Okay..now that the divisive elections are over, can we come back to reality and our daily lives? Softball lives?
You know where I am going with the title 😉
There are plenty of A-ball teams in the area. A sample list is here.
But this list is compiled based on what the teams call themselves. Truly not all teams that call themselves “A” ball teams deserve to be called that. So how DO you find the needle in the haystack?
Well, I wish I had an easy answer like..they have earned the right to wear a certain color jersey or what ever, you know like the different colored belts in martial arts. Unfortunately there is no distinction that is obvious in the softball world. It is just trial and error folks.
There are however a few things you can do to narrow it down. If you are interested in a team, go watch them play in a tournament. See how they act when kids mess up and when kids have an outstanding play. Watch how the coaches interact with the players. The true “A” ball teams actually have a head of the organization who oversees all the teams of different age groups. The head coach assigns individual coaches for each age group that really care about the kids and is dedicated in improving their skills. In this day and age of volunteer softball coaches, that is always not possible to find a good coach. So every once in a while you end up in a team where the coach actually doesn’t have your kids best interest.
You know it is human nature to watch out for your own kids’ well being but that shouldn’t have to come at the expense of playing time for other kids or negative comments and feed back to other kids. Usually most teams tell upfront that on Saturday everyone gets equal play time since Saturday games actually don’t count in a tournament.
But on Sundays usually most teams play to win. There are however some “A” ball teams which care more about improving the kids. Improving each individual kids skill is their main goal. Winning championships is not their goal. But for every team like that there are a hand full of teams on the opposite end of the spectrum which accept your kids but then sit them out most of the time since all they care about is winning every single game they play. Your kids are just back up just in case.
There are also teams where the coach is so negative that it is border line verbal abuse. It is after all a game of softball and at some point the games end (mostly after college) but the kids take the lessons learned with them for the rest of their lives. Being strict and yelling at the kids to improve them are great but there is a line that can’t be crossed and balance that needs to be reached. Girls don’t react to yelling and screaming like boys do. Actually there are many books that have been written about the differences in coaching boys vs girls. A few interesting reads are here and here.
A good “A” ball team will have a dugout coach who will actually invest time in correcting the kids when they make mistakes in the field as soon as they walk in the dugout. “Why did you leave your base early?” or “you have to turn your hips the right way before hitting?” or “You have to extend when you swing ” , ” You have to keep your eyes on the ball and don’t pull your head”, ” You didn’t turn the right direction while catching” etc. , When your kids play on a team that is constantly correcting them, they will eventually end up being a great player after a few years of repetitive lessons. I kid you not, it takes a few years for the kids to keep hearing the coaching over and over again to actually get it. Another way kids learn is when they are actually in the field playing and making mistakes. They learn from the mistakes and hopefully do better the next time.
True “A” ball team also doesn’t dismantle after every season and redo the tryout again the next season. They have their kids come to the tryouts but not in order to cut them. Kids will never be able to master the techniques if there is no continuity from season to season. The only time they cut kids are if they are uncoachable and disrespectful and a distraction to the other athletes or if the parents are so obnoxious that they are not setting a good example for the other kids in the team. The true “A” ball team cares about winning but not at the expense of the kids learning and using wrong techniques. They actually don’t mind losing games by keeping the kids in the game if they are struggling as long as there is a lesson involved to perform under pressure. Wrong techniques actually can hurt the kids physically. Their ultimate goal is to actually train the kids in the correct techniques and get them to be the best they can be in order to play in college if that is what the kids goals are.
Well the above is what a good “A” ball team does. Now there are other teams that call themselves the same but essentially hold tryouts and pick the best players for each position or multiple positions. In this area where softball is so prevalent, there are some tremendous athletes with raw natural talent. So these teams will essentially have no dugout or base coaching. Kids are just thrown in the game and have to figure out a way to play well. Don’t be fooled, some teams that form like this actually do compete in many top tournaments and also win. If your kid happens to get on one of these teams be very proud that they made an “A” ball team but don’t expect too much after that. If no one is actually telling them what they are doing wrong, they will never know that they are doing something wrong. These teams also tend to sit kids out more since their core group is doing well in winning games, they have no reason to bring new kids in and mess it all up. These teams are more like the “All stars of the All star teams”.
Many a times you see frustrated kids and parents going from team to team to just be able to find the right fit for their kids. So good luck to you and your kids. May the softball gods help you find the right team. If you know of teams you have been with that are truly an “A” ball team with the kids best interest then please share your team name and information so it can help others who are in search of a good team.
Here is a friendly challenge for the “A” ball teams : How about adding a mission statement for your team and explain to the new parents searching for that perfect team what your coaching philosophy is and explain how you take a young kid from a beginner and turn her into a good athlete ready for college!!
As usual, thanks for reading!