Actions Speak Much Louder Than Words Written By Greg Cruthers
They say that we learn valuable life lessons from playing sports. One day I received a phone call informing me that the reputations of my daughter and mine were being trashed in the local softball forum. After reading the posts I was shocked, disappointed and finally very angry. The gist of the posts was that I was an egotistical freak who thought his arrogant daughter was going to be the next Jenny Finch. My daughter heard about it from a friend and was quite upset too. This was the culmination of our first year of travel softball.
First Year of Travel Softball
Our community recreational youth softball league organized travel softball teams for multiple age groups. A couple of us parent coaches were selected to coach the 12u team. Not one of us had any travel softball coaching experience, but we moved forward practicing weekly through the winter and spring. Thankfully we only scheduled 4 local tournaments, because it proved to be a disaster.
We were trounced virtually every game by experienced teams from established clubs. We failed our players and their parents. In hindsight there were only 3 girls who had any business playing some level of travel softball. None of them were the daughters of my co-coaches. After a lifetime of playing baseball I realized I did not know fastpitch softball.
The lone bright spot of the experience was that after nearly every game the opposing team’s coach would pull one of us coaches aside and ask about “the little left-hander.” She was only 10, the pitcher, lead-off hitter and was getting all of the attention from other coaches, players and spectators. She was my daughter. This wasn’t handled well by one of my co-coaches.
Before the final tourney of the season he went off on me. His argument was that my daughter pitched too often, while his was being robbed of the opportunity to pitch. His daughter had a habit of failing to complete an inning before either getting mysteriously injured or crying after giving up double-digit runs. Nevertheless, I told him that his daughter could pitch every inning of every game. And she did. We hit the time limit each game before finishing the 3rd inning resulting in losses by the run rule every game. The team’s parents were furious at him.
Finding a New Team
I had already decided that I needed to take my daughter somewhere else and find her a team and coaches who would teach her the game of fastpitch softball. I spent a couple weekends at our state tournaments watching other teams and talking with coaches and parents. I took my daughter with me on the last day and we saw a team that really stood out before they even took the field. This caught her eyes. We watched them battle, talked with a couple parents and left after they won the game.
On the drive home she told me she wanted to play for that team. A few weeks later I took her to their tryouts where there were over 50 girls looking to fill one of six openings. They offered her a spot and she quickly accepted. It would be the first time in her life that she was not the best player on the team. Together we were fortunate to learn this game of fastpitch softball over the 7 years that she played with the club. A couple of seasons I served as an assistant coach and am still the webmaster for Finesse Fastpitch. After years of hard work and dedication she is now a member of the Ball State softball team.
Letting It Go
As for the nonsense in the forums, after calming down we decided to just let it go. Amazingly this coach signed up half of the team for another couple of seasons. He and his daughter continued to bad mouth us for years to come. And she heard the rumors in school too. At times it was extremely difficult to not confront this guy. But, in time we learned to just laugh at what we were hearing. It took awhile, but people started to figure out which father/daughter combination lacked character.
When I share this story with people we get to know in our softball circle they are dumbfounded. It took years for our reputations to be restored. Often somebody would say, “We heard all this crazy stuff about you, but you’re nothing like that.” Our good friend who is a former Finesse coach and current coach at the University of Michigan, Dearborn told me, “Greg. As good of a softball player that Hayley is, she’s a far better young lady. You should be proud.” What better compliment can a father receive of his daughter?
It’s All About The Team Dad
I created a softball website for our entire community (youth through varsity) and have written the articles for the varsity games since 2008. My daughter insisted that I must find a way to include all the girls on the team in the articles and any pictures that go with them. She would tell me if I forgot to include a girl who entered a game to courtesy run for the catcher or somebody who made a good defensive play.
The local paper called and asked to interview her over the phone. She walked into her room and shut the door. A while later she handed me the phone and told me he wanted to talk with me now. The guy half-way complained, “All she wants to do is talk about her teammates and coaches.” The local TV Station selected her as their athlete of the week. The interview began with her laughing at a question and the interviewer saying, “As you can see Hayley doesn’t like to talk about herself. Instead she lets her bat do the talking for her.”
Social Media Is Just a Modern Form of Gossip
There is a lot of discussion about the negative effects that social media is having these days not only on our children, but on our entire culture. A grown man slandering a 10 year old girl and her father on a public softball forum is surely an example of that. However, the years they spent trash talking us in our community had nothing to do with social media. Looking back these days we actually feel sorry for them, especially the daughter.
The life lessons that we learned from the experience and the path we chose are priceless: Patience, Humility, Forgiveness, Honesty, Diligence, Courage, Loyalty and Gratitude. In the end all of the accusations on the forum and gossip proved to be just words. And actions speak much louder than words.