Editor’s Note: This is a two-part piece designed to answer the above question from two very different and very important perspectives. Part one discussed the safety issues addressed by wearing a mask. Part two talks about the impact that wearing a mask could have on a player’s recruiting process.
If you have read the first part of this series you already know my opinion about wearing the defensive facemasks has changed 180 degrees in the past 3 years. I’m sorry to have to admit that, as a college coach on the recruiting trail, I used to judge a player who chose to wear a mask in a negative light.
Today I want to share with you some of the misguided beliefs I used to hold to help you understand why some college coaches hold the opinions they have.
Background fosters belief
Ask yourself who are the coaches who are doing the recruiting? They’re usually former fastpitch players, former baseball players and former men’s fastpitch players.
What do they have in common? No masks!
The primary decision makers almost always come from a background where they never wore a mask or played with players who did.
So you get opinions like:
Old-school opinion #1: Mask = lack of confidence
I used to believe that a player who didn’t have more confidence in their abilities than to feel the need to wear a mask was not a player I would want on my team.
Old-school opinion #2: Real pitchers don’t need masks
Don’t throw it fat over the plate and you don’t need a mask to protect you. Wow, that sounds even worse when I write it out.
Now, here’s some new-school reality:
Truth: Hitters are getting stronger.
The ball is getting hit harder, more consistently. The human brain cannot process information fast enough and the human body can not move fast enough to react to the balls that are being hit in todays game.
Truth: There aren’t many traumatic injuries, but the ones that happen are VERY traumatic.
A very small percentage of players playing the game suffer serious injuries from batted balls. Still, the severity of the injuries that do occur makes this a very shaky truth, to say the least. Everybody has seen these the videos. This stuff’s no joke.
Truth: We’ve gotten smarter on other safety issues.
We used to ride in cars without seatbelts, now we know that was stupid. We used to ride our bikes without helmets, now we believe that was stupid. Many of our parents smoked cigarettes, now we believe that was stupid.
Truth: We have the technology.
No matter what your opinion about whether or not a player should wear one, no one can argue that wearing a mask is safer than not wearing one.
Truth: You don’t want bad things to happen if you can help it.
The scariest thing I have ever experienced was seeing Morgan Sikes on the ground. The second was sitting with her in the hospital worrying about her losing her vision and what her future would hold.
Some college coaches have been negatively evaluating players who wear defensive masks for years. I know, because I was one of them. I hope that no coach ever has to experience what I did on that sunny day in Deland.
College coaches, please, judge the player behind the mask, not the mask.
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