Breaking up is hard to do. It is. Especially in girls fastpitch softball.
Often times, when one player – or one team decides to move on for whatever reason, the wounds in the background are being metaphorically licked by the young girls left behind. Say what you want about ‘letting your daughter decide,” or “letting the kid decide,” the truth is that most often – it is the ADULTS that decide these things. For the kids. Because adults know better, right? 😉
Sometimes, the decision to break away from a team is one that comes after long, hard thought about the best interest, and future of the child. Other times, it happens in a split second burst of emotion. Too often than we care to mention, team break-ups occur because of dynamics OUTSIDE of the girls affected altogether (i.e when the coaches have a falling out).
You get it – past the ‘honeymoon’ period of teams, anything can happen. A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G! One little thing can change a team dynamic. One ego. One crazed parent. One bad tournament. One emotional outburst. One new player.
Maintaining the delicate balance of happy teams is probably the hardest thing in the world to do, because there are so many people involved.
Today however – we aren’t talking about the why’s of a break-up. IT. HAPPENS. Put on your big girl panties and boxer shorts and get over it, things happen.
Today, it is about how to handle a softball break-up with dignity, integrity, pride, sportsmanship. (Yeppers, we said sportsmanship!)
How to walk away from a team – or let someone walk away from a team, without setting long, rickety suspension bridges into a volcanic inferno that can never be repaired. How to break-up from a team without destroying friendships, without temporarily turning a young girls life into an avalanche of mixed emotions that sour the sheer sound of the words ‘fastpitch softball.’
How to be sportsmanlike, and respectful, – with the people that just yesterday you BRAGGED were your team-mates.
See for one thing, and this is VERY difficult for newbies to realize – as large as the softball community is – it is also very small. Those people you wish to spit on now – will circle back into your life at some point. These girls playing ball together – play together for YEARS. Maybe not on the same team, (for now) but eventually you will realize that breaking up with a team doesn’t automatically eject people from your life. If your daughter continues to play, you will bump into these folks over and over again! You will see that the softball circle is small – and bad feelings and behaviors when your daughter is 9, can, do AND WILL create a cesspool of karma down the road. So the best advice is to learn how to break-up. And, its easier than you think! Here are some tips!
1. The 24 hour rule. Never talk to a coach or parent right after a BAD tourney or outing! Let things settle, and then talk. When it comes to our kids, we all cliff-dive into protective, “I’m going to kick your butt,”mode when something negative happens. Let the dust settle. If after 24 hours, or a few days – you still feel hot and heated and unable to agree to disagree – then communicate CALMLY and respectfully with the coach or parent in question. Guess what? It’s okay to disagree. That makes us human. And if such disagreements over team dynamics or team politics breech a standing of moral ground, then so be it. Move on, and do so like a dang grown up! With composure. Remember that suspension bridge. If not for yourself, for your daughter.
2. TALK! Communicate with the RIGHT PEOPLE. IN PERSON (not in text or email) If you are leaving a team, or are a coach who is cutting a player – then be adults and talk to one another. Shut the heresy chorus up QUICKLY, and be direct, clear, concise, honest and forthcoming. For goodness sake – this is girls softball, not the presidential election. Don’t spread rumors, be the team cancer, or be that coach who tells everyone but the kid and her parents being cut that she is being cut. Have integrity. You may have disdain for the team, but leaving them high and dry without enough players to sneak away and join another team – creates a camel hump of issues to deal with later. Also – as a coach, REMEMBER THIS – your team is expecting YOU to be a leader, and act with dignity and respect! If a coach will do one softball family wrong, they will certainly do another the same way.
Too often, adults try to get one over on other people, or have the last word on an argument by being a jerk and trying to inflict pain or punish a team. Sadly, the only person being punished are the kids. Your daughter even. And that is not what you really want.
3. The adage that it is ‘easier to find a new job when you already have an old job,’ is often followed in softball. Here’s the thing. If you plan to leave – see #2, and let the team know. They will find out that you are trying out for other teams, which is your prerogative and is 100% okay. But don’t undermine folks by being sneaky about it. Let your old team prepare for your departure. As humans, we owe that to the other GIRLS ON THE FIELD (even if our reasons for leaving as adults are ones of emotion.) This is competitive softball – and the reality is that people move from one team to the other often. Its not an insult, it just is what it is. Do it right.
4. Leave without bashing the other team. Just go. Believe it or not, when the new coaches hear you talking about how awful your old team was and how bad the coaching was and how crappy the parents are – the NEW coach and the NEW parents are listening. (So are the kids!) And they hear future trouble brewing. Those rantings in the face of others puts them on guard, and can make them decide that they are not interested in your talented daughter BECAUSE THEY DONT WANT TO DEAL WITH YOU. Remember that what Suzy says about Sally says more about SALLY than SUZY!
If you left your job for a better job would you suddenly hold disdain for your old co-workers? Plus, you never know when, and under what circumstances you will meet again. (But you will meet again!) So make things as comfortable and easy as possible. And for coaches. That ace pitcher that just left your team? She doesn’t suddenly stink it up on the mound because she left. Don’t shoot her down just because she’s not on your roster anymore.
5. Don’t ruin friendships for YOUR KIDS! Life is hard enough for your girls. When they find friends that they care about, those relationships should be fostered. Not destroyed because two parents disagree about something on the softball field. (Repeat that last sentence three times and see how silly it sounds) Consider that your daughter goes to school with and interacts with these girls OUTSIDE of softball. While you may only see them at practice and on game day – your daughter may have to sit in class with one of these girls every day. Don’t ruin HER friendships. This means don’t discuss the ‘adult details’ in front of your children and allow the kids to keep their friendships intact. It is REALLY SAD when kids lose friends – good friends, because of adult softball differences.
At the end of the day, the girls are learning more about life than softball when they play. As adults, it is important to ask ourselves what it is, we as parents and coaches – are teaching our children? Learning how to communicate professionally is a critical life skill. Our actions as adults speak louder than our words. Plus, its important to realize that softball – and the team dynamic, is emotional for the girls. The relationships formed and lessons learned are powerful ones that will last them a lifetime.