This last week has been a whirlwind of softball activity, trips, and decisions for my oldest daughter.
She will be leaving the nest soon and pursuing her education and athletic dreams at the next level. I haven’t posted much about this next chapter because frankly, I was a bag of emotions about it. I am super proud of my kid, beaming inside, with watery eyes when I stop to think about her journey.
Yesterday I was able to watch her last day of travel ball and couldn’t help but be flooded with past memories.
If you watched her yesterday, you saw a mature kid at shortstop who made everything look so smooth. You would probably think she always played there (I mean after all her Dad was part of her Coaching staff for a long time. Doesn’t that guarantee her the position she wants?) That couldn’t be further from the truth.
The truth is this kid barely started in the outfield in 10U. She sat often. Every once in a while she would do something to show crazy potential like a rocket throw here, a crazy quick defensive play there, but for the large majority of the time early on, she was just the inexperienced player still learning to play.
She knew never to ask me about playing time or playing a certain position or batting order because my answer was short - WORK HARDER. Consistently, I answered with ALWAYS WORK HARDER!
With this one, I knew she had some fight in her. I knew deep down inside, she would work to get what she wanted. She is a competitor by nature and even became close friends with other girls who loved to compete, which even raised their fight higher as a group.
Early on I had confidence in her ability and her fight. I knew eventually she would get what she wanted from this sport. Whatever “that” was for her remained to be seen and “that” changed often. But I didn’t need to vouch for her or ask other coaches to play her. I knew if she was good enough she would get what she wanted and if she wasn’t, she better be the best teammate she could be and put the team first.
Sometime around her second year of 12U softball, she got put on the hot corner at 3rd base and I was nervous (yes, I’m a Dad and I’m human...every sports parent gets nervous). She not only handled it, but she dominated it! Smallest kid on the field, locking down that position was impressive. She earned it and once she got it, she felt like that was hers.
She knew that she had done the work.
No coach gave it to her. There wasn’t anybody more talented than she was playing over because of team politics. This made her confidence soar and showed her the correlation between work and reward.
As some players came and left, the team evolved and so did she. The team at one point had two freaks in the middle infield. My kid had no plans to play there; she was happy with her role. However, due to injuries and players leaving, the middle was left open and the team needed it filled. The Coaches plugged her in and after a bit she had it locked down too.
From a clumsy inexperienced outfielder to a gritty lockdown 3rd Baseman, then to a smooth Shortstop, and now to a 5% next level athlete who will play college softball....all in about 8 years.
This is trusting the process.
I say all of this because as a parent I made the decision early on to make her EARN everything she received. A lot of parents say this but honestly very few do it. Instant gratification in order to make a cool Facebook post over long term success is a reality in a lot of the car rides home.
If you have the confidence in your horse to win the race, just let them run the race. Parents you can let go, you are not measured as a parent by your kid's softball achievements. You’ll be measured as a parent as to the type of adult you make.
As tryout season is quickly approaching here are a few things you can consider:
Find the team that will allow your player to grow LONG TERM, The one that sees her potential and rewards that as she puts in the work going forward.
Find the team that is committed to the development of your player and know what that commitment looks like. It doesn’t always equal playing time at the position of your choice.
Find the team who will grow your daughter as a player and a person, both ARE equally important. A quality adult is worth more than any scholarship.
Sure you can find a team that has the open position you are looking for but that won’t help grow anything but your ego.
Thank you travel ball and thank you, Coaches, for helping create a strong athletic independent young lady who will be well prepared for her next several chapters because of you.
Commit!! Compete!! Do the work!! Get the Reward!!
-Stephen Ashford, Proud Father of Madison Ashford