New Year, New You
I know the headline sounds like an ad for a diet product or a health club, but there really is something to taking advantage of the turn of the calendar to start making improvements in our lives.
As humans we tend to like to have a clean break from the old when we start something new. The most obvious example is most people like to take a little time off between the time they end their old jobs and the time they start new ones. That little space in-between, even if it’s just a couple of days, helps us decompress and let go of the past so we can focus on the present – and the future.
That’s what’s often magical about the start of a new year. While in reality it’s just another day on the calendar, it feels like the start of something different.
So how can you take advantage of this artificially imposed fresh start? By (dare I say it?) resolving to do one or more things differently this year.
If you’re a coach, spend some time studying new techniques or approaches to the game. Challenge yourself by looking into information that conflicts with your current beliefs – especially if you’ve held those beliefs for a while.
Attend a coaching clinic with an open mind. Watch a current video or read a new book. Not just on fastpitch softball specifically, but also on coaching principles in general. In short, look for ways to be better than you are now.
If you’re a player, think about what a great year would be for you, then think about whether you can get there with what you’re doing now. A good way to do that is to write a letter to your future self describing the awesome season you just had.
If the season you want to have isn’t achievable with your current approach, figure out what you need to change to make it achievable. It could be something as simple as practicing for five more minutes during a session, or finding ways to sneak in an extra 5-10 minutes of practice per week when you can’t get to a field.
It could also mean being willing to change something you’ve been doing for a long time to see if the new way will work better. After all, no one ever created an innovation by continuing to do the same old thing.
If you’re a parent, think about how you can be more supportive, both to your player and to the team. Hopefully you’re already one who cheers in a positive way. But if you’re not sure, maybe set up a video camera and record yourself during your child’s next game to see what you think. Would you want to sit next to you? Or be with you on the ride home?
You might even want to do the same for someone else you may know, assuming they would take the information in the spirit it is intended. Learning to relax and enjoy the game makes it a lot more pleasurable for everyone – including the person who usually gets so upset.
You can also try watching a game where you have no stake to see what you think of how the spectators are reacting. The compare that to how you feel during your child’s game. It can be an interesting perspective.
One other thing you can do as a parent is to educate yourself on what the latest thinking is regarding various skills and see if that matches up with what your player is being taught. Don’t just assume a coach or instructor knows what he/she is doing, or is keeping up with the sport. Learn what to look for so you know whether you’re investing your hard-earned money in the best way possible.
It’s a new year. Why settle for the same old same old?
Take advantage of the energy that comes with a fresh start and use it to create a new, even better you. Best of luck for the upcoming year!
My Advice to Softball Parents: Lighten Up, Francis
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.