Has anyone noticed the great expansion of club softball the past five years? We have, we have also seen a decline in local community-based programs. That correlation is pretty obvious, one grows as the other declines. So why have we seen this shift?
A variety of things have occurred that have contributed to this. The first, and the most positive is that players are getting better at a younger age and the demands for higher level coaching and more practices are going up. On one hand, this is great, the market has a need and people are rising up to meet the need.
Next, we have the disgruntled parent(s). This comes as a less of a positive, but could also be beneficial. To be beneficial the reason is important. Did this happen because the people running the previous organization were not doing a good job? Was that organization ran by parents who only had a small groups interest in mind? Was it just local “Daddy Ball”? Leaving one organization for another for any of the reasons stated would make sense and could lead to the creation of a better ran organization.
On the other hand, you also see clubs being created because parents believe their child is better than they really are and they want to have control of the organization. These lead us to “Club Daddy Ball” and not exactly a positive thing. Daddy ball is an unfortunate aspect of today’s game. Some people who read this will be like “right on” and others will act as if it does not exist. Being around the game for a long time it is very easy to see when a club or organization is based on the Daddy Ball mentality. Unfortunately, those close to it can not see it. In a minute we look at ways to avoid being part of such organizations.
Club softball can provide a great service for developing players and despite what many think, it does not have to be overly expensive. Club’s should offer a higher level of coaching, competition, and training on a more consistent basis. Many clubs have come about to meet this exact need. These clubs are often, but not always created or started by parents of the players. So how can you tell the difference between the clubs and avoid moving from one bad environment to another?
Look for programs that hire coaches that are not parents. This does not mean there are not great parent coaches out there, it just means that if the head coach does not have a daughter on the team, the occurrence of Daddy Ball is less likely. Next look for programs that have more than one age division and that values transitioning players to the next age level. Ask what the process is to resolve conflicts be it around the players, or the parents. Finally, look for a club that has a clear plan for the year, not just the month. Clubs that have solid plans tend to be better organized and have a bigger non-myopic approach.
A club really has one primary goal. That goal is to provide players with the tools and resources to afford them the opportunity to improve and compete at a higher level. It should not be about one player or group of players, it should be about the program as a whole. Developing players is a process and one that takes time. Often you see players at the younger ages who are just better than many of their peers. Things change over time and consistent training will close that gap between players over time. A club should embrace this and work hard to develop all players. If your goal is to create an organization void of Daddy Ball and politics then go do that, but keep in mind that in the end, it should be about all the players who come to your organization. If you can raise the skills of all, your organization will most likely find success.