Softball’s Valuable Lessons Written By Renee Ferguson
For the majority of my life I didn’t just play softball, I lived it. I traveled out of state every weekend and between normal team practices and individual hitting and pitching practices with my dad, I practiced 6 days a week. The true understanding of what softball taught me didn’t happen until many, many years after I stopped playing and started coaching. It wasn’t until I started coaching that I realized that everything I learned on the field could be turned around and used as life lessons.
Something that not too many people know about me is that after my college career ended, I gave up on softball in every sense of those words. I let the years of drama between players and the politics of the game get to me, to the point that I was done with softball and I mean completely done. I didn't pick up a ball for about 10 years after I stopped playing, I refused to watch it on TV or stop by a local field to watch a youth game. It wasn't until my daughters 2nd year of recreational softball that I decided to get back into the swing of things and even then, if I am being honest, it was more out of necessity than love for the game. I hated watching my daughter get zero instruction on the field, I hated knowing that her bad mechanics were well on their way to becoming permanent bad mechanics, so I decided that it was time to put up or shut up. As you may know, it is really easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about what a coach should or shouldn't be doing on the field but unless you are willing to step in and do something about it, I have always felt it is best to keep your mouth shut.
My first adventure into coaching did not go to well after offering to help out with the team, the head coach very clearly told me he was looking for some “dads” to help him out at practice. Looking back on it, I should have reach out and shook his hand right then because his comment instantly reignited my level of passion for the sport of softball. That conversation made me I realize that I would not settle for being a fair weather coach and that I had to jump into it head first if I wanted to prove myself and make a difference in the level of softball instruction my daughter was receiving at the time.
My first season as a coach is when I fell in love with softball all over again, but this time it wasn’t as an uber competitive player, it was as a teacher. I couldn’t believe how much joy and satisfaction I got and still get out of seeing a player “get it”. Seeing the skill level of a young girl progress from not knowing how to hold the bat on the first day of practice to hitting a homerun during the last game of the season melted my heart and allowed me to fall in love with the game again through their eyes.
As the years have progressed, I have often looked back to my years as a player for guidance, not only as a coach, but in the role I serve for a local nonprofit. You see, whether you are reading the defense, reading a ball off the bat, or reading your teammates depth in the field to know exactly how much ground you have to cover if the ball is hit your way, softball is all about perception. My ability to correctly perceive and anticipate the needs of my teammates directly determines my overall level of play on the field. If I can’t read the ball off of a bat or don’t read the defense properly I am not putting my team in the best possible position to win the game. Meaning I am directly contributing to the teams failures on the field.
The ability to perceive what my team needs continues to serve me well today. As I sit in meetings at work, I strive to see what I have to do in order to make up for my teammates (coworkers) shortcomings. Now I don’t mean shortcomings as in they suck as an employee or teammate but realistically speaking, we all have areas where we could really stand to be picked up by a teammate or coworker from time to time. (Why do we stop picking one another up when we stop playing sports? We are all still a part of a larger team right?)
I hope the players I have had the opportunity to coach so far as well as the ones I may have the opportunity to coach in the future will be able to look back and the see the many lessons they learned on the field can be applied to every aspect of their lives off the field. I hope to give back to each player exactly what my coaches gave to me, a willingness to sacrifice the “I” for the “WE” or the “ME” for the “TEAM”.
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