• December 28, 2014

Young softball players tough, competitive

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Posted: Friday, May 30, 2014 4:30 am

‘There’s no crying in baseball!”

That’s the classic line from sports film “A League of Their Own.” Tom Hanks’ character Jimmy Dugan extolled his supreme wisdom unto his players and the audience in 1992 and has made movie-viewers laugh ever since.

The premise of the joke was simple — be tough, be a man. The punch line was that Hanks’ character was coaching an all-female major league baseball team.

I happen to know a little something about that. I coach for an 8-and-under machine-pitch softball league in Cove and I can personally attest to the fact that Hanks was wrong.

Allow me to digress for a moment.

I have 10 young ladies ages 7 to 9 on my team. All of them play hard and get dirty and not from kicking the dirt around. They usually practice pretty hard and always give 100 percent in the games ... to the point that, during the game, they have no idea which team is in the lead.

They only know they are having a blast, which, for me, is awesome.

The pure joy for the game that all the girls display, other teams included, is what I get out of coaching. I don’t care if we win or lose; these girls won’t remember any of that in 10 years. But they will remember the time they had, whether it was good or bad.

What does all of this have to do with Geena Davis and Madonna?

Simply put — there IS crying in baseball. Only not for the reasons you might think.

These little girls are tough as nails. I’ve seen them get drilled on the hand with a softball traveling 36 mph and hold back the tears.

Often they’ll even get a hit later in the at-bat.

I’ve seen one get drilled square in the leg from a line-drive, only to pick up the ball and throw it to first base in an attempt to get the out.

She never shed a tear, but was ticked off that the hitter was safe on the close play.

I’ve seen a girl step to the plate with two runners on and two outs and hit the ball so hard down the first-base line that we all thought for sure it was going to be a home run. Instead, the opposing first baseman made a great play and tagged first base for the third out of the last inning.

My hitter cried. She cried because she felt like she let her team down.

The girls don’t cry because they’re hurt; they cry because they want to help their team but, for whatever reason, aren’t successful.

There’s no consoling those tears, at least not with Dugan’s no-crying theory. It takes a gentler approach.

I’ve found that positive reinforcement is the best method for me. Rather than let them think about a play they didn’t make or a hit they didn’t get, I make them focus on the things they did well.

I know my approach works. I have the proof.

After a game, one of my players told her mom that she had more fun than she ever had in all of her life.

And the thing is, we lost that game.

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