Oct 19, 2011 6:14 PM
I am often asked by parents whose athlete is making the jump into travel or competitive softball what factors they should consider in deciding which team to place their athlete on. The answer would be the same if your athlete currently plays travel and is considering making a change (perhaps for the spring 2012 season). Here are what I would consider the most important factors to consider:
1. Assess her motivation for playing the game. Does she like softball or love softball? Is she playing to get better or playing for social reasons or simply to have fun? What are her (and your) goals for playing the game: college, high school, travel, recreational only? How hard is she willing to work to get better?
2. Assess as objectively as possible her softball and athletic skill levels. Does she possess mad skills or does she not? How does she compare to other players? What are her strengths and weaknesses as a player?
3. Assess, as a parent or guardian, how much of a time and financial commitment you are prepared to make to your athlete's softball activities? Travel or competitive softball entails endless weekends of three to five games per day in far flung locations when leaving home before dawn and returning home after dark are not uncommon. The average family spends several thousand dollars each year for the overall cost of participation (dues, travel costs, private lessons, equipment)
4. Attend several tryouts and do your homework on the strengths and weaknesses of any team or organization you're considering joining. Go watch some of their games to get a better idea of how the coaches coach, how they utilize their players, how competent their players are? Do they have fun playing?
5. If your athlete is a specialist like a pitcher, catcher or slapper be mindful of how many other players that play that position are on that team. Will your athlete get the opportunity to play or will she "ride the pine?"
6. If your athlete is a position player assess what size roster a prospective team usually carries. A roster of 12 players versus 14 or 15 will likely mean more playing time for your athlete.
7. What is the culture of the team or organization? Is the team coached by parents with daughters on the team or is the team run by professional coaches without a child playing? Does the team or organization make a commitment to player development at the younger ages, and have a reputation for building strong players and teams? Does the team or organization stress winning at all costs? Do players on this team stick with the team or do they have massive turnover every season? What is the team or organization's track record in having their players recruited by top colleges (if that is your goal)? Do they attend the right showcase tournaments to give your athlete the best exposure possible?
Assessing all these different factors should help you to place your athlete on the right team that will be a good fit for everyone. Take your time and check out as many teams as you can before making a commitment. Remember, softball should be first and foremost a fun activity for your athlete and not a job...so choose her team wisely!
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