Guest post by Ken Krause, Life in the Fastpitch Lane blog
Over the past few days I’ve been exchanging texts with a few parents and coaches who are going through the tryout process. While we’ve discussed a number of topics, one theme that seems to keep running through them on both sides is whether anyone feels loyalty anymore.
Back when I first started coaching it was unsual for players to leave the program they started with to go somewhere else. Sure, it happened, but it was more the exception — perhaps a more athletically gifted player looking to play on a higher-caliber team.
Today it seems like everyone is jumping around. Some are in search of that elusive “super team” that will win a bunch of trophies. Even if that means they actually spend most of their time on the sidelines.
Others are looking for that magic ticket into a college scholarship. They hope by playing on the right team they will be discovered, and all their financial worries for the future will go away. (Even though the reality is players are rarely “discovered” randomly, and instead put in a lot of hard work contacting coaches to let them know where they’ll be.)
Whatever the motivation, however, you see a lot more players heading to a lot more tryouts, and can only wonder if they have team helmets hanging from their walls in neat little displays.
Then there are the coaches. Just about every organization will say that in their program “the girls come first.” But what they really mean is “the girls come first as long as they can help us win; otherwise, we’ll jettison them like yesterday’s flan.”
What’s interesting is when a girl is in a program with a coach for a couple of years, doing all the drills and participating enthusiastically in all the practices. Then one day she’s cut because she’s not measuring up to the coach’s expectations. Sorry, but who was it that was supposed to develop her? If you had her for two years and she didn’t get better (assuming she made the effort), could you perhaps be at fault?
But coaches cutting long-time players isn’t the only thing that goes on. There are also coaches who jump programs, taking their teams with them. Sometimes they have a legitimate beef. I’ve known coaches who wanted to keep a team together across an age break only to have their organizations refuse to let the younger girls play up. If you have a good team and want to keep it, sometimes that’s your only option.
But in other cases, it’s the usual pettiness that enters into many human endeavors. A coach thinks he or she is all that and a bag of chips after winning some minor tournament and wants to be treated like a rock star instead of a member of a team (the organization). When they don’t get their way, they take their bats and balls and go somewhere else. They set that example, then one day are surprised when their star players decide to seek their fortunes elsewhere as well.
Now, I’m not saying everyone has to stay in the same place forever. That’s not realistic. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, especially if they’re not appreciated where they are. Sometimes coaches need to get rid of players who may be nice kids but don’t have the interest or dedication to move to the infamous next level with the rest of the team. There are lots of reasons out there.
But it seems like the whole concept of loyalty has been replaced by the idea of me first and second, and everyone else can go scratch. That’s a shame, because it makes us just a little meaner of a society.
Perhaps the loyalty pendulum will swing back once again, bringing some stability to teams and their players. In the meantime, if you see some of it in action treasure it. It seems to be a rare commodity these days.
Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
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