Should My Daughter Play UP?
The question of whether or not to allow your daughter to play up, is common. The reality is that there is no cut and dry answer. Many people consider ‘playing up’ as a marker of a girls talent, when in truth – all kids develop and master skills at different ages. Additionally, the fastpitch softball community across the United States is vastly diverse. In some areas, where there are literally hundreds of fast-pitch teams – parents are able to find teams for their daughters in their age group, that match their daughters skill level. In other areas, the one or two 10U travel teams may not be packed with talent, and a very skilled and adept player in her age group may be bored or her growth stymied.
Most often, the parents considering whether or not their daughter should play up are in the younger age groups. 14U has a way of figuring things out, and tournament ball at this age is typically make it or break it, with coaches looking to fill teams with kids whose skill levels are on par with one another. It is sadly also, the year that the majority of girls who take up softball as just a weekend hobby tend to give it up for something they are more passionate about.
We believe that through your daughters softball years, there is a delicate balance that must be reached in order to give her the MOST confidence (on and off the field) as she grows. It is healthy and necessary for a girl to be the least talented player on her team for a while so she will challenged and pushed to improve by her peers. And, it is also healthy for a girl to be one of the top players on her team so she can learn leadership and gain confidence. And it is also important for young girls to be playing with girls who are on her level, where she can settle in and truly enjoy playing the game and growing AS A TEAM! Ideally, the third option is the best, having a group of like-minded girls and parents who share the same passion and goals.
So how does a parent decide? Is it safe, smart, wise, in the best interest of the child to play up? Is your daughter playing at a level that matches her ability? Is her development stagnated? Can she truly handle PLAYING UP?
The following 6 questions will help you decide.
1. Is your daughter’s knowledge of the game AND skill level so far above her current age group that she is double clutching on throws, holding back, and basically reigning in her skills out of fear of hurting the other players? If so, then playing up may be the best option if you cannot find a competitive team in your area in your age group.
2. Is your daughter emotionally and socially ready to play in an older age group? There is a BIG difference between a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old? Sometimes finding a HIGHER LEVEL team in her age group even if you have to drive or travel further may be better than subjecting her to the social environment of playing up. We have known many girls who play up, that get left out of the social aspects of the team because of the age difference. Remember…these girls spend a lot of time together.
3. How mature is your daughter. A larger stature for her age or a big bat for her age, doesn’t naturally equate to her having the same mental capacity for the game as older, more mature girls have. Eventually size becomes non-issue in softball and that 8-year-old who hits to the outfield fence is no longer a super star, but rather a solid batter.
4. Will she have any friends on the team? Certainly she will make friends, but one of the things that is so beautiful about fastpitch softball is that the girls get to spend time with their friends outside of school. This is also one of the things that the kids enjoy the most – and the building of these relationships can last a lifetime. Remember, girls that are happy playing and HAVE FUN will play longer. Will softball be just as much fun if you play her up.
5. Does SHE want to play up, or are you a parent that is worrying unnecessarily about your daughters college softball career at the age of 10? In other words, has she voiced frustration or annoyance? Is your daughter unhappy or have you put the tone of unhappiness in her heart? Far too often these days we put an immense amount of pressure on young girls. Much to your dismay, it is important to realize that many of the ‘All-Stars’ at 8U and 10U are simply average by the time they get to 12 and 14U and many don’t even play anymore…
6. Is it safe? Softball is anything but soft, and everything gets harder, faster and more dangerous as the girls grow older. The game becomes more aggressive and intense and safety becomes an issue.
At the end of the day, YOU have to do what YOU think is right for your daughter.
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