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.”