What Parents and Players Need to Know
It's September and that means tryouts for softball teams across the province. There are many Tier 2 and Tier 1 Softball Teams to choose from. So how can parents choose the right opportunity for their player? In this article we make a quick comparison and suggest some questions you can ask to find the right softball team for your player.
Tier 2 Softball Teams
There are lots of local associations with pretty comparable options to choose from. The registration fees are similar, the coaches and support volunteers often have one or more parents involved and the goal is to develop players locally for local league competition and travel tournament play. The association’s offer playing opportunities at all age levels and the opportunity for a long-term relationship to one association and group of players. These are largely development focused teams where players get relatively fair playing time, with a small number of local associations developing perform-to-play teams. And for many players these experiences are sufficiently rewarding.
Tier 1 Softball Teams
However, for players and parents looking for a more competitive experience there are a number of “single team associations”, offering “perform-to-play, Tier 1 and/or elite level” playing opportunities. Expectations are bigger, commitments are bigger, the promises are bigger and, of course, the fees are much bigger. And the motivations of perform-to-play teams are different than those from local associations too. A heavy emphasis on winning, exposure, scholarships and team reputation offers a very different playing dynamic that caries both risk and reward for the player.
Finding the Right Softball Team
So how can you as a parent ensure that your player is getting the experience they are hoping for and that your hard-earned dollars are supporting your player’s pursuit of their goals? Players and parents should know for sure what they are being offered to get the most from the experience and avoid any future misgivings.
Players and parents should be clear on the commitments too, and from the team, before accepting a spot on a hyper competitive team. If the answers are vague or the team/coach doesn't respond, players and parents should take that as a warning flag and look for another club/team. The critical point is to find a team that is a good fit for you. Here are five questions you can ask depending on your area of interest:
Top 5 Questions to understand the fees, expenses and surpluses
- How much are the registration fees and team budget?
- Who is the team financially accountable to (i.e. registered non-profit Association)? Or is the coach only accountable to themselves for the funds/surpluses?
- How much of your fees go toward paying the coaches and trainers?
- Is scholarship assistance included in the registration fee or is it extra?
- Are there any additional costs, fundraising or travel expenses not included in the registration?
Top 5 Questions to understand the playing and training opportunity
- How long has the team been in existence? How many years before the existing players age out and the team ends?
- How did the team perform at the promised level of play last year?
- If your player is not in the team’s “Top 9” – how much playing time will they actually get? Or will they spend a lot of time on the bench?
- How often will your player get to play their preferred position?
- Has the team developed their own players, or do they build teams by recruiting players that other teams developed?
Top 5 Questions to understand the stability of the playing opportunity
- How many of last years players are not returning? More than three could be a red flag.
- How many teams or associations have the coaches been with in the last 5 years?
- Is it open tryouts every year or is the team making a longer-term commitment to your player? This year’s recruit could be next years cut.
- How many teams are in the association – if your player is cut, do they have another team you can play on?
- If only one team, what is the commitment to your player long-term?
The answers to these questions should give you a feel as to whether you or your child will be a good match for a “perform-to-play” team. Ask open-ended questions so that you can find out truly what a team/coach/club’s philosophy is and whether that will match up well with what you think you want. Nothing ruins a good experience like a misunderstanding. Ask questions up-front so that you, the player and the rest of the team will have a more enjoyable experience.