Face masks at the college level

Now that I have a more comprehensive sports package I have to admit I’ve been watching a lot more softball on TV. One thing I’ve noticed is the lack of face masks at the college level.

I’m surprised, really. Face masks have become very popular at the lower levels over the last few years. In fact, it’s more odd to see a player, especially a pitcher, without a face mask than with one these days. Even middle infielders and outfielders who probably don’t really need them are wearing them.

But in college, where the ball has the fastest exit speed and the players spend the most time in the weight room, you’re hard pressed to find a mask on the field. In fact, I can’t think of a single one.

Maybe this will be like the masks on batting helmets. A few years ago you never saw one. Now they’re more common.

Still, you have to wonder why you’re not seeing any. Is it that the culture is still too “macho” to allow it, i.e. peer pressure? Do the coaches discourage it?

The other thing I wonder is if when the current 12U and 14U players who have used masks their whole careers reach college, will they wear them, or will they stop?

What do you think? Why aren’t the current college players wearing them, and will the next generation do it?

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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 May 12, 2011, in Fielding. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Melissa Sisz

    Interesting post as we are debating on whether or not my 8 year old should wear one. She plays 2 teams; a rec team and a competitive team. Almost all the girls on the travel team wear one. My husband is old school and believes “there is a reason you have a glove”. But, there have been two mouth injuries in the past 2 weeks, which makes me nervous. My daughter has tried one on and feels it limits her field of vision. So, we are still stuck wondering. I would like to hear what others have to say about these…

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  2. I’m torn on this one, honestly. At 8U I’m not sure there’s any real reason to wear a mask because the ball isn’t usually hit or throw hard enough to justify it. As they get older, though,often their reaction times aren’t up to the increased exit speed of the ball off the bat thanks to modern materials and technology. There, a mask makes sense (although it took me a while to get to that point being old school myself). I think she’s probably going to wear one sooner or later if she’s in the infield so she might as well start getting used to it. I’m told the Rip-Its are comfortable and have a good field of vision. I have no stake in endorsing them, it’s just what I’ve been told.

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  3. In my opinion, the reason you don’t see face masks in college is the speed of the game. That may sound counter intuitive, but at the 16 – 18 gold level I see way too many kids fumbling around and missing grounders when wearing a mask.I think that the better prepared you are, physically and mentally, the better reaction time you have. College kids get much more time to practice and they generally have their heads in the game because of it.I would prefer my kid to wear one when pitching but when I see all the errors that others make because of not being able to see the ball it makes me wonder if masks are worth the trouble.I guess one shot to the face might change that opinion though. And I would never think of telling a kid she could not wear a mask.It may not be the mask causing the fumbling, maybe just the player…I would like to see a study done on this subject. That’s just my observation from many many games watched as coach and fan.

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  4. My dughter pitches at the 12u select level and she has worn a mask for the last three years. This past weekend she had two line drives at her while she was pitching. She caught both of them but the first one would have busted her right in the eye if she didn’t have exceptional reflexes. The other team even commented on her reflexes. She will not pitch or play the infield without a mask on. It is well worth the money. Reflexes will come but why risk a busted up mouth or face until then.

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  5. My dughter pitches at the 12u select level and she has worn a mask for the last three years. This past weekend she had two line drives at her while she was pitching. She caught both of them but the first one would have busted her right in the eye if she didn’t have exceptional reflexes. The other team even commented on her reflexes. She will not pitch or play the infield without a mask on. It is well worth the money. Reflexes will come but why risk a busted up mouth or face until then.

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  6. Being old school myself, and coaching kids and adults for some twenty plus years I do see a trend towards more safety equipment. No one wants to see their child hurt, especially the parents, and some parents just feel better they’ve done everything posible to protect there baby. I have spoken to the top athletes in the sport of fastpitch including pro players on the Chicago Bandits as well as upper level college players and they feel it gives the player a false sense of security, not to mention the fumbling around and some lack of vision, I do know the rip it masks are much better than the old style but I leave it up to the parents. We do work on reaction time at practice and stop play anytime we see a girl not paying attention. I feel there simply not needed at the travel level…….

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  7. My daughter wears her mask anywhere in the infield. In 12 and 14U travel ball she wore it only pitching and playing 3rd. She is now a starting varsity middle infielder and plays 18U club ball in the off season. She thinks she plays more aggressively with the mask and she makes very few errors. We have a family friend (pitcher) who had her jaw wired shut and missed most of her senior season because of a line drive to the face. That made an impression on my daughter at age 10! My daughter wears a Rip It after previously wearing the Gameface. Loves the Rip It mask.I think we will see more face masks at the college level as girls my daughter’s age reach college. Her batting coach is a D1 player who graduated from college last year. That generation didn’t have to wear masks on batting helmets so I think we’ll be seeing more.

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  8. Ken knows this is one of my favorite topics. Needless to say I have a definite opinion. The pitcher is the single most defenseless player on the field. A ball could be hit back that simply put, no reflexes could react to. Hitters and base runners are forced to wear a helmet but not pitchers. I know there is inherent risk to playing any sport but this seems to be a no brainer to me. My line in the sand would be right where it currently lies. Anything with as much or more risk of serious brain injury as hitting should require protection.

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  9. I am watching a women’s college super-regional game and saw something that made me run to the computer to post this. The pitcher is wearing a face mask. It starts with small steps.

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  10. A couple of thought using my daughter as an example. Currently playing second yr 14U travel ball and has worn a gameface since first year 12U because she has been hit TWICE in the face. Yes, she is a pitcher and a good one, however thats has nothing to do with getting hit. The first hit occured in 8U covering 2nd base on a hit up the middle and her team mate got the ball and launched the ball from 6′ feet away. Took the ball in the mouth and lost 1 baby tooth and almost lost front teeth. Two years later while pitching and covering a passed ball – the catcher throws a ball that bounces off the runners shoulder and hits daughter in the nose. You guessed – blood everywhere. From that point on she wears the mask. Until you see your daughter with blood pouring out or crying in pain its a simple choice. Once can be an accedint, Twice your a fool for not acting, more than that and take the blame for being an idiot. Its not just about the ball coming back to the pitcher its about safty. My daughter will be playing college softball in 4 years and I gaurentee she will be wearing a mask. I think in the era of $300-$400 softball bats a $65 Facemask will save a lot of heart ache. Until it happens to you or you child its debatable – after it happens you wonder why their was ever a question.

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