Fitting In

Your team needs to add a player or two. Maybe a player left the team or you are moving up in age groups, so you want to add a little more depth to the roster. Maybe you have been a pretty good team but you need to add a little more talent at a position or two to keep climbing the ladder. Whatever the reason for the changes, you have to consider a few things.

Whether it’s travel ball, school ball or rec ball, when a team has been together for a while they develop a certain chemistry. Hopefully it is a good chemistry of players and families that get along and see things the same way. Quite often this fitting-in process is part of the reason for the adding and subtracting of players over time. Some fit in, some don’t and almost in a Darwinian way the team finds its core group through softball natural selection.

And then it happens, the core group is very comfortable with each other and they like the way things are, a new player and her family join the team. Within our core group the response is going to vary but, no matter what anyone says out loud, their first thought is what position does she play and how does it impact my kid! We try to appear excited to add the new player and we say all the right things but deep down inside we don’t like the threat.

Come on, you know its true!

What happens next will tell you a lot about what kind of team you really have. Will these threatened parents and player accept the new kid and make her feel welcome, or will they make it uncomfortable and difficult for the new people to assimilate into the team?

If new players come and go, often, you have a problem. Now of course, we’ll always be able to say that the new kid “didn’t fit in” or “wasn’t up for the challenge” or “wasn’t committed enough” to make it look like the problem was the new player. But more often than not the real problem is the “Mean Girls” mentality of making things so difficult for the newcomers that they won’t stick with it. If we can keep the new players and parents uncomfortable enough they will never challenge my kid’s playing time and things can just keep rolling along the way we like it.

Unfortunately the “way we like it” doesn’t usually add up to a team that has any real success. We are happy to stay where we are, but then who do we blame when we don’t win enough?

Of course, it’s the coach’s fault!