It’s almost December and we’re quickly approaching the end of 2019. It’s a rare time on the softball calendar when the events wind down and the athletes get to take a break.
At Extra Inning Softball, we frequently get contacted by players, parents, coaches and others in the softball community who have unique opinions and perspectives and would like to share what they feel is right or wrong in the game today.
For example, this strong take from a “concerned parent” of a talented player headed to a Power 5 program. The parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, worries about the growing number and length of tournaments that he/she believes have a negative impact on the health of a young softball athlete.
Certainly, travel ball tournaments are a necessary and proven part of the development and exposure of softball athletes and--like anything of importance--there will be those who agree and those who disagree with the thoughts shared.
We encourage discussion of the points shared below and will print some of the best comments--and we would especially like the input of event producers--to better understand both sides of the issues (i.e. we’re looking for well-thought out points and solutions, not just rants!).
If you’d like to comment, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and list your name, city/state and association with softball (i.e. player, parent, coach, event director, etc.).
It was 10:30 at night and we were heading back to the hotel.
I looked in the backseat to see my 15-year-old daughter covered in dirt, still in her uniform, completely passed out even though we had only been in the car for five minutes. Her day started at 6:30 am and she had just played four games that day alone.
I thought to myself: “What am I letting happen to her?”
I wish I could say this is a totally unusual circumstance, but at this point in her softball career this is probably the eighth or ninth time we have had a day like this.
My daughter is headed to a major D1 program and has been lucky enough to go deep in most, if not all, of the major tournaments that go on within the normal framework of the club softball world. This includes a pair of Top 10 PGF finishes (one national title), four Colorado Sparkler Top 10 finishes (one win), two TCS World Series Top 10s and one USA Elite Top 10.
We have had a great deal of exposure to the structure of tournaments like those above along with others like the D9 Showcase, Zoom into June, PGF Shootout and many other major showcases.
Because of the exposure at these tournaments during the recruiting process, making sure your daughter plays the highest level of competition and even being seen by their coaches after a verbal commitment, these kinds of tournaments are the backbone of every softball player’s schedule who will go on to play D1.
Because of that, you always feel as if you have to go.
Without naming the event, here was the week-long game schedule of one these tournaments in which my daughter’s team played the entire thing:
- Monday: practice
- Tuesday: 2 games
- Wednesday: 1 game
- Thursday: 0 games
- Friday: 4 games
- Saturday 3 games
Do the math and you’ll see that 70 percent of the games back were back-loaded into the final two days. Why?
In my opinion, it’s about money. As all of us know, many tournaments get kick-backs from hotels for these tournaments and in an effort to maximize profits the more hotel days you can add, the more money you can make.
In order to maximize profits further, you have to keep as many teams in the tournament for as long as possible. In many cases, no one gets eliminated until Friday. The burden of these profits is on the backs of the best teams, but the larger issue that never gets addressed is that these teams are comprised of children.
If our children were to have jobs instead of playing softball and their employer made them do physical labor for 10 to 16 hours, we would be furious.
But under these circumstances, we as parents are paying thousands of dollars for the privilege of letting our kids be physically exploited for profit. Under these tournament structures, there are times kids between the ages of 11-to-18 are sometimes playing five or six games a day. That includes pitchers and catchers putting a toll on their knees, shoulders, elbows, and backs to take on a game schedule that Division 1 softball programs would never allow.