Today, an open letter from a player to the coach who made her hate softball!
It has been a couple of years since I walked off your field for the last time. And sadly, it was the last time I ever played softball. And I have you to thank for that.
Despite being blessed with an encouraging family, and people who supported me and my dreams of playing softball – the most lasting effect was left by you.
Your words hurt. Your words wounded. Your actions caused softball to be such a stressful part of my life, that I felt it was best to just hang up my cleats and walk away. Your behavior, your belittling, your mental manipulation, your political games and your coaching turned me so far away from something I had loved most of my life.
Even today, several years later – I look at a softball and I only feel the harshness and heartless place from where you coached from. Always behind the scenes. Always beyond the ears of parents and other adults. In those moments, after wins or losses – your voice and your choice of words bellowed in the hearts of your players. And one by one, you broke us all.
Perhaps you felt that coaching hard was the only way to do it. Perhaps you misplaced your own failures on the players who scared you the most, that they might achieve something you never did. Perhaps you slept well at night thinking that your negative feedback, and yelling, and mind games were the way to get the best from your players. Perhaps there were some on the team that gained valuable insight and were pushed to perform better by your witless ways. But not me. Perhaps I was just weak.
But in the moments when the team and I would gather, we would hear your footsteps, or see your vehicle pull into practice, and immediately everyone would clam up. Everyone would feel nervous. My teammates and I were instantly transformed into girls who loved to play in the dirt, to girls that were terrified to do what came naturally to us.
For a long time, all I ever wanted or needed was YOU to tell me I was good enough. All I thought about was impressing you, and pleasing you, and hearing you say that you were proud of me, that you noticed how hard I worked to get better, and that you NOTICED ME. But that moment never came. Or if it did come at all, out of your own remorse or guilt, it came too late, and I was no longer listening, I was tuned out to save myself.
I never complained. I never went to my parents with the drama. We ALL kept our mouths shut, fearful of what you would do had we spoke up for ourselves. Quitters are not looked at as good, valuable people. I was not a quitter. I knew my parents would want me to stick it out. But if they only knew the truth.
And each of us wanted to be an asset to the team. Each of us wanted to be wanted. Each of us wanted not to make waves or upset you because we knew what would happen if we did. We knew that the bus ride or the practice where our parents dropped us off would be hell’ish and full of your manipulative ways and spirit breaking endeavors. So we carried on. Lips closed and eyes on the ball, always.
Oh, we watched you. We watched how you tried to woo the parents and put on a face, an act – for those that you wanted to impress. We watched how you carried yourself, aloof and unaccountable and unapproachable. And we learned quickly that our opinions didn’t matter, that our pain didn’t exist in your mind. And if it did – even for a second, it was just us being weak….It was a fault in our personality. It meant WE didn’t love the game the way you did. It meant we weren’t good enough.
So we all stayed quiet. But today, I cannot be quiet any longer. I want you to know that you made me hate softball. You made me associate the softball with such stress and turmoil, and trauma, that I never want to touch one again. YOU did this. And so many people allowed you to do it. We were scared into silence.
Now I am an adult. And I think of you and feel sorry that you are nothing but a bully. You bullied so many young girls and never once apologized or held yourself accountable. It was never us. It was YOU all along, who failed to support. You said you loved us. You told people we were your family. And yet, I have never seen family members treat one another the way you treated us. The way you treated me.
I learned what narcissism and gaslighting were from YOU.
I learned to hate my time on the field, feeling relief only when it ended, when I walked off that field for the last time, and never touched a softball again.
I often wonder what I would have become had it not been for you. I wonder what different things would have been in my future had it not been for your negativity. And I wonder if you ever think about all the girls you have hurt along the way.
Tough love? I don’t think so. There is no love in how you coached.
What I want to say to parents and other players today is this. You do not deserve to be verbally or emotionally abused to play the game you love. There are too many people that do this today, under the veil of coaching. You deserve respect. NO matter how many errors you make, no matter how good you are, no matter what level of ball you play – you DESERVE to be respected. You may not get along with every coach that you play for, but that is never an excuse for anyone to be disrespected, or shamed, or manipulated. Speak up if you have to. Parents need to LISTEN to their children. If you are asking what is wrong, and your daughter says nothing – you probably already know something is amiss. Not everyone is who they pretend to be in the public eye.
Many nights, still today, I lay awake and wonder what could have been different had I not been so afraid to be cut, or benched – and just spoke up for myself and my teammates. I was just a kid then, and I needed help navigating this type of situation. But fear, kept me silent and made me a prisoner. And sadly, the only way to get out of the jail I was placed in by people I trusted, was to give up the game I once loved.