For many folks, it is the beginning of another school-ball softball season. This is when families leave their comfortable softball families and venture out to be paired with put simply, “girls that they go to school with.”
And then come the questions and complaints, and accusations of politics and dissatisfaction with everything from the level of coaching their daughter is receiving, to the position or role that she is playing on her school ball team versus that of her travel team.
We hear things like,
My daughter is a pitcher (insert any position here), but her school ball coach puts her in right field (insert any other position here). Should I say something?
I am paying for hitting lessons for my daughter but school ball coaches are teaching her something different. I don’t want them ruining my daughter. What do I do?
My daughter is a select gold A level travel ball player, but the school coach is putting girls on the field ahead of her that aren’t as good as her. Seems like we are just wasting our time because of politics.
My daughter’s travel coach doesn’t want her getting hurt playing school ball, and the school ball coach doesn’t want my daughter playing travel. But no college coaches are going to high school games, so what should I do?
School ball in our area is not competitive, and I am afraid that the lack of competition and talent and good pitching will hurt my daughter when she returns to her travel team. Should I pull her?
Disgruntled parents with disgruntled kids. Which basically can equate to a lot of negativity, and bad feelings, and hard to coach teams that don’t gel well for the school ball coaches and ultimately a bad taste of ‘school ball’ in general.
The reality is that school ball is greatly different from travel ball.
- The goals are much different. In travel you can win tournaments every weekend and may be working toward a berth. In school ball, the ultimate goal is to make it to the post season – and this is played out one game at a time.
- The atmosphere is totally different.
- The coaches are different. Which doesn’t mean they are bad, as most coaches are also involved in travel ball.
- The talent level and talent pool is different. Coaches may end up with 7 pitchers and no outfielders, or 5 short stops but no pitchers – and they can’t recruit like in travel ball to fill a certain spot. So common sense should just tell us that moving players around is not a punishment, or result of politics, or a true indicator of how good a player is, but a necessity in order to field a team.
- The mind-set is completely different.
- The expectations are different. Student athletes are STUDENTS first and are accountable for their grades, and if they don’t perform and have to sit, they are not just hurting themselves. Very few travel teams are checking report cards.
- The politics (and of course they are in play as they are everywhere else) are different. In school ball, the coaches involved are not just volunteering their time because they are passionate about the sport, as most of them are employed by the SCHOOL, they too have a lot at stake. And of course, that makes politics part of the game.
- The time frame is different. (Travel seasons last 9-12 months, whereas school ball last 2’ish months) Which doesn’t give coaches a lot of time to work with, prepare and mesh a team together.
Suffice it to say School ball is just different. And although we realize that very few people welcome change in their lives without resisting in some way, shape or form, the other reality that we hope people will learn to embrace is that there is GREAT VALUE IN PLAYING SCHOOL BALL!
While you may not get recruited from the high school bleachers, you are representing your school. (And COLLEGES do look for kids who can balance and have experience being student athletes) It seemed, just a few short years ago, representing your school, and having a school jersey to wear on Friday nights, or lettering in a varsity sport and getting a lettermans jacket were things to covet.
In the past, athletes goals were to make a school team, and most athletes didn’t peak performance wise, or pick out one sport to pursue full-time until they were in (or after) high school. Years ago, there was a feeling of camaraderie, and pride, and inclusion, and being part of something larger than just YOU, that came with participating in a school sport. Friendships were made during practices, you found your niche by playing school sports, and kids (and parents) were FOCUSED upon competing against OTHER schools rather each other.
High school, (and middle school) are two very important stages in life!
These girls that we call our daughters are still finding themselves, trying to fit in, trying to see where there place is in life. And if they already LOVE softball, then what better way to be a part of their school than to play school ball.
It seems in so many ways, we are looking so far ahead (to college) with ultra laser vision that we are not allowing our children to just enjoy the PROCESS that is growing up.
Being a part of your school, adorning school colors, balancing practices after school and homework, learning to accept new friends and teammates, coming together for a common goal like winning state, or winning region – and putting the ultimate WE (the school’s name) above the ME, is such an important life skill. Being involved in something independent of their parents, learning to be coachable and flexible, being forced to work hard for months to finally reach their goal – these are all valuable things.
And these moments at the school ball field, where they are having to learn new ways to be a TEAM, are the moments in their lives that they will look back on with fondness, that they will share with their kids. They will remember the inside jokes, will look at their yearbook with pride that they have a team picture in it. These are moments, stages, processes in life that they cannot get back; but at some point in their lives they will yearn for the simplicity, and fun and good times when life was easy in high school. Why can’t we just ALLOW them to happen for our kids, without inserting parental negativity?
It is these moments of middle school and high school, when they are defining themselves and figuring out who they want to be – that being part of something BIG like their school – can be huge for self-confidence, and growth, and staying out of trouble, and being held accountable.
In 15 years, your daughter (not you) will get a call and be asked to come and play an alumni game. The relationships and friendships made during these years, last. And although they may lose touch with one another and go in 10 different directions, when that call comes in, they will take that old jersey out of the closet and show up and get to feel how awesome it is to feel like something bigger than just themselves. That feeling is so much MORE important than the cost of a pitching lesson. At that point, she won’t care where she played, she will just remember that she PLAYED!
We say, let them play school ball. Show up to the games wearing a school t-shirt, prepared to cheer and keep any negativity to YOURSELF. Leave the dugout alone. Let the coaches coach their way. Stop worrying and micromanaging your daughters softball ‘career’ and let her enjoy this process, this chapter in her life. Let go and allow her to grow up. Give her PERMISSION to have fun. Stop telling HER how you THINK she (should) feel.
Take a trip down memory lane and remember how awesome it is to get a school jersey and allow your daughter to feel proud of her school and her team without negating coaching styles, or being overly involved or stressing them out about where they play, or whether they will ever be able to hit again when travel starts up.
Let them have some space. Let school ball be THEIR thing. Let them grow up. Let them go through the PROCESS, and all the stages of life. TRUST! Take THEIR lead, rather than take the lead. We say just show up and support them, and let them be ‘little’ for just a little longer.