We have all heard of stories of players who quit playing the game. There are as many examples as there are kids playing the game. When and why it happens is a very complicated discussion. Here is one of the saddest stories I have dealt with on a personal basis.
Jane Doe was a player who played for me during my first college coaching job at UW-Parkside. I had the good fortune of recruiting a talented pitcher who was a freshman on our team. I had met her Dad several times during the recruiting process and I found him to be a little over the top but not enough that I was worried about what his impact might be.
Fall semester went off without a hitch except for the fact that it seemed a little weird that he visited every weekend even though he lived more than 8 hours away. When we did our end-of-semester meetings with all the players, Jane and I had a great conversation about how well she had done in her classes and our enthusiasm for the spring. We discussed her probable role, and she was happy to know that she would be contributing, but we weren’t counting on her to be our ace, by any means.
When we started practice again in January, Jane was a clearly different player and person. Her attitude was clearly different. She had left a happy-go-lucky and enthusiastic kid, but returned to campus a sullen and apprehensive shadow of herself. I talked with her several times but she didn’t really give me much to go on except that she was clearly not happy.
For about three weeks, things went along without incident. Jane practiced pretty well and seemed to be getting along OK. Her performance had been a little rocky but mostly because she was complaining of shoulder pain which limited her time on the mound in practice. We were going to have a controlled scrimmage in the field house that weekend, so everyone was pretty excited.
Jane pitched a couple innings and did fine. We met with all the pitchers to discuss how they had thrown and Jane again seemed happy to hear that, while her role was going to be limited, we were counting on her contributions. We would work through her rehab to insure that she could play when we headed to Florida for our first games.
Then it happened. About 6 in the morning on Monday one of the kids on the team called me to tell me Jane had left. Left, like for a visit? No, left like packed up all her stuff and was gone, left. I raced over to school to try to figure out what was going on. Please remember this was in the days when only really rich people or drug dealers even had pagers, let alone cell phones, so getting on touch with Jane was very difficult.
I called her Dad and he was very concerned but something about his tone was kind of weird. He promised that when he heard from Jane, he would be sure she called me. Then the wait began. I called back every day for a week with no luck. Dad said he hadn’t heard from her directly but her sister had said she was OK, but she wasn’t coming back to school and she wasn’t going home either.
Jane never played softball again.
When she went home at Christmas, she told her Dad about our talk. How excited she was to know that she would be contributing as a freshman, but Dad went nuts. His baby was the best we had and she was going to prove it.
I found out later that they were out in the barn every day pitching. some days two or three times. No wonder her arm hurt when she came back.
She tried to suck it up and work through it when she came back to school, but when Dad found out she only pitched a couple innings in the intrasquad game, he went off the rails. He was mad at me, he was mad at her, he was mad just to be mad and Jane just couldn’t take it anymore.
She knew I would try to talk her into sticking with it, so she didn’t give me the chance to change her mind before she left. She didn’t call me for three weeks. And she didn’t speak with her Dad for months.
It gets worse. Jane just left, three weeks into he semester. She didn’t withdraw from the university. She packed up her stuff and left. When I finally got to speak with her I tried to convince her to get her withdrawal done, so when she decided to go back to school, she wouldn’t have issues.
Well, she never did withdraw. I heard from Jane again about 5 years later… she wanted to know if I could help her get the five failing grades she had on her transcript removed!
Silver lining: After spending a couple years at a community college, Jane did get her degree. So what happens when the parents want it more? Ask Jane Doe!