The transition from recreational softball to travel softball is not always an easy one. In recreational leagues, girls are usually assigned to a team with little parental input, and each girl is promised a spot in every game. Travel softball is much more competitive, but even within the travel ball community there are varying levels of play and widely divergent styles of coaching. Finding the right team with the right coach for your daughter can be a challenge, but there are ways to make sure you find the right fit.
Softball programs and coaches develop reputations based on a number of things. Some programs have a reputation for consistently high performance; some have reputations built on the strengths of the coaching staff. Some programs have developed reputations for less positive things, such as out of control coaches and a constantly rotating roster of girls. Listen to what others are saying about programs in your area. Every program will have it’s detractors and untrue rumors often get circulated, but if the buzz is more negative than positive, chances are it’s a program to avoid.
Not every question or concern will be addressed through the softball grapevine. Don’t be shy about asking other parents and players questions about programs in your area. Your daughter’s recreational coach may know of teams and coaches that are a good fit for your daughter. If you have concerns or preferences, other parents make good sounding boards. Stop by the local batting cages or training facility and ask the owner about some of the teams and for recommendations.
Know Your Priorities
Is it more important to your daughter to win every game, or to have fun? Is she eager to learn? Would she rather get less playing time on a highly competitive team or would she rather start for a team that plays a less rigorous schedule? Knowing what level your daughter is ready for can narrow the number of teams you should consider.
Once you’ve narrowed down your options, try-out for several teams. Watch the interaction between the coaching staff and the girls, and also watch how your girl gets along with the others. Try-outs aren’t just about finding the best players, they are about finding the right players for the right team. If you or your daughter isn’t comfortable at a try-out, you won’t be comfortable for a long season with the team. After try-outs, hopefully your daughter will have received more than one offer. No team is everything to every girl, but selecting the team that is most in line with your values and priorities will make for a fun season and a good introduction to travel ball.