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Softball Tryouts Problem – What Ever Happened to Earning Your Spot?

By Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog

softball helicopter parentHad an interesting experience with tryouts this year, and I doubt it’s an isolated incident. In fact, it seems to be something that’s indicative of our society as a whole, as it’s not the first time I’ve heard of something like this.

Here’s the basic situation: we had a girl try out for catcher, but then got a note saying she had decided to play for another team. That in and of itself is fine — you should play for whomever you want.

But it was the reason that really stuck with me. Apparently during the tryouts, her dad saw that she clearly was not the best catcher trying out. I then heard through the grapevine he talked to someone affiliated with this other team who promised she’d be number one there, and the decision was made.

I find that rather disturbing. Instead of looking at where his daughter might receive the best training or best competition, he based his decision on the instant gratification of a guaranteed starting spot. It makes me sad, not only for society but for that kid and all the others like her.

A big part of sports is measuring yourself against other players and striving to become the best. If you are in the number two spot, you should have incentive to work on your game and get better. There’s a lot of satisfaction in knocking the former #1 off her pedestal.

Yet that’s not what seems to be happening. Helicopter parents — those who hover over their kids, smoothing the way for them on everything from which teachers they get in school to making sure they get into the right clubs or organizations — don’t want to see their kids fight or struggle for anything.

In fact, some are so bad they actually go on job interviews with the precious children and tell the interviewer how good the kid is. I kid you not. Needless to say, those candidates rarely get hired. But I digress.

Sports are supposed to teach you life lessons. That’s what all us coaches, umpires and supporters claim, anyway. But what lesson is being learned when a parent sends his/her child onto a team based solely on whether the kid will get the #1 spot — before a game has even been played? And what happens if the kid peaked at tryouts and is now a disaster? Does the coach take away that spot that was guaranteed and risk having the helicopter descend once again?

This is not a new phenomenon. I remember hearing about one very famous pitcher with a pushy dad. Back when she was playing travel ball, her father would want a guarantee that Ms. Famous would be the #1 pitcher. If he couldn’t get it, he’d take her elsewhere.

Seems to me if she was that good her dad shouldn’t need a guarantee. It will all come out when the games are played. If she can’t earn the spot she shouldn’t get it. And history shows she was plenty good enough to earn it on her own.

softball paved roadAnd that’s my point. Playing time needs to be earned, not guaranteed. Otherwise what’s the incentive to improve and become the very best you can be?

If you’re not the best out of the box then put in the work and capture that spot. It may not be easy but it will be a lot satisfying. It will also mean that you’ll play on the team that best suits your long-term goals instead of just the one that gives you instant gratification.

Life is full of challenges. It’s how you handle those challenges that determines who you’ll be. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always smooth. But there is a certain satisfaction to accomplishing a goal through working for it that you’ll never get by having the way paved for you.

Anyway, that’s the way I see it.

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