Around this time of year, I always receive a lot of different questions and grievances relating to the high school softball season. Playing a sport for high school is a unique situation – you don’t get to pick your coaches, you don’t get to pick your teammates. And on the other side of that – the coaches don’t really “pick” you either. Some players and parents choose to think it is more of a forced situation because many compare high school ball to travel ball.
Two different teams; two different sets of problems; one similar mindset — control what you can, let go of what you can’t.
In high school, players get challenged in ways that make them uncomfortable. – as a leader, as a teammate and as a player. Honestly, to me, it shows a lot about a player’s character and passion. During the high school season, I hear a lot of excuses…but I don’t hear a lot of players (or parents) trying to see the positive side of things to make the situation better. What can we do right now in this very moment to learn, to grow and to get better?
Remember a player (and her parents) are not going to agree with 100% of decisions made. Everybody will always have their own way of doing things, because we are all unique, that’s what makes us US. You don’t have to AGREE with everything that is going on, but you can choose to accept it, see the positive and figure out a way to work with it.
There are a lot of lessons to be learned and problems you can either choose to work through or choose to let bother you. I like to always try to choose to make the most of a situation….
In ANY situation we come up against in life, there are going to be things that we can control and things we can’t control. It’s important to always take a step back in any situation, and understand which are which. Limit the excuses and understand what YOU can do better to get the most out of a situation.
Grievance #1 : PLAYING TIME
Uncontrollable: Making the lineup and teams; playing time
Controllable(s): Your attitude every day at practice and games; how you can contribute to your team; supporting your teammates; working to get better.
Playing time is the #1 grievance parents and/or players complain about (not just in high school ball, but also on tournament teams and college teams). Every person thinks they are good enough for the starting role, and every player thinks they should be on varsity. That’s a great attitude to have, if you channel it in the right way. Always remember that playing time is a decision made by the COACHES, not the parents. If a player has a question about playing time, then the PLAYER should schedule a meeting with the coach NOT the parent. Parents, as a gentle reminder, I can’t name you one coach that likes to talk to parents about playing time. It’s not your job. Take that energy and encourage your DAUGHTER to make a meeting with her coach.
A Meeting With the Coach
Controllables: PLAYER meeting with the coach NOT parent; The TONE in which you ask your question; keeping your emotions in check during the meeting; working your absolute hardest to earn a spot
So you want to know why you’re not playing? Talk to your coach! This is a big deal – I get it! It’s hard as a 15 year old to go up and talk to someone about a serious subject. Think of this as a learning experience! A player gets to set up a meeting with an adult to discuss “grown up” things. This is similar to what will happen in college and this is similar to what would happen in a job situation. At your own current job now, you wouldn’t call on your own parent to go and talk to your boss about a raise or a promotion. Meeting with a coach can be the first real life opportunity a player has to discuss something on their own that is a priority and that they are passionate about.
A player might think she is doing EVERYTHING she can do to earn playing time. But just because the PLAYER thinks that she is doing everything, doesn’t mean that the COACH is having the same view. Remember, we all come from different perceptions and our perception is our reality.
Parents, you can help and get involved not by calling the coach, but by sitting down with your daughter and making a list of things to bring up to her coach whenever she goes in for the big meeting. Have a list of questions you want to remember to ask and that list can be comfort going into the meeting. Allow your daughter to come up with these questions as much as she can – not YOU. It’s not about you, sorry!
A player calling a meeting with a coach shows maturity, and it’s a great experience for the player to take responsibility of having a voice. Don’t complain to your teammates – it makes you look bad and you are just looking for them to tell you that yes, you should be playing. Nobody wants to hear someone complaining about playing time all the time – it makes things awkward, especially if the people you are complaining to are every day players. Even if the people you are complaining to are NOT every day players, then you guys complaining about each other become a cancer to the team. If you’re not happy with your playing time, there is only one person you should be talking to on your team – your coach. Totally okay to talk about playing time in the walls of your own house with your parents – that’s private time. Outside of that, it should not be happening because it starts to take away from the TEAM.
It’s all about your approach when you have the meeting wit your coach. Instead of JUST asking, “Why am I not playing?” – that question has a negative connotation to it, especially if that is the ONLY question you ask. How about asking things like,
- “Just wanted to know, what you see are some things I could work on this season?”
- If you are a pitcher – make sure you ask specifically about pitching and also hitting, if you pitch and hit.
- How about the question that every coach will love, “Hey coach, I know I am not in the starting 9, but what would it take for me to be first off the bench in a pinch hit situation?”
- or, “Hey coach, I know I’m not in the starting 9, but what are some things I can help with during the game to help the team out?” (ie chart pitches, try to pick opposing coaches signals, picking your teammates up).
- Last one, “Do you think I could get a chance in a pinch hit situation?
At the end of the season, if you were not an every day player, a great thing to ask your coach is, “Coach, what can I work on during the off season to become an every day starter for you?” Make sure the communication is clear cut, so that you are actually working on the exact things he/she said to work on to become that every day player. Too many times things are lost in translation, and players THINK they worked on the things their coach asked them to, and they show up, and it wasn’t EXACTLY what they wanted.
The worst thing is to be left in the dark about why you aren’t playing or feeling like you did something wrong. Open communication from player to coach is always the best thing you can do. Once again – parents, this is not your job.
Take Advantage of Your Opportunities
Okay, so you’re not an every day player, but your coach decides to put you in to pinch hit with a runner at 3rd, who is the game winning run. Your coach is giving you that chance that you asked him/her about in the meeting. NOW is your chance. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR OPPORTUNITY. Want it bad enough.
Go up, have a quality at bat, and try to hit the ball hard. Doesn’t HAVE to be a hit. You just need to look like you are prepared for your at bat and that you are focused. A QUALITY AT BAT is considered taking advantage of your opportunity. If you go up and strike out on 3 straight pitches, I’m sorry, that’s not a quality at bat, and it’s not taking advantage of your opportunity.
Same idea defensively – if you get a chance to go out and play on defense, and the ball is hit to you, and you make an error, then why would a coach feel confident in you? Even if that is the first ground ball you’ve gotten all year in a game, you MUST be able to come up with a play – no excuses.
In high school and in college, it’s ALL about taking advantage of your opportunities, especially when you are not an every day player. You must be ready for them defensively and offensively. After the fact, if you don’t have success with your opportunity, you CANNOT blame it on the fact that you don’t play all the time. To me, that’s a cop out. That is giving yourself an out for not taking advantage of your opportunity. Don’t be that player.
- If you get a chance to pinch hit, have a QUALITY AT BAT – take advantage of your opportunity
- If you get a chance to start out on the field, don’t botch routine plays – act like you’ve been there
- No game experience is not an excuse once you get to the high school level – make plays.
Be Able To Play Different Positions
Maybe you are a short stop, but the player in front of you is an upperclassman who is the best player on the team. So of course, she is going to be playing there at that spot. A good thing to ask your coach is, “Is there another position I could work on to earn a starting spot?”
Make yourself diverse. There may be a spot defensively that is open, and YOU can take advantage of getting in there even though you have never played that position before. Go take some time on your own to practice that position. Work at it. EARN YOUR SPOT. The more positions you are able to play, the higher of a chance you have of going out there and making a difference at the team.
If there is a very talented player in your spot, LEARN from that player. She is good for a reason. Even if she is the same age as you, there is ALWAYS something you could be learning from her. Instead of being jealous of her, look at her at practice and in a game and watch how she moves, what she does well and what makes her a great player. There’s nothing wrong with giving her credit, understanding what she does well and trying to be like her.
This is especially true of pitchers, because a pitcher sitting on the bench can be understanding and learning pitch calling, noticing locations and spots and studying hitters to see what a hitter does well or not well. In the dugout, you can be visualizing what you would be throwing in certain situations. This is important, as well, because what if the starting pitcher gets hurt suddenly. You need to be mentally ready to go into a game. IF you have been studying the opposing team’s hitters and understanding what their weakness is, you can be ready to pick up right where she left off seamlessly.
- Be diverse, be able to play multiple positions
- Learn from players who are playing in front of you
- Be ready to come off the bench in case of injury or in case you get called upon
Grievance #2 : Competition Isn’t Good Enough
Uncontrollables: How fast a pitcher is throwing; ball/strike ratio of an opposing pitcher; how well the other team hits; how well your defense fields behind you as a pitcher
Controllables: Your intensity and focus in the circle; your intensity and focus at the plate; playing YOUR game at YOUR level
Ok, fine. So maybe high school ball does not have as high of quality of players as the travel teams you play for during the summer, but early this excuse is laughable to me that people use this as an excuse of why they don’t like high school ball. Does this mean you’re going to use it as an excuse to play down to their level?
You have a choice to play down to the level of your competition or you can choose to shine!!
The Pitchers Throw Too Slow / Too Many Balls
Controllable: Swinging at good pitches; trying to be on time; going opposite field; good approach at the plate
Oh boy, this one is pretty funny to me. Okay, so you face a pitcher that doesn’t throw “hard.” You should be thinking LUCKY me not POOR me! A pitcher who isn’t throwing a lot of strikes? Perfect! I can work on taking pitches, seeing the ball all the way in. and my pitch selection. Working on patience at the plate and understanding your strike zone is essential to being a good hitter.
A pitcher who doesn’t throw as hard as you’re used to gives you more time to see the ball, more time to make a decision whether it’s a ball, or a strike and gives you the ability to work on hitting opposite field. Clearly, if you are someone who struggles with slower pitching, this means this is something that you need to work on with your swing. I promise, even in college, there will be slower pitchers that you have to face and YOU have to be able to make an adjustment.
When you face a pitcher who is throwing slower, take it upon yourself to try to hit opposite field. Work on keeping your wait back, work on deciding later, work on pitch selection, work on letting the ball travel. This is showing bat control. You can work on this and be someone who is able to adjust to different speeds of pitching with no problem. EVERYONE can pull the ball, especially on a slower pitcher. What can make YOU stand out and something to work on, is understanding your timing, letting the ball get deep and adjusting to the speed that any pitcher is throwing. Set an example for your team on how to adjust to a pitcher.
- Work on pitch selection
- Take your walks when they are given to you
- Work on letting the ball get deep and waiting on slower pitching (just like waiting on a change up)
- Take slower pitching to opposite field
- Work on quick adjustments
I’m A Pitcher, and My Defense Can’t Make Plays Behind Me
Controllables: YOU; Work a little bit more off the plate to get swings and misses, or get balls that are not as well hit; keeping a good attitude; learning how to work through long innings with endurance and precision
At some point in my playing career, I know I have either been on a team or been in an inning where my defense just can’t seem to make plays back behind me. I know you have, too. It’s one of those things like having a homerun hit off you – it’s going to happen, and then it’s probably going to happen to you again, and then probably again. So you can get frustrated and upset over it, or you can figure out a way to be a little bit better in the circle to get more swings and misses or to not have balls as sharply hit to your infielders or outfielders. This CHALLENGES you; it makes you think; it makes you be creative; it makes you be BETTER.
Pitchers who blame their defense behind them for reasons that they aren’t getting better as pitchers – I can’t stand that. This is another EXCUSE. You’re working through real-game softball situations. You’re working through problems. These are problems you will be faced with again at some other point in your playing career. Think of it as a challenge; think of it as making you a better pitcher to be able to work through adversity — working on your attitude and keep your emotions in check.
What CAN’T happen is that you cannot get a bad attitude and show it to your teammates. That is going to make your defense that much more tight behind you, and then they REALLY aren’t going to make a play for you. This is a great test of patience of pitchers. If you can get through a team that struggles to make defense behind you, it’s going to make you that much better mentally and physically when you get to a team that has a sharp defense.
It’s ALL about how you choose to look at the situation and how you choose to view what you are getting out of it.
Also, this is a great time to work on being a good teammate. It says a lot about a pitcher, whose defense continues to make errors back behind her, but who continues to stay positive towards that teammate and not letting it negatively affect her attitude. This can be a challenge, but this is ONLY going to make you a better TEAMMATE to be around so that your teammates can trust in YOU and believe in YOU even more.
When your defense is struggling behind you, you should get STRONGER. If your high school team doesn’t play great defense, in my mind, the easy way out is to quit, blaming that the defense isn’t good enough. You are NEVER bigger than the game. It is what YOU make of it. When you start feeling uncomfortable, do you rise up to the challenge, or do you surrender? YOU control how you handle it.
You can’t change your defense. Instead of complaining and blaming, step up YOUR game mentally and physically. CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Challenge your mind.
- Stay calm
- Stay positive
- Work on small adjustments with locations of your pitches
- Keep good energy
- You get stronger when the situation gets tougher
I’m a Pitcher and I Strike Everyone Out, The Hitters are Not Challenging For Me
This is a perfect time for you to work on a different pitch you’ve been trying to learn or master. Maybe your curve ball is your favorite pitch, and you throw it 85% of the time, and you’re learning a drop ball. If you’re striking everyone out with your curve ball, then start working on your drop ball. Throw it in different counts. Work on placement of it and movement of it. Know that you can always go back to your curve ball when you need a strike or need an out. Working on a new pitch in a game situation is so important. This can create a new focus and determination to add another pitch that will help you, once you start facing more competitive hitters.
- Work on something new
- You can still work on getting better despite your competition
Grievance #3 – I Don’t Get Along With Some of My Teammates
Uncontrollable: Who is on your team; Other players attitudes; Other players work ethic
Controllable: Being a good teammate; being a good leader; leading by example; not talking about people behind their back; putting the team first
Well, you’re stuck with them! So you can either figure out a way to handle different situations that are presented, or you can opt out to quit. In high school, you don’t really have a choice of who you get to play with, what their attitude is like, what they treat people like and what their work ethic is like. When you get a job, you don’t really get to have much of a choice either. You can never change people, but you can always have a voice and try to lead by example in your own actions. When speaking up in a team meeting or to a teammate, have good intentions with where you are coming from with your statements. It’s always about the team, not always about you.
If you have a teammate who doesn’t have a good attitude, and you think it’s affecting the team, it’s completely acceptable to pull that player off to the side and let her know how you feel. It’s HER job to take it the correct way, so long as you are telling her in an appropriate manner. On any team, remember the team and the mission of the team comes first.
You don’t have to want to hang out with every player on your team OFF the field, but ON the field, it’s your duty to find a way to get along with each other and take care of each other. You all have the same mission: winning together. And THAT should be what is remembered when it comes down to field time and playing time.
- TEAM comes first
- How can you find a way to communicate with someone
- On the field, get along and fight for each other; off the field you don’t have to be best friends
- I’ll say it again, no matter what, TEAM COMES FIRST
Grievance #4 – The Drive of My Teammate is Not There
Uncontrollables: Your teammates’ drive; Your teammates’ attitude; Your teammates’ competitiveness
Controllables: YOUR drive; YOUR attitude; YOUR competetiveness
Yes, it’s hard when you are surrounded by players who aren’t as driven as you, and with high school ball, you don’t really have a choice! You ask yourself, what are the things I currently can control? The answer is that it’s all about YOU. It’s not about anybody else. Now is the time you push YOURSELF harder and day in and day out try to maintain a consistent mindset. Every day at practice you show up to the field wanting to get better. Every game you show up to the field wanting to leave it all out on the field. Nobody else’s mindset should control this or change what YOU are about.
- Lead by example
- Don’t let others attitude affect you
- Push yourself more and maintain a consistent mindset
This game is what YOU make it, not what someone else makes it. Any given day YOU are in complete control of how you approach the game, how you approach your teammates and how you approach becoming the best player you can possibly be. High school softball is preparing you for the next level of softball for you in college or the next level of your life in getting a job. You must always be able to control what YOU can control, no matter what.
In the end, remember, you are playing someone else when you look at the scoreboard, but this game is really about YOU competing against YOURSELF. You should be pushing yourself in different ways and getting uncomfortable in different situations so that you continue to grow, and you are prepared for anything that is thrown at you when you make it to the next level.
Always control what you can. Look at every situation, and give an honest answer of what you can and cannot control about it.