You see it just about every weekend in social media. “It” is the excited posts from parents describing their kids’ teams’ great weekend of fastpitch softball.
“Went 6-0 this weekend,” it will start, then go on to add, “And we outscored our opponents 64-3! This team is simply amazing.”
I get that you’re happy the team did so well. But in my mind, going 6-0 with a 64-3 run differential isn’t something to brag about. Instead, you should be embarrassed because clearly your team was in the wrong tournament for their ability level.
The reality is if your daughter’s team is ripping through the competition like that it’s not good for anyone. Even for your daughter’s team.
Yes, I get it that it’s fun to win. But remember that iron is forged in fire, and steel is honed by steel, not foam. If you want to get stronger you have to stress your muscles, not go through “exercise programs” where you don’t break a sweat.
So in order to get better, your team must play opponents who can place them at a risk of losing – not opponents they can tear through like a hot knife through butter. Sure, you may not end up with as much hardware to gather dust in your house.
But you will test yourself and get better as a result. An overall winning percentage of 60% to 70% is the sweet spot.
Of course, there are a couple of reasons teams find themselves playing weaker competition than they should.
Sometimes, especially with new and/or younger teams, there are a lot of unknowns and coaches aren’t sure how good they’re going to be. So the coaches plan a tournament schedule that protects the team against getting discouraged by having their heads handed to them every weekend if it turns out they’re not so hot.
But then it turns out the players are actually as good as the coaching staff thought they were during tryouts and there was no need to play that lower-level schedule. They are stuck with the schedule, however, so they end up playing a level below where they should be.
There’s nothing malicious there, just an unfortunate circumstance that resulted from a lot of unknowns. Good coaches will recognize this disparity and want to move their teams to a more appropriate level of play as quickly as possible.
(Unfortunately, they may find resistance from some of the parents who have fallen in love with winning and don’t want to “risk” losing more. If you’re one of those parents, stop complaining and instead thank your coach for wanting to help your daughter get better.)
The other option is more nefarious. In this case, the coaches knew they had a very good team but purposely opted to play a lower-level schedule so they could win more (and look better).
These types of teams/coaches are typically referred to as “trophy hunters.” They are where they are specifically so they can go 6-0 (or at worst 5-1) every weekend while racking up a 64-3 run differential.
Then when their kids end up in a more competitive softball situation and little Suzy is on the bench the parents can’t understand why the coach doesn’t recognize how great little Suzy is.
No matter which way you find yourself there, you don’t want to stay there.
In reality you don’t want your daughter’s team ripping through the competition week after week. You want it, and especially your daughter, to be challenged every week.
That’s how she will get better. And if the team has to struggle to win, rather than dominating all weekend, the win itself will be that much sweeter.
But if all you care about is winning, then yeah, leave the team that’s trying to better itself by playing better competition and find a trophy hunter. Lord knows there are plenty of those around.
The bottom line is that going undefeated every weekend and posting a huge run differential is nothing to write home about – or write on social media about. Especially if your daughter has aspirations of playing college softball.
Instead, play on a team where your daughter will be challenged every inning of every game of every tournament – one where the team walks out exhausted but proud, knowing it took everything they had to secure each victory. And one where the coaching staff is constantly seeking to challenge the players to play at their tops of their games rather than letting them slide by by beating up on weaker opponents.
It may be tougher to take the additional losses at first. But your daughter will benefit so much more in the long run, because she will develop into the player she’s meant to be.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
First of all, congratulations to the Crush Tidal Waves (CTW) 18U JS team for taking it all in the recent USA Softball (formerly ASA for you old die-hards) Chicago Metro. The Metro is always a tough tournament with strong teams, so winning it is definitely an accomplishment.
But it’s the way they won it this year that makes this story worth sharing, in my opinion. And since Life in the Fastpitch Lane is my blog, I get all the votes. No pretense here.
Basically, the CTW did it the hard way. First, it was a very hot and humid weekend in the Chicago area. Temperatures were in the mid-90s for most of it, and with the sun beating down it felt even hotter. I know, because I was outside for much of it.
CTW started out with two wins in pool play on Friday before beginning bracket play Saturday. They won their first game, then fell 5-2 in their second game of the day. That put them in the loser’s bracket in the double-elimination tournament, with a long way to go to get back to the championship game.
Still, they persisted. The challenge now was to win 7 games in a row – two more on Saturday in the brutal heat, then three on Sunday to get into the championship game. After that, they’d have to face a team that hadn’t lost in bracket play and was well-rested as they waited for all the other teams to beat each other up. And, of course, they had to win twice.
The first of those two games was a real nail-biter, with CTW leaving it all on the field to gain a 3-2 victory. You would think they’d have felt pretty good by then, having taken the top team to the what-if game after all that. No one would have blamed them if they had come out a little flat for the final match-up.
But again, they persisted, and instead they came out strong and took the final game (and the trophy) 5-1. Not sure where they found the reserves of strength after all of that, but they did.
Battered but not broken, exhausted but elated, and probably ready to jump head first into the nearest swimming pool, the CTW 18U JS team came out victorious.
So it does go to show that if you’re determined enough, and persistent enough, and just not willing to lose you can come back to win a big tournament like that.
Congratulations to the players, coaches, parents and fans. But mostly to the players and coaches for never giving up.
(A special shout-out goes to Katie Armstrong, a long-time player for CTW and one of my pitching and hitting students. Savvy readers may recognize Katie from my vlog on hitting off a pitching machine, among other mentions. Katie did all this with a hip injury that will require surgery after the season, which has limited her pitching time this year. But I think you’ll agree she thought it was worth it.)
I imagine for a lot of the players this season is the end of their travel ball careers, and for those who aren’t playing in college it’s the end of their entire softball careers. But what a memory they gained!
It’s also the kind of story they can tell future employers who say “Tell me about a time when you faced incredible difficulties but managed to succeed.”