I have watched as less and less girls come out to play sports. Working with neighboring towns on girl’s sport’s programming, every town is saying the same thing, registrations are way down. In this virtual, social media world, with so much pulling at us to get our attention, I thought maybe we haven’t shown the value of softball, and sports in general, to parents. So, here is the second in a multi-part series on girls and sports.
I have coached both of my two daughters fastpitch softball teams from 8U through to 14U. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot while coaching my first daughter Emma, and then went back and started over with my second daughter Claira. I was way more prepared the second time around. Here are some of the things I learned.
Girls need to feel good to play good. My team was in their second attempt at the in-house league championship. In their first attempt two years before, we had lost. I had learned a valuable lesson about the pressure we as coaches put on the kids and that there will be some who can handle it. But most don’t do well when they don’t feel good. So, in that second attempt at a championship, I had them sit and relax, I prepared with jokes and let them talk and laugh. The other team was tense, my team was calm and relaxed, and, ready to play. They had fun in that game and they also won.
The relationships they build while playing are the memories they keep.
Last season, I coached a new team. They did not have a coach and I was asked to fill in at the last minute. I did not know the girls at all. When we had our first practice, I found pods of friendships, four girls were great friends, another group of three girls were friends, two other girls knew each other, etc. This wasn’t a team yet. I admit, practice more than any other team in my league. I get them ready and treat them like the real athletes they are. We do so much repetition. I expect them to be disciplined on the field. I also want them to become a team. I want them to laugh, and be silly, and enjoy themselves while they are working hard. I want them to root each other on and be happy when someone does something great and forgive the inevitable errors. By the end of our season, I saw a wonderful team that now had a bunch of great memories and an expanded group of friends. Here’s a selfie they took (that’s me in the middle).
Some girls will go on to play more accelerated leagues and others won’t.
If girls had a great experience with softball, it is likely that the most competitive will want to try travel softball as the next step in their development. Travel softball is a great way to extend your child’s playing time, learn about success and failure, and hopefully learn new skills. I had one daughter who ended her softball career after freshman year of high school and another who is now playing in college.
We offered travel to the second daughter after she wrote about her goals for a school project and surprisingly, they all involved softball. This was a girl who loved the game and the competition. But I have got to be honest, she did not build the same friendships in travel that playing house ball did. She moved to her second team after the first one disbanded at 14U. She moved to her third team after the second team disbanded at 16U, both of which corresponded with parent coaches whose daughter’s decided to quit softball. She had a miserable experience with poor coaching on that third team and moved to the fourth team at 18U for two seasons. No lifelong friendships made in travel, but new skills and the chance to play in college, which is what she wanted. But from her early playing days in the house league, she is friends with five girls that I believe, she will love forever. Here’s one of the earliest pictures of her and two of those friends at the Fourth of July parade.
According to Keeping Girls in the Game, a research study by the Woman’s Sports Foundation, “some girls live for the competition, and some girls are in it for the fun.” But when done right, a house league sport program is one of those experiences that give girls both the opportunity to have competition and the fun!
BBAA has registration open for girl’s softball from 8U through 14U. Go to www.bbaasports.org for more information.