We spend so much time telling players how to succeed that we sometimes forget to help her avoid traps that can hold her back. One wrong decision can put her at a huge disadvantage. Today, let’s talk about seven traps to avoid.
1-“Daddy Ball”. It can also be “mommy ball” or a number of other names. If the reason for the existence of a team is to promote the coach’s daughter, it becomes very dysfunctional. As an instructor, I have never told a kid not to return, except once. The kid was far from motivated. Later I learned that the parents coached her team and it all was built around her. She was always going to be the star, she did not have to work to succeed, and her rules were different from everyone else. Don’t get me wrong. Some parents are fabulous coaches, but their kid will always have a bit of doubt until you cut the cord and let her prove to herself that she earned it on her own.
2-“I perform better in games”. Occasionally I hear a kid say she is not really excited about drills and skills but that she really “brings it” in games. That is fine until she reaches a certain level. When you get on the very elite levels of travel ball or college softball, everyone can really “bring it” in games. The winner is the one who can also “bring it” in practice, and be better prepared to make adjustments in games.
3-“Trophy hunters”. I watched a kid play a lower level of travel ball and enjoy incredible success. Her stats were amazing and she received a scholarship. The first few weeks of college were a breeze until every team got her scouting report, adjusted to her, and soon she was mentally and physically tested in ways she had never experienced. This exhausted her and injuries soon followed. A higher level of travel ball would have better prepared her for this level but her team valued trophies over development. We also see great kids stuck on teams that never get exposure with colleges. They win trophies but if the colleges were not there, it is like a tree falling in a deserted forest.
4-“Their heads are in the cloud”. Not long ago I was conducting a college camp and pointed out to the head coach that fewer kids these days have basic skills. Their overhand throwing was terrible. My reason: They spend so much time on social media that they have no time to practice. This past weekend I watched a big tournament with a lot of great teams. What a chance for players to watch and learn. Over and over again I saw players walking from field to field completely engrossed in their phones. They played ball, grabbed a phone and went to another world. Great learning opportunities were right in front of them, but their eyes could not get past the phone.
5-“Playing way too much”. The head coach of the college I mentioned in the previous paragraph had a different theory as to why many kids do not have good basic skills. He said kids play too much. By the time they are 8 years old, parents have them running around the country playing travel ball. At 12 years old they play 10 months a year and never have time to work on basic skills. The parent of one of my students complained that his daughter wasn’t pitching well. I pointed out that he had been playing tournaments every weekend for six months and that she was at recruiting camps when she wasn’t playing. I have not seen the kid since January and he was right. Her form was terrible. If you play all of the time, you never have time to work on the basics. Kids will become tired of each other and drama follows, injuries will increase, and burnout occurs. Give them a break!
6-“Depending on the instructor too much”. We have had an incredible streak of success. In the past couple of years we have now seen over 70 kids commit to D1 colleges and a lot of others go to D2, D3, NAIA, and JC’s. Parents think we are the magic key to success. We have limitations. If you bring me a competitor who is pretty smart and determined, we can succeed. If you have a kid who whines about the umpires and complains about her team, if you are not willing to get involved in helping her succeed, if her body awareness is zero, or if she fits into any of the first 5 catagories above, she might not be a good fit for us. Yes, our track record is off the charts, but that is because we have gained a strong reputation that allows us to attract more kids with the attitude and discipline to succeed. That is the key. We can only cultivate, not originate.
7-“Being detached”. Occasionally when I am teaching a kid, her father will see another softball parent in the facility, run over there, and become engrossed in conversation. I simply walk over there and retrieve him. What kind of message does it send to your daughter when you can’t wait to get away and talk softball with someone else? Is she of secondary importance, does the parent see this as a waste of time, or does he just not care enough to get involved? Yes there are other answers, but here is the point: Regardless of your intentions, she can easily interpret your stepping away from the lesson as one of the above motivations. Take notes for her, learn something, put away your phone, and show her that something important to her is important to you.
There are a lot of pathways to failure and only a few to success. Doing the right things does not come naturally. It is the result of a lot of thought, planning, and good decisions. Take the time to make good decisions. As we always say, she will be grown and gone soon enough, and you only get one chance to do it the right way.