Results of the IOMT Castaways experiment
Back in March I wrote about a different team concept I was doing this summer. In case you don’t feel like following the link, it was called the IOMT Castaways – IOMT standing for Island of Misfit Toys. The team was put together by invitation, and was made up of girls I’d either coached before on a team or who were pitching or hitting students of mine. (Some were both, too.)
The primary credential to be on the team (which led to the name) was having been underrated or under-appreciated on another team. Perhaps it was a school team where they were overlooked for varsity, or not given a chance to compete for their primary position. Perhaps it was a travel team that passed on them, or one that took them and then didn’t play them or constantly criticized them.
Whatever it was, these were essentially players that other coaches didn’t think much of but that I thought could play ball. We also looked hard at the kind of people they were. We wanted not just quality ballplayers but good teammates with good parents. We also made it clear that the goal of this team wasn’t college exposure. It was to give girls who just love playing softball an opportunity to play purely for the love of the game. )Truth is there were a couple of girls I knew who had all those other qualities but were still interested in pursuing college scholarships, so I suggested they play on a team that had that goal.)
In any case, we just finished up the season last Sunday. So how did the experiment go? Were we able to take these “castaways” from other teams and train them up to be competitive, or was it a nice idea that fell apart in the execution?
I’m glad to say it was actually a very successful season. We played a mix of sanctioned tournaments (A, B and open), and finished with a record of 21-14 across seven weekends. In our tournaments we earned one second place finish, two thirds and a consolation championship. Considering I would’ve been happy with any one of those results, to have achieved so much in a single year was outstanding.
Perhaps my favorite story came from one of our players, who knows some of the families in the host organization for one of the tournaments we played in. It was a USSSA A tournament where we took third, and came within a run of going to the championship game. Apparently we were quite the talk of the tournament. Everyone was asking “Who the (heck) are the Castaways, and where did they come from?” Of course, our Florida-like uniforms certainly helped keep the mystery alive.
More importantly, and I think anyone who has ever coached girls can appreciate this, we had no drama. None. There were no hurt feelings, no cliques, no catty remarks behind people’s backs. Our Castaways genuinely liked each, and embraced their differences and the quirks of their teammates. It was one of the happiest teams I’ve ever been around – at least until our last game was over, at which point there were many tears shed for the end of their careers, and the end of all of our time together.
The only regret our whole coaching staff had was that we started it at 18U instead of 14U. We couldn’t help but wonder what we might’ve been able to accomplish with them with a couple more years together. Often your better teams are those with at least a core of players who have been together for a while. Almost everyone on our team knew someone from having played with them before, but it was hardly a familiar group to start. To see them bond they way they did, and most likely make friends for life, was an amazing thing.
So there you have it. Proof that with the right group of players, the Castaways concept works. There are no plans for an IOMT Castaways in 2014. But I’m keeping the organization alive. It’s sort of like the Three Amigos. Whenever another group of players need a positive, supportive atmosphere where they can get an opportunity to show what they can really do, the Castaways will be there for them. And hey, who knows? Maybe a couple of the original Castaways will come back and coach.