The Girl that Stunk at Softball

First year in a new town is tough, especially when it comes to sports and especially when the town is small! You would think that 8U Recreation league softball would be the perfect place for a young player to establish some roots. But today, with so many ultra focused parents putting their energy and children into youth athletics, it can be a hard place to fit in. Humorously, many of us have so many young players already labeled and locked into positions that there is not always a lot of room for a new kid on the block.

Enter this girl! The girl that stunk at softball!

This girl was just learning how to play. She was a second year 8U player. She spent most of this first spring season in her new town, with her new team – on the bench, watching coaches playing favorites and friends. Sure, it was instructional at practice- but come game time, for this girl it was bench time. Her parents didn’t complain. They knew their daughter was a little clumsy, and not quite as adept as some of the other girls on the teams, a late bloomer in their eyes.

They enjoyed watching her play anyways, and practice and work hard and simply sat back with a bag of concession stand popcorn and enjoyed how it feels to be at a softball field on a balmy spring evening watching their daughter do something that made her happy.

When All-Star season came around and the other girls were boasting and bragging, this girl was a tad upset that she didn’t make it. “Work just a little harder,” said her dad. “Believe in yourself,” said her mom. And this girl simply went on to enjoy her summer – the advice of her parents ringing in her ears.

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So it was for a few years. All star seasons came and went and this girl always missed the mark. Each time she would venture out to the yard and play with her re-bounder, or hit off her tee while her faithful Labrador retrieved the balls. Every chance she got, she would get her mom and dad or brother out in the yard to help her learn how to catch, pitch, hit, and dive into bases. She was slowly growing out of her clumsiness, and coordination was becoming her friend. She was growing tall and long like a basketball player.

When she was 11 she begged and pleaded with her parents to let her try out for travel teams. All the girls her age were playing travel, all her friends were playing travel! And so her parents sagreed. This girl went to 6 tryouts that season.

Her parents filled out ‘resumes’ and forms, while coaches asked her where she played, who she played for? Had she every played ASA? “I will play anywhere Coach and I don’t know what ASA is, but I wanna play college some day,” she quipped with enthusiasm. The coaches laughed. The players smirked.

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They timed her running, watched her hit, had 3 coaches scribbling down notes in a notepad when she fielded balls. And each time she left, hoping for the best!

When no one returned the calls or emails, or even texted to say whether or not she made the team, she would look to her parents with defeat. “Work just a little harder,” said her dad. “Believe in yourself,” said her mom. 

And so she did!

Middle school tryouts came and this girl determined,  tried out for the team. As the other girls showed up to tryouts wearing their travel team jerseys from all the teams that had turned her down, this girl wore her lucky t-shirt soiled in brick dust from years of practice and rec ball.

But at the end of the day, when the final rosters were posted – her name was not on it! That night, she finally broke down and cried. “Work just a little harder, ” said her dad. “Believe in yourself,” said her mom as she whisked hair away from a wet eye. 

And so she did!

Even so, this is how it went for much of middle school. Cliques and teams seemed to not have interest in this girl, the girl that stunk at softball – no matter what she did. She was often turned away before anyone even bothered to see what she could do. Many didn’t even take the time to learn that she was starting to pitch. Most didn’t have the decency to even let her know whether or not she had made a team. There was always somebody better! “Work just a little harder,” said her dad! “Believe in yourself,” said her mom!

And then one day by accident, when this girl was 12 and a half years old, came along Coach Bud.

This girl was practicing on an empty field near her home, Coach Bud was there too hitting fly balls to his daughter one field over. Coach Bud watched this girl practice with determination. Watched her pitch. Watched her go after balls like her life depended on it. Saw her throw and run and give it her all while she was practicing with her brother and her dad. Heck, half his girls didn’t try that hard in a real practice, he thought!

After a few minutes, Coach Bud came closer and sat in the dugout and watched this girl.  He saw her heart on the field. He saw her smile, and her determination, her willingness to work and learn. Her faithfulness to the sport and herself. He saw her working harder and believing in herself. And that same day, without a tryout – and without a notepad, and without a bunch of questions, Coach Bud asked this girl to come join his team!

He had seen all that he needed to see that day – because that day, he saw the heart of ballplayer!

Coach Bud knew about coaching UP! He wasn’t afraid. Coach Bud knew that 12 and a half years old was pretty darn young – and that this girl, the girl who stunk at softball, could really turn out to be something special on the field one day. She already was.

And so she did! She worked harder than ever, and believed in herself, and Coach Bud believed in her – and suddenly EVERYONE, all the people that turned her away, wanted HER to be on their team. By the time High School tryouts came, people were paying attention to the girl that stunk at softball.  They were paying CLOSE attention…. While many of those girls from 8U had already moved on to something else, or quit softball – this girl, was still working hard.

And so it is in youth sports! So many (far toooo many) counted out too young. So many coaches overlooking raw heart and hustle over talent.  Too many parents NOT encouraging their daughters to just work harder and keep believing. And definitely not enough, not nearly enough Coach Buds. 


 

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