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Recruiting Advice: Remember There’s Always Someone Watching

In the 2001 remake of Ocean’s 11 (not to be confused with the Rat Pack movie from 1960), robbery target Terry Benedict tells Danny Ocean that “In my hotel, someone is always watching.”

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Not from Ocean’s 11, but at least it’s Clooney.

Parents and softball players would be wise to remember that statement as they go about the business of attempting to get recruited by the team of their choice. Especially now, since as I write this we are in the midst of “Showcase Season,” the big opportunity for college coaches to watch potential recruits in action.

This lesson was reinforced on a Zoom with a couple of D1 coaches as part of the National Fastpitch Coaches College (NFCC) Course 401. Both coaches said there is far more to who they, and most of their contemporaries, select than just on-field talent.

One of them went on to talk about a player who is the #1 prospect in his state. Yet neither his school or the other major D1 college in his state has extended an offer to her. Why not?

It’s simple. It comes down to character. Not just of the player but of the parents.

I’ve heard many college coaches talk about this. When they go to watch a game they don’t just watch what happens on the field.

They also watch what happens off of it. Like how the parents act during the game and how the player speaks to her parents.

In the former case, college coaches want to steer clear of any parents who seem like they will be “those parents.” You know the ones – nothing is good enough for them, their daughter is always getting shortchanged by the coaches, the umpires are idiots who need to be called out at every opportunity, etc.

If you see them acting this way now there is no reason to think they won’t act this way if their daughter is on the collegiate team. And since the pressure is magnified in college, willingly taking on a major headache doesn’t seem like a good strategy.

Unless they are incredibly desperate, most coaches would rather take a player with a little less talent and a lot less baggage. Especially those who have a wide choice of players, i.e., your Power 25.

As far as player interactions with their parents (as well as coaches and teammates), that can be another huge red flag. Players who speak disrespectfully to their parents are likely to do the same to college coaches. Who needs that?

They’re also more likely to break rules, get into academic trouble, or become a cancer on the team if they don’t get their way. It doesn’t take much to send a season south, so again coaches will quickly write those players off their lists.

So it might seem like the best solution is for parents and players to be on their best behavior when college coaches are around. The problem with that is you don’t always know they’re there.

Sure, some coaches will wear their team shirts and sit right behind the backstop in the “scouting” section. But others will be a whole lot less obtrusive.

The aforementioned coach said he likes to hang in the background and listen. He wants to hear if parents are running down the coach, or constantly questioning strategies or decisions, or putting down other players.

If they’re doing it now, there’s no reason to think they won’t do it if their daughter is playing at that school. Hard pass.

No, the real solution, and I know this will be a shocker for some, is to be people of good character. Parents, be supportive of the whole team. Not because someone is watching but because it’s the right thing to do.

Players, be great teammates. Be the person who picks up others, encourages the girl who made an error or struck out, and does little things like grabbing a bat that gets tossed toward the dugout or picking up garbage in dugout after the game.

Because college coaches notice that stuff too. And they like it.

While this should be an automatic, it’s not. It’s a learned behavior for some. So learn it.

Be a good person on and off the field. Because remember, there’s always someone watching.

My Advice to Softball Parents: Lighten Up, Francis

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Anyone who has seen the movie “Stripes” knows the reference in the headline. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a great scene where the new recruits are just getting to know each other, and one of the guys starts a serious rant about what he’ll do to the others if they call him Francis instead of Psycho, or do some other stuff. His drill sergeant, Sgt. Hulka, is not impressed. You can see a condensed version of this very funny scene here:

So why am I bringing up this random movie reference? Because it seems like there are more and more parents these days who could use Sgt. Hulka’s advice.

While it doesn’t always hold true, it does seem like the craziness of parents today is in inverse proportion to the age of the players. In other words, if you really want to see crazy, check out a 10U game.

Not sure why that is. Maybe by the time players get to 18U the parents have figured out that the outcome of a softball game isn’t worth risking a potential heart attack and have mellowed out. Or maybe all the players with crazy parents have been weeded out, or have told their parents, “Hey, I’ll drive myself to the game, why don’t you see if you can find a hobby that makes you less likely to find you sitting in the parking lot dashing off angry emails to whoever will listen?”

Of course, that’s not to say you don’t see that behavior at the older ages. I have been at D1 college games at major schools where parents are yelling things from the stands at the umpires, and the coaches, as though there were still back playing rec ball. But that’s more the exception.

Here’s the thing, though. All that crazy yelling and stomping around and getting into fistfights is really a waste of energy.

I know all this stuff seems critically important at the time. Especially today, when so many parents believe their daughter is D1 athletic scholarship material and don’t want any idiot umpire/coach/league administrator/whoever screwing up her chances.

Really, though, it’s not. I’ve been involved in fastpitch softball for more than 20 years. I had two daughters play at some level from the time they were 10 until they left high school. I’m sure I got worked up pretty well from time to time myself, although I did manage to keep my crazy in check as I recall.

But whether things went well or not during a game, none of it really mattered in the big scheme of things. My daughters played, then they didn’t, then they want on to become fine human beings and productive members of society. Even if some blue was occasionally squeezing the zone on them.

If you really want to see how crazy it is to let the crazy out, try this experiment. At your next tournament, go watch two teams you couldn’t care less about play. Sit or stand somewhere you can hear the parents and watch the same game they’re watching. Then count how many times people get angry about something that just makes you shrug your shoulders.

The reality is, a softball player’s career is short, which means your time to enjoy watching your player(s) as a parent is short. It’s not life-or-death. It’s just a game.

Next time you feel your blood beginning to boil and the urge to express yourself loudly, just remember the immortal wisdom of Sgt. Hulka: Lighten up, Francis.

 

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