by Catharine Aradi

            High school ball offers you the opportunity to work on your game, and if you play spring high school ball, it can help you prepare for summer travel ball.  Major league baseball players go to spring training for a good reason.  They work on their skills, get into playing shape, and pick up the "rhythm" of the game again in preparation for the long season ahead.

Yet every year, I hear from athletes who struggle with high school softball.  They don't get along with their coach, or the coach doesn't teach them the way their travel ball coach does, or they can't hit slow pitching, and so on.  While I'm sure I hear more from  players with problematic high school situations than from those with great coaches and teams, the fact remains that for some players, high school ball isn’t even close to what they’d like it to be.

Whatever your situation---positive or negative---try to learn from it, and do your very best.  If you’re lucky enough to make a college softball team, things won’t always be rosy there either!  You will have good days and bad; it's part of the game.  There will be weeks when you are tired or injured, have a big paper due, haven't done your laundry for a month, and your coach isn't starting you because you're not hitting the ball.  You may even find yourself looking back and thinking high school softball was so much easier!

While high school competition may not count as much as things like your travel ball experience, your unique softball skills, your grades, your commitment to excellence, and so on, high school softball offers you the chance to work on areas of your game that need improvement.

For example, if your school league pitchers are slow compared to the hard throwers you see in summer ball, don't excuse your low batting average by saying, "I can't hit slow pitching."  Develop some DISCIPLINE!  Think of hitting slow pitching as practice for college level change-ups because they can be killer strike-out pitches for someone who also throws a 63 mph fastball.

I always hate to see outstanding travel ball players kick back during high school ball and sink to the level of their weakest competition. If you excel when facing tough competition, but play poorly against weaker teams, it may indicate you lack motivation and discipline and that you have trouble maintaining the consistency of your game.  This will probably carry over into college, and when your team plays much weaker opponents, you’re going to struggle to produce.

If you're lucky enough to play for a great high school coach, ask him or her to work with you on specific elements of your game.  If your high school team isn't one that's committed to being the best it can be, set your own personal goals for the season. In other words, if your coach turns everyone loose after an easy 75-minute practice, ask if you can stay for extra batting or take more ground balls.  If the pitching in your league is slow, become the best slow ball hitter in the league (but be sure to take that extra batting practice after school with the pitching machine set on high---you don't want to lose your ability to hit a great fastball either!)

Athletes who give up their weekends to practice/play with a strong travel team may get frustrated with high school teammates who are on the team primarily for social reasons. But remember, statistically speaking, most high school players won't go on to compete in college. What's important is that everybody works together to help the team succeed. 

A smart high school coach will encourage all of his or her players to strive to be the best they can be for the good of the team.  Even though most team members may have no interest in competing beyond high school, every player should be expected to work hard.  Individually, they may be more committed to winning the league title than to developing skills that will impress a college coach. However, doing the best you can, giving 100%, and striving for excellence should be factors that motivate all athletes. 

Whatever your reasons for playing high school ball, it's always more fun to win than to lose.  It's always more fun to get a hit than to strike out, and it's always more fun to go home at the end of the day knowing you did your best.   If every player on the team comes to the field with this attitude, not only will she do better, but the whole team will benefit!

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