Denny Tincher is a well-known and highly-respected pitching instructor who has helped develop hundreds of highly successful players through his company Tincher Pitching, LLC which has nearly 100 instructors across the nation as part of his network.
As part of his events, he asked players a very interesting questions regarding the level of enjoyment or “fun” they’re having playing softball… here are his thoughts on the results…
Sometimes the things that we love are not a lot of fun.
Any fisherman or golfer will tell you that an unexpected cold rain can ruin a good day. Hikers will agree that a twisted ankle can take the joy out of a great activity.
If we believe that any pastime will always be fun it is not realistic. The pendulum will constantly swing back and forth.
The problem in softball comes when, as one of our students put it, “I forget why I am playing.”
Another said: “…the sacrifices become so great that it is no longer worth it.”
We wanted to know the factors that often take the fun out of softball. Who better to ask than the players themselves?
Over the last two months, at events in the Northeast, Midwest, and the South, we surveyed 240 pitchers and catchers, presenting a simple question.
“Softball is supposed to be fun. Sometimes, however, it is no longer fun. If that happens, who, or what, takes the fun out of softball for you?”
We felt that such a large pool would provide some good information. A few players had more than one response, so the numbers will reflect that.
Let’s get right to those numbers: Who, or what, takes the fun out of softball for you?
Here are the results:
- Parents: 103
- Coaches: 83
- Pressure on myself/burnout: 33
- Teammates: 31
- Umpires: 4
- Injuries: 3
- Other: 2
There was one response that we found particularly interesting: nine kids said that softball is always fun and every one of those kids was age 11 or under except one.
That leads to the obvious question: what changes with age?
Let’s make an important point about the data. The kids were not saying that they never enjoy the game, but that there are definitely times when they lose their enthusiasm for it.
After seeing the results of our survey, the obvious response would be to blame parents and coaches for ruining the game, but we must not generalize so quickly.
Players need guidance. If they want to excel, they must work hard in order to reach the levels they want. Sometimes the person teaching these things can become a source of irritation, whether deserved or not.
There may also be an element of the “circular firing squad.”
When things are not going well on the field, parents blame coaches who, in turn, blame parents for the disrupting things, for the attitudes and for the work ethic of their kids.
Sometimes they are pulling in opposite directions, so the kids get caught in the middle, feeling the need to place blame for the dysfunction.
We must also “follow the money.”
The money it takes to compete in many levels of travel ball is so significant that it becomes a source of stress to everyone involved.
It is hard to relax and keep the experience enjoyable for kids when too much emphasis is on scholarships, championships, and trying to be nationally ranked in your class.
Coaches are under a lot of pressure and the stress can take its toll. You have to please so many different people and 13 parents can have 13 different measures of whether you are a good coach for their daughters or not.
My point is that there is plenty of blame to go around, but just pointing fingers is not going to change anything.
One expert, after hearing the results of our survey, told me that the main takeaway from this should be, “Assume that you are part of the problem.”
Those who are most guilty will try to deflect to someone else or be in total denial. That furthers the problem.
Look at it another way: assume you can do a better job and look for positive ways to bring enjoyment to the game more often.
The third item on the list is a bit disturbing: “Pressure on myself/burnout” is a signal that a player needs help developing in proper, healthy ways. Coaches and parents can be an invaluable asset in this regard.
The purpose of this survey was not to point fingers at others, but to help us all look at ourselves, to look for ways to help kids process in healthy ways, and to make sure the game continues to bring joy to kids for generations.
Perhaps the goal should be to constantly work together to raise the number of kids who say, “Softball is always fun to me."