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Facemasks May Be Stunting Youth Players Growth

2018-03-21T11:01:02+00:00 March 21st, 2018|, |10 Comments
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By BTP Coaches

For the first time in a long time, the coaches at BTP decided to attend a youth tournament instead of going to an NCAA game last weekend and did we learn a lot!

Let’s set the scene for you. The tournament had one field for four 8U teams and two fields for nine 10U teams.  So, what did we learn?

We learned that watching 8U is still cute and that 10U left us scratching our heads. Why?  Every single player that touched the field was wearing a defensive mask and some teams required their girls to wear an undershirt with built in chest protectors.

We understand that some parents or coaches out there think that this is a good idea but college coaches are recruiting the next age division up. The extra protection could actually be hurting the development of the athlete.

Not to age our coaches but when we were younger, the masks didn’t exist. Coaches would tell us over and over again how to flip the glove over for balls above the knee, keep our head down and follow the ball all the way into our glove.  You didn’t actually understand why you were being taught all this until you got popped in the face with a hop or turned your head, the ball got past you and the runner was safe.

We completely understand why a pitcher wears a mask, as some collegiate players do. But there is no reason why outfielders should be wearing them. If they are struggling to catch a fly ball, then practice it. For example, back when one of our coaches was playing 8U travel ball, her coach would hit fly balls in practice as a contest. Each player who caught a ball got 25 points, she could then choose to double-or-nothing or stay where she was. The girl with the most points at the end would get an ice cream cone or a gift card to Wendy’s (it was next to the ballpark).

The extra protection seems to act as a safety net. What happens when she finally ditches the gear? Will she hesitate or turn her head when a ball is hit to her?

Nothing is a better tool for teaching than a knot on her forehead, a fat lip or a giant bruise where you see the stitching from the ball. There is such a thing as over protection and we think it’s making the players soft. Remember this cliché, “Softball, there’s nothing soft about it.”

10 Comments

  1. SW March 21, 2018 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    Don’t assume that youth coaches aren’t teaching all of those things. Our girls, particularly infielders, wear masks and I require it for pitchers. But we work without them in practice, when it is appropriate. We also rotate in tennis balls, softies, and we let them take a ball safely. I would be willing to bet that the bats weren’t the same when you played either, and that pitchers weren’t reaching the same velocities at the same age that they are now. I know those things are true for myself…
    And if we are worried about a college coach hanging out at 12U then that just reinforces the problem of early recruiting too. If wearing a mask makes a kid willing to more aggressively approach a ball, then that mask becomes a tool.
    I also don’t know that a sports generation ago there was the fear of litigation or retribution from parents that we see today. Just like we couldn’t imagine taking the mask off of batting helmets in the younger ages, eventually the defensive masks will be part of play as we keep them safe and help them fall in love with the game.

  2. Nonie Nolan March 21, 2018 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    Your an idiot. Masks do not stunt a player. Take this into advice. 1 tooth that gets knocked out or broken is no less than 3 to 4 thousand dollars. And again that is one tooth. 1 ball to the eye socket or occipital bone. 50 to 100 thousand dollars and you are lucky if it doesn’t blind your daughter or worse kill her. So I will stand behind the use of a mask ever single day. Stunt a player that’s a joke. My daughter has worn one since T ball and now plays for a National team. She has been scouted by 2 colleges at the age of 12. So you might want to rethink your article. Colleges do not look down on players who wear them. The coaches and parents who say “my daughter will not wear one” I will pray that you never have the experience of sitting in an emergency room with your daughter having blood pour out of her eye because a ball hit her and she was a center fielder. My daughter will wear a mask because I love her.

  3. Jessica March 21, 2018 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    I can’t believe that I’ve seen young girls wear them in the outfield. Softball isn’t (typically) a contact sport. Should baseball players be wearing facemasks as well at that age? Why don’t we see multitudes of youth baseball players of the same age wearing these facemasks?
    We all got along just fine without facemasks.
    I know when I was playing club ball, the bats were at the stage of getting hotter and hotter. Parents need to stop giving their girls bats that are too big and heavy for them just for “power”. It’s not fooling anyone if a little tiny 12u girl is banging homers and college coaches know it.

    • Ryan Donmoyer March 23, 2018 at 5:15 am - Reply

      One reason you don’t see youth baseball players wearing them is their fields grow with them. At 15, a baseball player’s field is 50% larger than it was at 10. In softball, 15 year olds play on the same size field they did when they were 5. The reaction times are faster in fastpitch.

      The premise of this article is that coaches are sacrificing teaching skills because of the mask. I don’t think that’s true. If a girl flubs a play or drops a ball, they will hear from it from a coach or teammates. I don’t follow the reasoning that a fat lip or black eye will make it more memorable.

      But this isn’t really even about the black eye or the fat lip. It’s about saving teeth (lot of orthodontia at this age!) and eyes. And maybe lives. Granted, that’s less of a concern at 8U or 10U than at older ages (although I saw three pitchers in 10U take a line drive to the face). But even at 12U, the balls are screaming off the bats (and at younger ages you have dramatic height and weight differences between players due to player growth differential). Just like everything else, masks become part of teaching the game. Normalize them at this age and they may literally save a player’s life later. It is hoped eventually this normalization infiltrates the collegiate levels. Having coaches who are a little more enlightened about the trend and a little less curmudgeonly and “run some dirt in it” will also help in that regard.

      That said I do agree that there’s a hierarchy where they are really needed: 1) pitchers; 2) infield corners, particularly 3B; 3) middle infield; 4) OF. But at 8U and 10U it’s easier to just mandate the entire team wear them for a variety of reasons from avoiding stigma and ease of substitution.

  4. EJ March 22, 2018 at 6:41 am - Reply

    Amazing in this day and age of D1 pitchers in top programs now wearing face masks, and literally on the heels of Alexis Osorio taking a line drive to her temple, you are irresponsible enough to put out this dangerous and ridiculously antiquated POV.
    Thankfully it’s 2018 and outdated notions such as yours are falling by the wayside. Softball is temporary, faces and brains are forever.

  5. Nikki March 22, 2018 at 7:00 am - Reply

    What a ridiculous “article.” Who are you to shame little girls for wearing safety equipment? There’s already a stigma surrounding facemasks, now some player (or their parent) could read this and could end up losing teeth or with a broken nose bc you’re giving out crappy advice.
    Shameful.

  6. Mike March 22, 2018 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    Really irresponsible post. Not sure why there’s always some old coach that talks about, “when I played…” but every sport, at one point or another, has gone without pads and helmets. American football, baseball, hockey…but they all adapt as equipment becomes further developed. The final paragraph of your post is so ludicrous, I thought for a second this was satire.

  7. Debbie W March 22, 2018 at 10:15 pm - Reply

    Balls are coming off the bat much faster now then they did years ago and facemasks were simply not available back then. I am shocked to read such an ignorant post and I for one am grateful that equipment has caught up to make girls SAFER today than years back. I do not think wearing a mask makes a difference at all in college recruiting and my granddaughter, who is a pitcher, and plays 1st and 3rd base will continue to wear one. It’s sad that articles like this try to shame girls into forgoing a simply step to make them just a little bit safer. Your comment on the chest shields is equally absurd. Young girls do not yet have the chest development to stop a hard hit line drive from hitting them in the heart region and stopping their heart. Perhaps you should do your research before writing such nonsense.

  8. Lori March 23, 2018 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    This is just a careless post. Clearly your experience as a coach has not given you the sight of a kid taking a line drive to the face or ribs as I have. When it happens softball is non existent everyone there is silent and the only concern on everyone’s mind is…Is she ok?. It Is not anything i ever want to witness again. The one to the pitcher who was wearing a facemask was ok. Her mask on tbe other hand? Wow.
    Im sorry that your so blinded by the way softball used to be , and that because of your platform you think protecting kids, in any sport weather long or short term is a bad thing. It gives me chills to think there are really people that care mire about proper mechanics than possible permanent damage to a child. I’ve also witness a pitcher take a line drive to the rib cage. Thankfully she was ok as well. She had no protection on her ribs, but she did have a facemask. She was hunched over in tremandus pain. And all we could think is that might have just taken her out for the season, thinking of a child no matter the age have to deal with physical and emotional pain that some simple equipment could protect them from, to me it’s a no brainer. The facemask is just park of the equipment now a days. Getting a fat lip is what makes a player better? No practice and good coaching. Sorry your not up to date with reality! Keep the kids as safe as possible with a facemask. C’mon, were not draping in bubble wrap! I can’t believe coaches like you even exist anymore. Just lame!!

  9. Candice June 5, 2018 at 10:39 am - Reply

    This person that wrote this article is way wrong!!! My 12 year old daughter took a line drive straight to her face and fractured her nose three of her teeth, chipped others and busted her lip. Masks need to become mandatory. My daughter loves softball and was asking me in emergencey room when can she play again, she is dedicated and loves it. She went to her playoff game week later while being injured still and made it to all stars so coaches don’t mind if you wear a face mask she made it cause she is one heck of a player. I am very thankful it was not life threatening, but it could have been. Has costs us $5,000 so far and we’re not done. When she is 16 she will need perm implant crowns. She has been through a lot of trauma and pain and all this could have been prevented by wearing her face mask

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