It’s glorious. To be in the circle. To be standing there on that pitching rubber – taking control of the game, and earning strikes for your teammates.
When you are good, pitching is fun. But it takes work, and lots of it.
It takes hours and hours outside of practice. It takes mental toughness. It takes a huge amount of self-discipline and desire and WANT, that no parent or coach or teammate or moment shining in the sun can persuade.
And pitching is thankfully, not for everyone.
When you first flirt with the travel ball scene, there is always a few girls that seem to shine early. Somehow their coordination at 8 or 10u is enough so that they can be a dominant pitcher for a team. And of course, as the rest of the team sits around fidgeting with their gloves on defense while the pitcher pitches, the kiddos drift off to dreamland and dream of pitching themselves.
They look at the every beautiful Jennie Finch – and want her number on their back. They want to be her. They want to pitch like her.
But lets face it. Pitching is a hard gig. Not so much for the younger kids, but as you move up in age groups – pitching gets harder and harder. Pitching successfully gets extremely difficult. Mindsets have to change between earning strikeouts and allowing defense to work behind you. And when the tournament, or the season ends…the pitcher has to keep going.
In the later 12’s and 14’s there is a sharp drop off of girls that want to pitch. And an even sharper drop off of girls that are successful at pitching. And even fewer more, who are willing, able, and hard-wired to put in the work, who have the grit, who have the incredible work ethic, and who maintain the mental toughness to keep at it, and keep changing their game to keep up with the game on the field.
Not everyone is designed to be a fastpitch pitcher. And folks…that is okay! At some point, not pitching well, or not developing in the later years as a pitcher when you were a beast in 10 or 12u takes it toll on the players motivation, self-confidence and desire to play ball at all. Pitchers end up on the bench, replaced by the next best thing. The girl who works harder than they do. The girl whose physique gives them an advantage in the circle. The girl who maybe started pitching later, and is stronger and not quite as burned out. The girl who wants it more.
We have been there and done that. We know how exciting it is to watch your daughter in the center of the softball field, poised and confident in her ability to deal the cards. We know the amount of time and money that parents put into their pitcher daughters. But if you are not putting that same time and effort and money and emphasis in enabling your daughter to ‘play the field’ so to speak – you are either a) ensuring her injuring or b) landing her a seat on the bench when she is not pitching.
And let’s be honest.
Coaches go with who is the hottest, who is on – when it comes to game time. We can whine and cry all we want that it’t not fair, and our daughter deserves this or that – but the reality is that when it comes to the championship game, the coaches are going with the pitcher who has the best chance of winning the game. (And yes, this changes from week to week, day-to-day)
Far too many parents are putting far too much pressure on their daughters to be a pitcher, (far tooooo young) when their daughters really don’t want to anymore.
If you have to say things such as, “But you have worked so hard,” or “this will pass,” or “But i just love watching you out there pitching,” or “please don’t give up now,” frequently – then your daughter may be pitching more for you, than for her.
Mentally and emotionally alone – pitching is not for everyone. Pitching is not for the faint of heart, or the girl who gets her confidence crushed easily. Pitching is not for a kid that isn’t willing to fight harder than anyone else around her to rise above and conquer. If she doesn’t have that kind of determination, she is not cut from the pitchers cloth – no matter how well she may do. Because there will always be someone better, someone coming down the pipe trying to replace her, someone vying for her starting position.
So instead of creating pitchers – let’s create softball players. Let’s allow these young girls to see their worth all over the field and not just in one position. If what you truly want is for her to love playing the game – then you need to be extremely realistic with YOURSELF and YOUR DAUGHTER.
She may be good. But is she “that” good? She may be the best now, but will she be able to hold on to that? She may love it at this moment, but will she be willing to put in that same amount of time plus some, to take the gig to the next level? She maybe successful – and dominating NOW, but is she able to emotionally and mentally handle those games where she wasn’t an ace?
Not everyone is cut out to be a pitcher! And you know what…thank GOD! And like Kenny Rogers said, “Sometimes you gotta know when to fold ’em!” It doesn’t mean your daughter shouldn’t play, just means she needs to round out her game a little.