By Kaitlin Cochran-Johnson
Is fastpitch at the youth level too much fun or too little fun?
I think it’s quite interesting to see where women’s fastpitch is going. While I certainly am grateful for the opportunities and advances our sport has made, it seems like coaching at the youth level has shifted its focus almost too much on letting girls “have fun” rather than teaching them accountability, hard work, being a good teammate, etc.
I spent a few years coaching in California when I finished my playing career. Lately, I started thinking about those days and recall how so many parents wanted their kids to have fun and not focus at all on competing or holding their kids accountable.
Since then, I moved to North Dakota and coach at West Fargo High School. The culture here is so different and it’s not the same across the state when it comes to preparation. We hold our kids 100-percent accountable and it shows, as our school is a 20-time State Champion. Some coaches have no idea how to get their players ready for a game nor do they care to.
Whatever happened to “having fun” competing versus just enjoying each other’s company? So many times I see girls focused on taking a cute picture before, during and after a game rather than focusing on THE GAME! This concept may seem a little “old school,” however I wonder how coaches are able to prepare players for the next level of ball, much less life?!
I’m all for kids having fun but, nowadays, I think there needs to be more of a balance. Kids need to understand the value of someone teaching them how to work within a team. I really believe, wholeheartedly, that kids need to be taught this early on in their lives in order to be productive human beings in our society—and sports can be the best place to teach this to young, aspiring athletes.
If fun is what you are interested in, recreational ball is the place for you—not competitive, club ball.
Kaitlin Cochran-Johnson was a four-time First Team All-American selection at Arizona State University. She was also a four-time All Pac-10 First Team honoree and three-time Pac-10 All-Academic First Team. As a freshman, she was named the Pac-10’s Newcomer of the Year and won the NCAA National Batting Title in 2007 as a sophomore. She was also a four-time USA Softball Player of the Year Top-25 Finalist and made it to the Top-3 twice.