Daily Archives: January 15, 2008

Seeing the lasting effect

Sometimes as coaches we wonder what the long-term affects of what we do are. Sure, we see when we win a game, or when a team has a good time during the season, or when a player we coached goes on to greater success elsewhere. But we don’t always know what sort of an effect we have on someone’s life generally until something nice happens.

One of those things has occurred. As many of you know I am part of the Mundelein Thunder travel softball organization. Each fall and winter we run player clinics that are open not only to our own players, but to any softball player who would like to work on her skills. About one-third to one-half of the participants any given year come from outside our program — mostly from our local rec league.

There is a young lady named Julia who participated in our clinics for several years. She was a rec league player. We talked to her and her dad about her playing travel ball, but her first love was dance and she couldn’t devote the time that travel softball required. Fair enough. After watching her move through some of the warm-up exercises we do you could see that dance was a big part of her life.

In any case, once players reach high school age, IHSA rules prevent them from participating in the type of clinics we offer. I found out last night, though, that she called the president of our organization, Bill T’Niemi, and asked if she could help out as one of our junior coaches, working with the younger kids to help them in the same way she’d been helped before.

Of course the answer was an emphastic yes. How cool is it that she wants to do this? After all, it’s not like our organization was the major part of her softball experience. But obviously she must’ve felt like she received some sort of value or she wouldn’t be asking.

Yes, she is getting service hours out of it. But there are lots of things she could’ve done to get those, and many would’ve required a lot less of her. But Julia has chosen to spend another set of Saturday mornings with us, this time passing on what she learned and helping younger kids have a great experience with the game of softball.

They don’t give trophies for that kind of thing. But it sure is nice to know we made an impression and fulfilled the mission every team is supposed to have, of helping players develop not only their softball skills but themselves as people.

Metal cleats in high school

In case you haven’t heard by now, the National High School Federation (Federation for short) has ruled that metal cleats will be allowed in high school softball beginning this year. The Federation is the ruling body for HS sports, not to be confused with ruling body for a large group of planets on Star Trek.

I haven’t heard the particulars on why the rule was changed. Maybe someone who reads this blog has the actual answer. A few of us were talking tonight and I speculated that this was sort of a Title IX issue. Metal cleats have been allowed in HS baseball at least since the days I was playing, so maybe this is just a way of making things more even. Then again, do the boys have to wear face cages on their helmets?

In any case, I think that metal cleats are a bad idea. First there’s the safety issue for fielders. As I’ve mentioned before, some are taught to block access to the base with their legs. Having a baserunner coming into a leg with metal cleats is not exactly a good idea.

That’s not the worst of it, though. The big risk is catching a cleat and spraining an ankle — or possibly popping a knee or breaking a leg. Before you think I’m a total wimp about this, I just heard a story about a male youth player in metal cleats breaking his ankle trying to stop and go back to the previous base.

The parent telling the story said she’s heard that metal cleats are fine on a well-manicured field. But how many of us get to play on those? I’ve watched high school games on fields that were a risk no matter what kind of shoes you wore, much less high-grip cleats. My teams have certainly competed on fields that were even worse. It just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Especially when you consider that the #1 injury among young female athletes is a torn ACL. So now you’re going to add in equipment that makes it even easier to pop that ACL. It just doesn’t make sense.


It’ll be interesting to see whether the number of injuries goes up this year. And if so, whether the Federation gives any thought to going back to a ban on metal cleats. Stay tuned.

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