Are you having fun? Are you having fun? Are you having fun? Ask yourself that repeatedly. And, there is a good reason.
Recently we had a couple of our D1 college pitchers help at an event. After one session, I asked if they had any advice for the younger pitchers there. Without hesitation, one of them said, “Enjoy the process. I wish I had enjoyed the journey instead of being so obsessed with playing college ball that I did not enjoy the game nearly as much as I should”.
What a powerful statement. We have 10-year-old kids coming to us for advice on preparing for college. I see 12-year-olds so worried about playing in college that they come to lessons stressed. Sometimes a 14-year-old will want to learn a riseball and I explain that it will take two or three lessons to perfect it so she quickly wants to shift to a different pitch because she needs something new for a college showcase this weekend.
I just don’t get this. When our daughters pitched well in an important travel ball game, we would enjoy it for days. If they won a high school district or regional championship, that set off a couple of days of just feeling good about the things they had accomplished. We have several scrapbooks and every article brings back exciting memories. We felt that college ball was a result of the process, not the reason for everything. If neither had chosen to play in college, we would have been just as happy about the events along the way.
Having worked with over 200-kids who went on to pitch on the D1 level, I learned a few things along the way. Here are some very bad things that can happen to those who do not enjoy the process and have fun along the way.
1-Injuries. Kids who are so focused on an “end result” play “tight”, ignore little pains that should be warning signs, and take shortcuts to try to reach the end result. Something gives.
2-Burnout. All of us know a kid who reached her goal of a college offer only to realize that the shine was off the apple. The fun was gone. She walked away from softball. Surely there is more to life than this.
3-They get into a bad program. Studies show that up to 40-percent of all college softball players are unhappy. Do you think politics, ego’s, dumb decisions, or personality clashes will end when you move up to the college level? Think again. College softball is a business, first and foremost. The goal of most college softball programs is to generate community interest so more kids come to the school. In many schools the objective is not to win championships, but just don’t embarrass the school. The athletic department asks no questions if the coach stays out of trouble. In many cases the sport is viewed as a must to comply with Title 9. Yes, the odds are good that you will be happy, but what if you get into one of these programs that make you unhappy? What if you get to school and suddenly they recruit an All-American, so you are sitting on the bench a lot? You may have a good coach, but you simply clash. If you have a terrible experience, and everything you did up to now was to prepare for this moment, it can be emotionally devastating and affect you for years.
4-Suddenly softball ends are you are simply lost. Whether it is a car accident or falling down the stairs, a devastating injury can change the course of your life. Do you know who you are without softball? A lot of kids find a passion for a career and realize that softball does not fit well with their major. It can be done in some schools, but many kids who want to go into the medical fields have to make a choice. Unless you are a gifted student, some majors are just so hard that mixing a D1 level sport takes too much time and effort. In many cases kids realize that softball ends eventually, so they decide to get on with their careers. To have something suddenly end that you have worked so hard to achieve can be tough if you do not have balance in your life and cannot look back fondly on the accomplishments to that point.
The explosion of college showcase games further creates this atmosphere. Why are we playing? If you go to a showcase, at the conclusion of many games, you cannot tell who won or lost. It was an exhibition, part of the process, and it fulfilled so few of the reasons we originally fell in love with the game.
Don’t get me wrong. I am totally in love with the game. I still get goosebumps when I think of some of the exciting wins that our daughters had on the D1 level. That is the important thing…enjoying the process, being in the moment, finding joy in the game.
When it is over, can you say you enjoyed the process? Each day I learn new things, but I especially love when one of my students shows maturity, balance, and wisdom that I didn’t expect. It is nice to help her learn to be very successful in college softball, but even more importantly, hopefully I had some influence on her developing these qualities that affect her for a lifetime.
If you are a former college pitcher, we are looking for people who can contribute to our group and help us take it higher, faster, further. So, come join us. See our website for details on the kind of people we seek. It is critical that you have an extensive history in this game and that it includes higher levels. We are looking for people in areas we do not serve, not next door to an existing Instructor. Experience is huge with us. Contact Denny for more information.