Whose Fault Is It?

You just received your first college offer. Congratulations! Each year we see students so thrilled that someone wants them that they commit without doing the research. Within a year, they are in misery and looking to transfer.

Whose fault is it? Let us remind you again that your happiness with a college program is largely within your control.

First and foremost, realize that most of you are making a huge transition, leaving home for the first time. Everything with which you are familiar will change, and almost every one of you will get homesick. Suddenly the food is different, the bed is not the same, you have a roomie who is also grumpy, you have more homework than ever, you have to go to strength/conditioning, practice time, laundry time, and your body hurts from the demands placed upon you. Suddenly you are in a strange environment and your resistance is not prepared for viruses that come from across the country, so you will get the flu, strep throat, or upper respiratory infections. You will probably get them all because you are fatigued and your resistance it not as strong.
Adding to the misery can be things like a climate that does not agree with you. If you are in the north, you may be practicing outside and running if it is 19-degrees. If you go south, you will practice if it is 103-degrees.

To your surprise, a new pitching coach was hired who was a drop and curve pitcher, but you came with a riseball that kills. She does not understand or believe in that pitch, so you are going to throw curves. You were a strikeout pitcher but coach’s philosophy is to pitch to contact. Your stride is so powerful it reaches outside the circle, but this pitching coach wants to shorten it dramatically.

Okay, if you can just make it through the first couple of weeks, maybe you can get home, de-compress and talk to your parents and friends. The problem is that you chose a school 15 hours from home, it costs too much to fly home except during holidays, and driving is out of the question. Besides, there is no free time to do it anyway.

That’s okay. You resolve that you can make it. Then, your strength coach has you doing lots of bench press and overhead lifting at max and the shoulder begins to crunch and pop. When you raise the issue, they blame you for not being in shape.

Each of these examples is based on real experiences of kids we have met. Each has happened over and over.

Let’s blame the college, right? Nope. Many times you just were not prepared for all of the things coming at you. Everything seems far worse than it actually is, or you just don’t know how to work through things. Sometimes you just have to “grow up”.

Most of the time, however, your unhappiness is a result of your accepting an offer because you “like the coaches”. You talked with them at a tournament, visited their school, and they were nice. You wanted to believe that everything was perfect so you checked a lot of boxes without doing your homework. Simple fact: Close to half of the pitchers at any D1 program would not select the same school again. Softball is not fun, their skills have gone downhill, and they are not confident that they have anything to offer if they considered a transfer.

It does not have to be this way. Your coaches want you to succeed, you want to be happy, and a lot of kids find themselves in the most exciting program they could have imagined.

One of my students did it right. She had several offers from the top programs in the country, but did not want to make a choice based solely on emotion. She made a list of 32 things she would consider from any school. When I mentioned it, another student wanted a copy of the list but I said, “Her list is not your list”. I asked her to make her own list of 32, then we would go over it together and see if she had missed important points. If you will not invest the time creating your own list, you are unlikely to do the research needed anyway.

Let me give you a few examples of things that should be on your list:
-Meet the strength coach and make sure you totally agree with the philosophy. (If you do not know what to ask, get busy and learn. If they max on bench press, overheads, etc, back away. As many pitchers are injured in strength and conditioning as on the field)
-Is the school close enough that I can come in a family emergency?
-It is near enough that family and friends can come see me play?
-Is the school respected in the major I want to consider?
-Talk with at least two former players and ask tough questions about the program. (Few current players will take the risk of being honest with you for several reasons, so absolutely be skeptical of those.)

Okay, we gave you a good start. A lot of former players will tell you that they would not trade their college experience for anything. It helped them mature, learn to overcome adversity, and they made friends for life. Sometimes it is luck, but much of the time it is because they put as much effort into choosing the right school as they did into becoming a great player.

It reminds me of an old saying. One of the reasons that many marriages fail is that people often spend far more time planning their wedding than planning the marriage itself. It relates to softball. Why spend 10-years sacrificing everything to be a great player, but only a few hours choosing the program will determine if was all worthwhile?