Tuesday, February 10, 2015

North Texas Select Softball Teams

There are many North Texas Select Softball teams, and finding the right team for your daughter can be instrumental in her development as she gets older.  As the author of this blog, I feel it is important to share with you that I am an assistant coach of my daughter’s softball team and will be sharing opinions that may or may not be in line with your opinion.  This blog is intended to help other parents who are trying to find the right team to put their daughter to give her a great experience and help her develop as a softball player.  This is also intended for parents who feel that league play or rec play is not preparing their daughter for the level of competition they desire.  Most importantly this blog is intended to help give you some insight when looking for the right softball team for your daughter and share my personal experience.

A little background of my story is important to let you understand what I was looking for when finding the right select softball team for my daughter.

I had always been involved with my son in football, basketball and baseball.  My son was playing at a high level in select football so I fully understood the commitment a player would need to make when playing Select Sports of any kind.  My daughter was 7 at the time and started showing interest in girls’ softball.  She loved to dance, sing and wanted to be a cheerleader.  However, she also liked sports and tried to play everything her brother played. 

She had a cousin who was playing, and we decided to let her play for that team.  This team was a group of local girls who had parents who put together a select 8 and under team.  The girls on the team were athletic, and the parents were coaching the team.  All of the positions were set and as you can imagine as an outsider (or newcomer) was probably not going to get the most notable position on the team.  That didn’t deter us because I didn’t know if my daughter would like to play softball and we didn’t really know much about the sport. 

The Fall Season with that same team was a different story.  She was going to be turning 8 during the next Spring/Summer season and the head coach said that anyone wanting to pitch had to take pitching lessons to get to pitch in the Fall.  My daughter came to me at the end of the first season and said she wanted to pitch.  After letting her show me that she might have some ability to pitch, I hired a pitching coach to take her under his wing.  That Fall season she was never given the opportunity to pitch although the team lost big every game. 

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we quickly sought out a team to give her an opportunity to get some experience.  This led us back to Rec Ball and my daughter found a lot of mound time to develop as a pitcher.  After a Fall, Spring and Summer Season of Rec Softball, she was now playing strong enough as a pitcher, first baseman and hitter to look for a team that would be a good fit for our family’s needs.  We were about to take our second attempt at Select Softball in North Texas.

Before getting back into Select Softball, I had a talk with my daughter about commitment to the sport and the sacrifices she would have to make playing at a higher level.  Select Softball teams in North Texas play year around with the exception of December and January when there is potentially bad weather.  Also, I am a firm believer to allow your child to play multiple sports and participate in as many church and school activities as possible.  Therefore, she would have conflicts and not be able to make certain events, birthday parties, or other typical activities.  (Of course, she is still a little girl and there is a lot of effort to not miss out on anything.)  Select Softball requires making team practices, playing out-of-town tournaments on Saturdays, Sundays and sometimes Fridays.  In addition to team activities, a player who wants to be a contributor to a team must also practice on their own.  For example, my daughter has pitching lessons once a week, team practices twice a week, and then works out on her own (with me) the other three days.  We usually take off one day a week from softball.  That said, our vacation time as a family is very limited because of our commitment to softball.  However, for those of you that think we are over committed to Select Softball- our family still allows her to be a kid!

Now that she understood the commitment she would be making (as much as a 9 year-old could) it was time to find the right Select Softball Team in North Texas.

We also defined our personal goals of what we want sports to help my daughter with.  I think anyone considering Select sports- has a goal to earn a college scholarship.  However, I will discuss the slim chances of this happening later in the blog.  We defined our goals as keeping our child healthy, pushing her to her limits, learning skills that will carry over into other aspects of her life, and the old cliché of having fun with the limited time most people have playing sports as a kid.  (She doesn’t think much about this as I do, but she does want to have fun and compete at a high level.)

We made the decision to try out for several teams in North Texas.  This would give us an opportunity to find the right team for her and make sure she was the right fit for the team.

The first criteria we had would be to find a team that was open to development of a player.  This would be my daughter’s first year in 10U softball which means she was the youngest of the group and would have some 11 year-olds playing on her team.  We wanted to make sure she would get an opportunity to play.  Now my daughter was a pitcher, but she also played first base and outfield.  We didn’t want her on a team where she only watched from the bench.  We also understood that there may be times she would find herself on the bench and understood that as well.
Without naming the teams we tried out for (because they might be the best team for another girl) I will only tell you our experience.

The first team we tried out for seemed a lot like her first experience in select softball.  The team wasn’t coached by parents of the girls, but it was already established.  She had a very good tryout and looked to be the strongest pitcher of the bunch.  However, the head coach made a decision not to place her on his “A” team as his two pitchers were what he wanted to go with.  Therefore, she would be playing on the “B” team.

Another team was part of a very large organization in the Softball World.  They wanted her on their team, but something just didn’t seem right.  To me, it seemed like she was just another number in a large organization.  They touted how they could get her exposed to college scouts and they would talk about all of the great players who have come through the organization.  Then they started talking about the price.  I didn’t really understand where my money would be going and how it would be benefiting my daughter.  You see- she wasn’t even 10 yet!  I just couldn’t drink that cool-aide.  Upon further research, I noticed some of the players they talked about might have only spent a season at the most in the organization.  They didn’t develop that player.  That player just happened to play in the organization at that time.  I also felt, that if my daughter is good enough to play college ball at some point- I can help get her exposed to colleges by taking trips, sending tape and even using a phone to make a call.

We even had teams without seeing her say “Yes, come out and we have a spot.”  We had teams that said, “Send a video, and we will try to find her a place to play but we already have our starting pitchers”.  

I was upset at that because I wanted a team that made a decision on a player by seeing her and identifying if she was a fit for the team or not.

Finally, a colleague of mine who had a lot of experience in the Select World of Softball and has a very talented softball player of his own made a call on behalf of my daughter.  He got her a tryout with the team she is on now.  I have to say, my daughter did not have a great tryout that first time with this team.  As a matter of fact, I am surprised they even invited her back for another look.  She was nervous.  She might have pitched a strike every 10th pitch, but they did invite her back for another look.  (Later, I as I got to really know the head coach- I asked him what he saw in her.  He laughed and said, “It was that every 10th pitch that was something special.”  He then said, some people just can’t see the forest through the trees.”  This coach has picked up several players on this team that were in the same situation as my daughter at one time or another.)  I’m glad they did because this was also an opportunity for us to give them another look as well.  It was an older team (which means she played with girls a year older but still at the 10U level).  We saw it as an opportunity for her to get key playing time, but not have to be a star or the one carrying the team.  This team met our first criteria of a Select Team in North Texas.

Second criteria was the parents and their girls.  You see, in Select Softball you spend almost every weekend of the year on the fields.  You see these families more than you see your own extended family.  These would be people you have to get along with.  A requirement of this team for us would be strong values.  We looked at how the girls treated each other, how the parents talked with us, and yes- how they looked.  Were they people we would want to get to know and actually become friends with?  Did they have the same values as us?  I didn’t just want to have a girls’ softball player, but I was also raising a young woman and it is important to be around people she can look up to and other girls she can be friends with.  A lot of teams we looked at have great families which I am glad for.  This team completely met this criteria.  There are no clicks as everyone communicates with everyone through the week.

The third criteria was the coaching.  Now some may be wondering why this isn’t the first criteria.  It’s pretty simple.  In sports, your coach is only going to be with you for a select number of hours during the week.  No matter how many practices or games you play there are many more hours away from the team that you will have to work out on your own than you are with the coaches.  Therefore, as long as I put her with a good hitting coach and pitching coach and she practices on her own; a coaching staff couldn’t really screw her up that bad.  So, what did I look for in a coaching staff?  The first thing was did they care about the girls like the girls were their own daughter?  I don’t care if the coach had a daughter on the team or not.  I cared if they cared about my daughter.  As a parent, you can talk to someone and see this quality.  Next, I looked at their organizational skills.  Were the practices a lot of sitting and goofing off or was the practice fluid?  Was their discipline on the team?  I am a firm believer in you perform how you practice.  Then, I looked at communication.  Finally, I wanted to see if they were giving instruction that I wasn’t providing on my own.  I looked at the accessibility of experts or those who had “skins on the wall” in softball.  These coaches pushed the girls to their limits and then when they met those limits they pushed them further.

My fourth criteria was the team goals.  I understand this may change from year to year, but I wanted to make sure the team goals were in line with my daughter and my goals for her.  I wanted to see if the team goals would help or hinder the development of my daughter as a softball player.  This is important when choosing a team.  It was important that the team actually had a team goal.  Did the team want to find tournaments they could easily win to bring home a trophy or did the team want to compete at a high level?  Did the team want to travel or only play local tournaments?  Did the team want to work to achieve a lofty goal?  Asking these questions and identifying if your goals are aligned with the team will help tremendously in the longevity of your participation with the team.  The team goals are to play at the highest level of competition that they are able to compete against.

Cost was my final criteria when looking to find a team in North Texas for Softball.  The odds of playing collegiate ball are very slim.  As a matter of fact there are 1679 colleges that sponsored varsity Softball teams in 2014.  There are 295 NCAA I, 284 NCAA II, 416 NCAA III, 193 NAIA, 357 NJCAA and 134 other divisions to meet the total of 1679 college opportunities.  Of these schools, the average team size is 18 players.  The average scholarship limit for each team is 12 scholarships for each team.  Some athletes receive full awards, some receive a partial scholarship and many receive none.

There are 371,891 women high school softball players.  There are only 30,874 college softball players.  That means there is an 8.3% chance of a high school player competing in college.

The average “moderate” cost of an in-state college is $22,826 while a moderate budget at a private college averaged $44,750 for the 2013-2014 academic year.

These numbers don’t include housing, food, transportation, books or other “fees” of the college experience.

During our search for a Select Softball Team, I found some teams charging $250-$400 for uniforms.  I found fees ranging from $250 one-time fees to as much as $250 per month.  There is also cost for travel, equipment, medical and other miscellaneous expenses.

With the odds at 8% of my daughter playing college softball and much lower for getting a “full-ride” I did not put a lot of stock in teams that used this as a selling point when they tried to recruit her to their organization.  They also tended to be the teams that were charging $250 per month.  At that rate, I would have paid $24,000 in fees by the time my daughter was a senior in high school for a less than 8% chance of her playing college softball and much less getting a “full-ride” playing college softball.

Therefore, I had to look at a reasonable cost as I look at my daughter playing Select Softball as an entertainment expense.  This would be an opportunity for me to spend quality time with her while being active in a sport she loves and I have grown to love.

In the end, my daughter and I found a team we have grown to love.  The team has great parents and wonderful girls on the team.  The team practices about 35 minutes away from our hometown of Rockwall, Texas in Mesquite, Texas which is about 25 minutes from downtown Dallas.  We love the coaching (they truly care for my daughter as much as they would if she were their own daughter) and the unique opportunities such as working out with former collegiate players, NFL trainers, and others who have “specialties in life” that give her another perspective of what the world has to offer.  The team has a lofty goal of winning ASA Nationals in Normal, Illinois for 2015 and plays many tournaments to prepare for this task.  And as for the cost, before the team was sponsored and became a fully funded team, the cost was only the ASA registration fee and uniform.  Of course, it is a bonus that because of the team’s success it has now become fully funded.  The practices are intense and the instruction is precise.  The girls on the team have lofty goals that are in line with my daughter’s goals.  My daughter (remember she did not have a great tryout the first time they saw her) was given an opportunity to earn a spot on the team.  She continues to work hard and truly thinks of the 04 Texas Travelers as a family.

For more information about the 04 Texas Travelers contact Coach Kyle Bennett at 972.679.7702 or follow TheTexas Travelers on Facebook.  The Texas Travelers are a 10 U 2004 team that plays ASA competitive softball.  To follow particular players, games, practices or see any other information about the North Texas Select Softball team visit: http://www.deliverymaxx.com/Dallas-Texas/Girls-Select-Softball-reviews/04-Texas-Travelers-E351

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