While I am definitely not a big-time gambler, I have always thought that if I wanted to put together a high-stakes poker game where I would have a high chance of winning I would invite the bucket parents of young, preferably beginner, fastpitch softball pitchers.
Not that they have a lot of money available to drop in a game. Lord knows you could buy your own college on what some parents spend trying to get their daughters a scholarship, and even lower-level play can empty a bank account faster than my friends and I could destroy the buffet options at a Pizza Hut.
But whatever money they do have would quickly be mine for one simple reason: their inability to hide their emotions on any sort of regular basis.
I’m sure it doesn’t happen intentionally, but I see it time and again. Their daughter throws a strike and they’re all smiles and excitement, ready to call Patty Gasso to tell her they have her next ticket to the Women’s College World Series punched.
Then the next pitch the ball is in the dirt behind the imaginary batter and they look like they’ve just been told they have to tell John Wick his new dog is dead. Kind of reminds me of this guy:
Well, maybe not quite to that extent. But all the signs are there.
The crestfallen face. The biting of the lower lip. The shoulder slump. The slow walk to retrieve the ball. The pleading in the eyes to “just throw strikes.” Or conversely the unbridled glee when the pitch does what it’s supposed to, like Ralphie and his brother Randy opening presents on Christmas morning.
The thing is I don’t think they’re showing these emotions on purpose. In fact, they probably don’t even know they’re doing it.
But I can see them.
And if I can see them guess who else can?
That’s right, Their daughters, who (in almost all cases) are doing their best to learn this very complicated skill.
Here’s the problem. As a general rule, girls tend to be more focused on pleasing others than boys. And they really want to please their parents.
So if mom or dad inadvertently looks angry, frustrated, disgusted, like their world has ended, etc., it will launch a whole range of emotions accelerated by raging hormones. And at that point, it becomes even more difficult for them to pitch with any semblance of speed and accuracy.
This is an important lesson for every parent (and coach) to learn. I know I had to.
Both of my daughters pitched, and they certainly reacted to however I reacted. I didn’t realize it, however, until I took the ASEP coaching course and they talked about body language and what it tells your team.
It was a real eye-opener for me because I pretty much ticked all the boxes. Hanging Head Syndrome. Heavy Sighs. Banging my hand on the fence when something would go wrong.
I had to work at developing that steely-eyed poker face so that no matter what happened it became a non-event. It wasn’t easy, and I would backslide now and then. But it was worth it.
That’s what I recommend for you bucket parents. Pitching in fastpitch softball is hard. If you don’t believe me, pay close attention in your daughter’s next lesson and then go home and try to do the things she is being asked to do. Then keep in mind she has the body control and fine motor skills of child or adolescent, not an adult.
The best thing you can do for your daughter’s development is to work on your poker face. Learn to control your emotions like a Jedi so that no matter what happens your face, and your body language remains completely neutral.
If you can do that, it will free her to develop her skills guilt-free, which will hasten her improvement considerably. Before you know it you won’t need those abilities because she’ll be performing at a level that makes it a little easier to relax and enjoy the ride.
Don’t worry, though. All that effort you put into hiding your true feelings won’t go to waste. You can instead apply those skills the next time you’re at a tournament and the parents decide a little “adult time” at the local casino is in order. With a little luck you might even be able to cover the weekend’s expense.
Poker photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com