We are missing the mark a bit when it comes to our youth athletes. Actually, we are missing it a lot.
One of the most important aspects of our children participating in sports is keeping them active. We all know that exercise is important for the body and mind. Recreation programs have the number one goal of getting kids up, outside and active – and teaching them the fundamentals of the sports they offer.
And yet, go to any softball tournament on any given weekend, in nearly any part of the country and what you will find is an alarmingly amount of kids who play softball are not very athletic.
They go to pitching lessons, and hitting lessons. They go to softball practice 3-4 times per week. Parents are forking over tons of money to hone their skills – and yet not enough attention is being placed on the overall athleticism of the players.
These kids are winded running one lap around the bases. They are beat red attempting to make a tough play. They are tearing ligaments and straining muscles during games because their bodies are not strong. They lose energy half way through a long game and get tired quickly.
They are stuffing their faces with sodas and junk food in between games.
These same parents and kids who are working diligently to get their child on a collegiate team, are missing the mark on the one most easily controlled aspect of their talent. Their over all athleticism and health.
And in the end, the best players – the most versatile players are those that are the most athletic. Softball is competitive and any coach given two girls to choose from, will choose the one that is most versatile and athletic.
And just to be extremely clear – athleticism has nothing to do with size or weight. We have zero interest in pushing that sort of agenda. True athletes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
It seems counter-intuitive to have a daughter who is an extremely good pitcher, to pay for pitching lessons and to partake in pitching training – but to ignore the other aspects of athleticism such as cardiac health, flexibility and strength. Especially when these things will only work to make a softball player in any position even better than she is right now. If you take a good pitcher and add agility and endurance and strength training to her routine – she becomes an even bigger asset on the field.
As a child gets older, it is the athletes who will stand out on the field. The kids who participate in conditioning and weight training and agility training. The kids who see themselves as more than just a phenomenal hitter, or an ace pitcher – who also are consistently working to make themselves stronger, faster, more agile. A good infielder becomes great when she improves her overall strength and speed. A great long ball hitter, improves herself when she works on her speed to the bases to secure a better OBP. A pitcher who is agile and can field her position is more of an asset than one who just hurls balls into home-plate.
The reality is that to just go out and play a softball games, does not require a great amount of athleticism. However, when you have a player who has trained for speed, endurance, strength, stamina, flexibility and agility chances are she will make a bigger impact on the field – no matter where she plays. And playing a sport to the best of your ability, at full throttle – requires a great deal of athleticism.
We are blown away by the amount of girls who pitch, or hit, or are position players who do not work off the softball field to improve their overall athleticism. It is concerning to see how many kids struggle to run the bases, or the foul poles – ending up winded and sore. How many are not flexible enough to work from the ground up to field a ball, or can’t chase down a ball in the outfield.
We hear so much from parents – about the hours of training their kids put in to be a better softball player – and yet very often there is no additional attention being paid to these kids overall athletic condition.
If college sports are the goal, then we suggest that you continue to work hard on your softball skills – but that you also begin to work VERY hard on your child’s all around athleticism. If you think your kid is good now, imagine how good they would be with a workout routine, with strength training and conditioning.
It’s also very difficult to take an athlete serious, when we take a look at the way these kids are eating and drinking during tournaments. If you hang around any concession stand, you will see that Sodas and candy bars seem to be a mainstay for in between game snacks. Young players are consuming more calories than they burn during a game, and using food as a reward instead of as fuel for the body.
Don’t get us wrong, we realize that softball is supposed to be fun. We are all for a trip to the ice cream shop after a game. We realize that the vast majority of these kids will not play in college – but we feel we let our children down when we don’t empower them to see themselves as athletes that need to be trained and take care of from the inside out. This includes nutrition AND conditioning that makes them stronger as a whole.
Having our children plays sports gives us an ideal platform to show them how taking care of themselves nutritionally and physically makes a difference in their lives. This is a time to develop good habits that will hopefully stay with them throughout their life – even when they are no longer on the softball field.