one that causes a great divide among parents, coaches and teams. Those that force their kids to wear them judge those that don’t make their children wear them while those that don’t wear them somehow try to sissify the players that do. ( a total waste of energy from both sides)

For now at least, it is still an optional piece of equipment at all levels of play. For now. At some point when a girl dies because she took a ball to the head and the parents of that girl have some pull and money to start a movement to force face-mask wear at all levels of play, face-masks are optional. Love ’em or hate ’em, we, like everyone else, have some opinions on the matter.

For one thing, and we want this to be CLEAR, a face-mask doesn’t make a player weak, or weak looking. That’s just hogwash, and all the rumors about college coaches thinking players are weak for wearing them, is just fabricated hype to press the issue. College coaches, heck…any coaches only care about RESULTS and if the results are good with a girl wearing a mask they aren’t going to pass her up because she wears a mask. 

Plus, we think the girls look pretty fierce behind those face-masks, and for many girls they are just enough of a safety net to make them more comfortable in the field. Not having to worry that there is some stray pebble buried in the dirt that will cause the ball to erratically ricochet straight into a chin, nose, or teeth causing deformation and damage can be a pretty comforting feeling for both player and parents.

If your daughter is a pitcher, a face-mask can literally be the difference between life and death. We will spare the hundreds of  gory pictures and stories we have about girls, pitchers – standing 30 feet away from a batter, who took a shot to the face, straight off a HOT, $300 bat made of high-tech materials suitable for the space station that is being swung by a girl who can bench 200 pounds and does squats for fun. We won’t give you stats, or share stories of girls whose softball careers were ended because of injuries. But you’d be naive to think they don’t happen

The funny thing about injuries, whether a broken ankle, a cut vein on the arm from being cleated, broken teeth, a broken arm or leg that occurs during a routine practice or a ball to the face – are planned, or predictable. They just happen. Normally right before the biggest game of the year or a showcase. Sometimes an ounce of prevention works. Other times, nothing you could have done, nothing the child could have worn, could have prevented it. And since not playing out of fear of getting hurt is definitely not option, PARENTS and PLAYERS get to decide what precautions they want to take, and which they don’t.

And no matter how fast a kid can react, how great her technique, how there is always that chance that the physics are going to align up just right, so that she wont be able to recover from her stride quick enough to safe her face, or her heart from taking the full blunt force of a ball coming at her at ungodly speeds. Still, we repeat  it is the choice of the parent and player. At the end of the day, no matter how insults or opinions are thrown around – IT IS YOUR DECISION. One you and you alone have to be comfortable with. There is no reason to argue.

A few months ago we were at the ball field when a third baseman took a pea shot to the face, blood gushing everywhere, and broken bones galore. Sadly, when the ambulance carried the girl away (who by the way had an amazing glove, was fast on her feet and an impressive 3rd baseman who hadn’t missed a ball in 5 years) it was the batter who needed consoling. That girl too, was traumatized,  feeling guilty because it was her at bat that caused that injury and forever changed by the incident. Honestly cannot imagine the amount of therapy it probably took her to recover from that.

The bottom line is when it comes to safety on the softball field, you have to always remain vigilant. Even during practices, girls should be wearing helmets at bat. Catchers should be wearing helmets even when pitchers are warming up.  Base runners should be wearing their helmets if balls are in live play. Coaches should make sure girls are always aware of their surroundings, paying attention to where the balls are flying. This sport has the potential to be dangerous.

And when it comes to face-masks, while it’s a personal decision, its one that makes sense. I am kinda of attached and in love with my daughters faces, and have invested a ton of money into their teeth, and would like to avoid trips to the hospital to reconstruct their noses if at all possible. That works for us, even if it doesn’t work for other people. If that doesn’t work for you, no worries. 

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