So if you're reading this... it means that you're intrigued by what problems you already have or ones that you're going to be dealing with. I called both of my parents for help with this one... and I was not surprised by their answers. My question was "If you had to give me 5 points that were the hardest things for you as a softball parent what would you say?". They both said (1) AGE, (2) FINDING A BALANCE, (3) ISSUES WITH A COACH, (4) RECRUITING, & (5) GRADES. I am the first of five kids for my parents, and there's still not a "book" on how to raise your kids. But my parents did everything they could to give me a good life, and for that I am thankful. I don't know if they'd do anything different, because if they did I might not have ended up where I am now. So when I go through these points, please feel free to ask questions or give examples of you and your kids' lives. I've been fortunate enough to have many students, and each parent I encounter is different & I always love to hear a different story.
Side note: (I'll give you some background on my parents so you understand where they're coming from... & why I ended up the way I did... it's at the bottom of the article.... and I added some pictures I don't think anyone has seen in a very long time... lol)
SO when I asked my parents for 5 things that were the hardest...
My parents said that the hard years were when I started travel ball (12) and then when I became a teenager. Teenage rebellion! Agh!! For those of you who have teenagers, you understand, and for those of you who are not yet there... we'll pray for you. Teenagers want to refuse everything you tell them!! EVERYTHING! I was one of those kids, believe it or not. As a teenager, your world is high school and all they see is what they're missing out on due to friendlies, mid-week practices, showcases, lessons, etc... They see their friends getting "the full experience" (boyfriends, girlfriends, parties, football games, tailgates, dances, basically having any close friends, etc)... and to be honest I went through the same thing. I thought I was missing out on a lot of those things. Once I got to college I realized that I didn't miss any of it. Everything I had done up to that point was so worth it. (That's just me though, everyone is different). As a parent, it's hard thinking that your child resents you for making them miss a football game for a tournament. You (the parent) have to evaluate where your child is in their life, and if they're enjoying their softball experience enough to miss those things; which leads to my next point...
2) Finding the Balance:
This is probably the hardest thing for anyone to do. Is she having fun? Is she enjoying her experience? Is it too much? Can we take one weekend off? Are the lessons worth it? Both of my parents said that this was hard for them because they forgot to ask if this was fun for me and if I was enjoying it. We are always so focused on the next practice, the next game, the next lesson, that sometimes we forget to take a second and breathe. It's normal to dislike the sport for a while, you can ask anyone. I told my mom at 14 that I hated softball and never wanted to play again! It is such a struggle and the best advice I can give here is that you just have to remember to ask. Maybe they need a weekend refresher, maybe they need to mix it up for a couple of days, you know what your kids need to feel good about themselves. Finding the balance because is everyone's struggle, but it is an important life lesson.
3) ISSUES WITH COACHES:
You know your child best. Every coach is different, and every player responds to different coaching philosophies. The problems my parents continuously ran into was "pitch calling" & the way I was treated. I've been over this in a previous blog post, but *ugh* pitch calling can be the death of a PITCH(er). I say PITCH(er) because they can literally kill a pitch or make someone not want to pitch anymore. Parents: if you take your daughter to a lesson, & she's working on a specific pitch, & diligently throws it all week... preparing for the weekend, and her coach DOESN'T call it... she's not gaining ANYTHING. She's not getting better. The coach you're with shouldn't care that her "new pitch" doesn't work yet... that's how you learn. Trial and error. Gaining the confidence to throw it correctly. The second problem was the way the coach is treating your child. Spoiler alert, that's what they are, children & students of the game. Their coach is their teacher. Their "Teacher" should be approachable, knowledgeable, patient, as well as teaching them about how to accept criticism. Being approachable means that your child would never be afraid to ask them questions. Knowledgeable means that they explain the method to their madness, instead of saying "because I'm the coach"... We encourage our children to try and get up if they fail... they deserve patience for trying in the first place. And lastly, criticism. This one is tricky, and the most important. How your child's coach directs criticism at them is important. Everyone's philosophy is different, but you have to find the coach that makes her tough... and work hard at the same time. Not break her down.
For those of you reading who are old enough to be recruited or have a daughter who is old enough, recruiting is becoming the most stressful part of our game. For me, long story short, I got recruited freshman year of high school to school XYZ, which means I verbally committed, and 3 months later they were ignoring my calls. I come to find out at a game, that they had committed my teammate instead. So a flip flop situation without telling me... THAT was hard for my parents. To watch your child go through hard work, long hours, and pure excitement, for it to finally pay off; and then to find out it was pulled away.... it was a tough situation to be in and even tougher to move past as a parent. Recruiting is hard, coaches always watching you, everyone asking if you can "handle" it or "manage" their program (academically, physically, emotionally). Well... honestly in my POV it is a privilege to go through this process. Everything from here on out is a life lesson. This means you have the OPPORTUNITY to play for a college. The opportunity to go to college, and play something you love! The opportunity to represent something bigger than yourself. EMBRACE the process!
I brushed off grades for a long time. I got by just fine to be honest and didn't feel the need to study like everyone else. HELLO. Freshman year first semester grades came out and I was so so so ignorant and terrified to bring it home to my parents. GRADES ARE IMPORTANT. My parents struggled to get me to understand how this was going to affect me later on in life. Eventually, the message stuck because I graduated from high school & college (yay!). But softball can only take us women so far, and our minds are more powerful than our arms anyways... so make school a priority. School comes first.
I hope this helps someone out there. I hope that this article makes you feel that you are not alone and there are answers!! Keep being a super-parent, because if you're reading this, it means that you're already trying your best to give your child what they need.
Next blog post? Being more than a ONE sport athlete.
My mom played softball at UCSD, a Div II school that is going Div 1 and will enter the Big West Conference next year. She was their first All-American, you can look her up if you want. Her career ERA (4 years) is still the best the school has seen, sitting at a 0.91. If you don't understand ERA, its Earned Run Average, basically at a 0.91... you're scoring less than one run a game against my 4 foot 11 mom who spun the ball like she was Michael Jordan doing a ball trick. She taught me that your power and strength to play this game come from your knowledge and your mind. If you can work your problem with your mind first... you've already won.
My dad played soccer and football in high school and passed on his competitive spirit to me. Now.. everyone's dad was really good in high school or whatever... we hear the joke a lot. But... my dad WAS! Probably one of the best opportunities he had was to play soccer for UCLA. At the time, any Fire Department in the area was not hiring anyone with bad knees, and as a linebacker and a goal-keeper, it was inevitable if he were to continue. Being a fireman was what he wanted to do with his life in order to provide for his future family, and it didn't require a degree so he turned down all offers. Both of my parents were crucial in making me who I am and they're part of the reason I continue to do what I do.
Next blog post? Being more than a ONE sport athlete.
Pictures are my mom, dad, my husband, and obviously me lol