I hate to admit that I have struggled with crazy levels of competitiveness throughout my life. There have been times that losing has pushed me over the line of rational thought. In hindsight, I look back with a sense of shock and awe, but not in a good way.
The real world is a competitive place, right? So learning to compete is something that we want our kids to take away from playing softball. This is so logical that arguing against creating a competitive situation for our kids would be crazy right? Well…
At some point. all players are going to start to measure their success on the field by counting the wins and losses. For some it is at a very young age. I know of 10U travel teams that practice several times a week and play to win every time they hit the field, no matter what. I’ve also seen some teenaged players who are still playing more for the social aspects and fun of hanging out with their friends.
So when do you want to get “competitive”? As always, a question that has questions attached to it.
Who is “competitive”? The Player or the Parent? If the player is highly motivated by competing and wants to win in everything they do, then I think you are free and clear to amp up the competition in her softball world. It’s OK to play on a serious travel ball team that values winning, as long as she understands that part of that formula means the best players play more than the weaker players.
Is winning more important than playing? To the Parent or the Player? Some players want to win so bad that they really don’t care what their role is on the team as long as they keep winning. I was this type of athlete when I was younger, winning meant way more to me than playing ever did. But let’s be honest, how many of those kids do you know of anymore?
Since most players and parents value playing more than winning, getting involved in a win-at-all-cost type of team is a challenging endeavor. So, unless your kid is the anti-millennial, then you need to be very careful about this big step.
If a player sticks with this game she will eventually move into the arena where the decision about if it is going to be a win or else type team will be made for her. Almost all high school programs and definitely, all college programs play to win. Team politics aside most coaches at these levels have decided that winning is the most important thing.
Suck it up, buttercup! You just hit the real world!!
When a player is ready to be in a truly competitive situation is going to vary from player to player and parent to parent. You can do a great deal to insure this transition is a happy one by asking yourself the above questions.
About the Author: Tory Acheson brings a wealth of knowledge to the Fastpitch Prep staff. He has coached at all levels of the game, including the last 25 years at the college level at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, Tennessee Tech and Kennesaw State. He began his coaching career at the high school level spending 9 years Whitnall High School in Greenfield, Wis. and is now working as a professional softball instructor.