Having coached 11 years of varsity softball and one year of JV, if there is one thing that could be improved upon, it would be finding a way to educate players AND parents about the difference between middle school sports and high school sports.┬á I have heard and seen time and again how parents are surprised at any number of changes that occur in the way things are done.┬á Not all parents of course.┬á Some may have had older children and have already been to the dance.┬á But that first time, if you had not been informed can be quite an eye-opener.
I remember a conversation I overheard between two moms several years ago.┬á One had a daughter that was a junior in high school and the otherÔÇÖs daughter was a freshman.┬á Both were on varsity.┬á The older girl liked softball but was not a standout player.┬á The freshman had potential but wasÔÇª. WellÔÇªa freshman.┬á The freshman would start sometimes.┬á Again, she had potential, had some good moments at the plate, but generally struggled against varsity pitching.┬á This is not uncommon.
The one mom, I believe it was the younger girlÔÇÖs mom, made a comment about how she had struggled in her hitting.┬á The comment I remember, not sure which one said it, but both agreed, that the girls had done so well, were such good hitters, in the rec league when they were younger.
Hello!┬á YouÔÇÖre not in Kansas anymore Toto!
Not only are you not in the rec league anymore.┬á You are not in middle school or junior high anymore either.┬á Where once you may have been able to intimidate a the coach (who usually is just another teacher at the school) in most cases that wonÔÇÖt happen anymore.┬á And where there might have only been a year or two difference age wise, there now can be as much as 4 years age difference (if you child makes varsity as a freshman.)┬á Your freshman son or daughter could now be playing against seniors that are not only 3 or 4 years ahead of your child, but who may have been playing club or travel sports and who may even have a college athletic scholarship in their pocket.┬á Your son may be playing football or basketball against other boys who outweigh your son by 2-1 or who are five or six inches taller.
So here are a few tips for those parents whose son or daughter are going to be freshman in high school in a month or two.┬á Obviously there are many variables depending upon the school you are going to and the area you live in.┬á Feel free to send me any specific questions that arenÔÇÖt answered here and IÔÇÖll do my best to point you in the right direction.
- There is no equal playing time guaranteed in high school sports.┬á The coach will play who he/she wants to play when they want them to play.┬á The donÔÇÖt care who your son or daughterÔÇÖs daddy is, who they work for, or how much money you have, unless youÔÇÖre going to donate it all to the program.
- Players that have been playing a given sport from the time they are six or seven years old, and who now play club or travel ball, are probably better than your son or daughter in about 99% of the time.┬á DonÔÇÖt complain about the coach just taking travel ball players.┬á They arenÔÇÖt taking the travel ball players just to take travel ball players.┬á Most of the time travel ball players are better.┬á They are more dedicated to the sport and they have more experience.
- Check out the schoolÔÇÖs sports program.┬á For example, if your high school is a perennial powerhouse in a given sport, letÔÇÖs use softball as an example, and there are 40 ÔÇô 60 kids trying out for 10 spots on the team, your daughter who has never played softball has about ZERO chance of making the team.┬á ThereÔÇÖs nothing wrong with trying but just be aware of the situation.
- Unlike middle school, you cannot tell the coach how to run the team or when and where to play your son or daughter.┬á You can try.┬á But donÔÇÖt be surprised if the coach cuts your son or daughter because you are badgering the coach about whether they make the team or about their playing time.
- Cancel all vacations, special trips, and parties once the season starts.┬á Your son or daughter is expected to be at practice and/or games on time and ready to go.┬á Just because Mom or Dad is taking off work and wants to go shopping or do something around the house is not a reason to miss practice, nor school for that matter.
- Build a relationship with the coach.┬á DonÔÇÖt badmouth the coach behind his/her back.┬á If you have a concern about the coachÔÇÖs style, arrange to speak to the coach privately to discuss the matter.┬á DonÔÇÖt start yelling at the coach right before a game.┬á Many coaches are very flexible when it comes to school stuff as long as there is communication and as long as the requests are reasonable.┬á (And thatÔÇÖs by coachÔÇÖs definition of reasonable, not yours.)
- Finally, remember it is the coachÔÇÖs team.┬á You, (mom and dad) are not playing on the team, your son or daughter is.┬á Encourage them to discuss their future with the coach.┬á The coach is going to run the team the way they feel is best.┬á Whether you agree or disagree, itÔÇÖs their team.┬á Throwing tantrums, loud complaints, etc. will only serve to embarrass your child.┬á It wonÔÇÖt gain them any status on the team.
I hope this helps.┬á Again, feel free to email me if you have further questions.┬á High School sports can be a great experience for your child.┬á It can also be a nightmare.┬á And many times, itÔÇÖs the parent who determines which it is.
Best of luck in your tryouts.