Be careful what you wish for

There are any number of reasons players leave one team and move on to another. Sometimes the old team just isn’t a very good fit — the player who’s leaving is experienced and the players who remain are not. Sometimes it’s a personality issue — either the player isn’t a good fit with the others, or the coach and the player just don’t mesh. Sometimes the issue is physical — the player is big and strong but slow, and the team’s philosophy is to be a quick, running team. Sometimes you have a player who is committed to her game, working all through the off-season to get better, on a team where most of the others can barely be bothered to show up for practice. Sometimes the player will simply get a better opportunity to play somewhere else.

Then there’s the issue of winning. This one tends to be more of a problem for parents than for the players, but it’s certainly an issue that causes players to leave one team and move to another.

Let’s face it. Everybody likes to win. No one goes out to the field hoping that they will lose a close one, or worse yet get blown out. I think most coaches do their best to teach their teams the things they need to know to win. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Some teams simply lack the experience or talent to win a lot of games, at least in the short term.

So parents who think their daughter is better than the team get frustrated, and start looking around for a team that wins more often. They want their kids to know the thrill of winning a tournament, or better yet tournament after tournament.

Unfortunately, one of the things they don’t consider is why those teams are winning all those tournaments. Simply put, they have the players to do it. Here’s why this might not be so good for the new player coming in.

Unless that new player is good enough to knock a starter out of the starting lineup, and good enough by a significant margin, she is going to be a sub. After all, the team has been winning tournaments, so the coach would be crazy to all of a sudden make a change without a good reason. He/she may be looking at the new player as an insurance policy — someone he/she can put into the game without “losing too much.”

What does that mean to the new player? It means she may not get to play as much as her parents are used to. She’ll play during the week in practice games, and she’ll get some time during pool play in tournaments. But if this team is as good as they were thinking, she may never do much more than warm up on Sunday unless there’s a blowout, an injury or an illness. Again, the coach is there to win the tournament, and thus will put the best nine players on the field. If the new player isn’t one of them, her parents will have no reason to pull out the video camera when the games really count.

That’s a factor both parents and players need to consider. Which is most important to them — being on a winning team, or getting the opportunity to play regularly?

In my mind winning is nice, but the reason you sign up for a team and pay all that money is to play. While you can certainly learn things watching from the bench, there is no substitute for actually playing the game.

So if you’re thinking how nice it would be to join that team that’s always winning, be careful what you wish for. They were winning without your daughter on the team. They may decide the best way to win is without your daughter on the field.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on September 21, 2008, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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